SATURDAY morning. And to paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan, I was the very model of a modern husband. Cleaned the bathroom, flea-sprayed the carpets, taken my wife shopping.
“Hang on,” I said, somewhere between dishcloths and dog food, “I’ve got something in my eye. Wait a second. It’ll wash itself out.”
Except it didn’t. The pain – in both my eyes – got steadily worse.
“Maybe I should take you to A&E,” Jane offered.
“And miss Strictly? You don’t have to do that. Besides, only a mad person goes to A&E on a Saturday night.”
No thanks. Full of drunks. No doctors. A four-hour wait at best. If I went to bed it would cure itself. Turn the lights out. Relax. It’ll be OK.
It wasn’t. Some time around ten I shot out of bed. Stabbing pains in both my eyes. Worse still, I couldn’t open them. I needed the bathroom. Splash water on my face. Wash whatever it was out of my eyes.
Hands in front of me I stumbled across the bedroom. Straight into the dressing table. Ouch. More than ouch. But not as painful as my eyes. Where was the damn door?
“Help!” I called. I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t find the door in my own bedroom.
Ben arrived. “Take me to the bathroom,” I said.
“Mum’s in there.”
“I don’t care. Throw her out.”
I splashed water on my face. It made no difference. I sat on the toilet with my eyes shut and reluctantly conceded defeat. “Take me to A&E.”
“You need to get dressed,” Jane said. “Can you put your underpants on with your eyes closed?” I love the way she’s so practical…
My wife held my hand and led me into A&E. “Small step. Slope down to the door. Don’t worry. Automatic door.” Then, “Sit there while I give them your details.”
I sat. Tried to open my eyes. Failed. Made them hurt more. I smelled the alcohol in the air. Heard a child crying for its mummy. And without my sight I felt incredibly vulnerable.
Saturday night in A&E ebbed and flowed around me.
“Why am I in handcuffs? I’m the one with my face hanging off.
“Take it easy, Jack. You’re in handcuffs for fighting. Both of you.
“Is it?” I said to Jane. “His face hanging off?”
“Yes,” she said, having clearly been watching it live instead of listening on the radio. “Someone seems to have bitten his nose off.”
The drama continued. The child stopped crying. Still in handcuffs, still protesting, Jack was led away for a new nose.
And finally it was my turn. “I can’t open my eyes,” I told the nurse.
“Not at all? I’ll take your temperature.” She stuck a thermometer in my ear and told us to wait.
So we waited. And waited. We made a list of Christmas presents for the children. I dictated most of what you’re reading now.
“Is there a washbasin in here?” I said eventually. There was. Jane turned the water on: I pushed my hand out hopefully. And soaked my elbow.
But eventually I managed to wipe my left eye enough to prise it open. “Is there a mirror? How swollen is my other eye?”
“No, there isn’t.”
“Take a picture on your phone. Show me.”
“Jesus,” I said. And promptly begged her to delete it. She did.
But no doubt there’s a hacker somewhere recoiling in horror.
Still no doctor. And no prospect of one. My wife took my hand and led me back the way we’d come.
Sleep would sort it out. And besides, your eyes washed everything out in time. I must be through the worst.
l See Man’s World next week for the conclusion of this story.