Mind the gap

Hmmm. Can’t say I’m happy about that half centimetre gap in the curtain. I’m experiencing changing room anxiety, convinced folk on the other side of the curtain can cop a load of me through the strip the width of a cigarette. Except I’m in a hospital cubicle about to disrobe for a procedure in the day unit. Other than this, it has everything going for it. The absence of a three-way mirror and interrogation lighting; in their place a bed for a little lie-down when shopping gets too much.

I suppose to truly disrobe, I should be wearing a silk dressing gown, standing forlornly next to a stand-alone bath in a stately pile, give or take a century. I half-tried that at a spa break I was roped into a while back. At one of those lesser spotted fancy houses hidden in the midlands that manages to escape the spread of recession infection. Only it was a cotton gown that had seen one too many boiling washes, and significantly slimmer beings between its side pockets. Think a hospital gown worn back to front. Like the one I hastily get into now before sliding under the sheet designed by Hospital Property.

Lying still, Ray D’arcy competes with chatter at the nurses station across the way. I worry I’ve left my clothes untidily on the chair so I quickly leap out, shove them in the locker, and lie down again. Knickers securely inside my socks inside my boots. Trailing my eye along the neat pleats of the disposable blue curtain, I curse the total recall I have of each admission during my ropey pregnancy when I can barely remember details of the first six months of our baby’s life. My annoyance is interrupted by a clipboard with a nurse at the end of it.

There’s something about lying down in the most innocuous of circumstances that unleashes one’s inner bumbling witness in the dock of the imaginary court of public appeal. It’s the therapeutic setting. Dodge one straight forward question and risk detonating that out-of-body experience of uncharacteristic unwarranted over-sharing. Like an emotional Russian Doll shedding layers until your voice is tiny and your sentences eventually trail off mid-sense because you know you’ve started something you can’t stop so you try to cover it up with inane facial expressions by the end.

It’s a relief that eyebrow treatments take the little time they do, because being horizontally hemmed in with whale music and gaps in chat is dangerous territory. SpaGownGate culminated with being resuscitated from an emotional hemorrhage by a post-it note from the massage therapist containing the name of a revolutionary G.I. Diet Book. It was too smooth a move for her not to have had previous experience of a post-post-post partum woman breaking down over letting herself continue to be bullied by the biscuit tin. At least I didn’t cry like I did in Kilkenny years previously. I’d only gone in for a facial but misinterpreted “how are you looking after your skin these days?” as “why have you let yourself go to shit?” That wasn’t the first time the therapist had heard a break-up story. That smile had heard things before. She continued to apply it like a truth serum.

So I’m concentrating on keeping it brief here with Florence Nightingale. We quickly discover we’re from the same place and laugh conspiratorially at our superior differences to the locals we live among now. I’ll blame this bonding later; after I sail through questions on my family’s medical history, medications taken, even childbirth. I’m on the home straight. “Oh wait. Is there a chance you could be pregnant?” “No, no. Definitely not”. “Would you like to take a wee test just to be sure?”

My eyes dart over to the chair where my bag hangs. I hope I closed it shut. Ah no, I’m grand, I re-assure her. Well, I know for sure I’m not pregnant. And then just to make sure I’m sure, I tell her all about the four used tests in my bag I’ve been meaning to get rid of since the weekend. And how ridiculous anyway. Pregnant at forty two? And sure look at the state of me. Insert lots of inane laughter and the inevitable shoulder-shrug here. Thankfully it is soon my turn to be whisked away to have a camera shoved up my arse.

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