20 Feb

BUBBLING UNDER
It had started mid-gulp of vodka, my first but definitely not my last of the day! A stinging sensation began on my chest moving gradually to my right arm. After another gulp I rolled up my sleeve to investigate and what a sight! I can only describe it as something out of a Ridley Scott movie, he of “Alien” fame. My skin was bubbling reminiscent of cheese on top of toast under a grill, not that I had felt any hunger pangs in the last few weeks. I watched and as each second passed more gnarly red bumps appeared. I shook my head wondering if this was to do with the alcohol or the sun streaming through the kitchen window. I looked again, they were still there.
I ran to the mirror, the one in the bedroom was bigger but for now the one in the hallway was nearest. I peered through the glass rotating my arm this way and that, pulling down my jumper below the non-existent cleavage to check what was happening there. Glaring intently everything appeared normal, no lumps, not even a spot or blemish, everything was fine. There was nothing unusual in the brown eyes staring back at me apart from the bloodshot. I flexed my arm thinking it might be a trick of the light from the front door but no, nothing there. I blinked once, twice and then back into the mirror, same thing completely normal! On looking back at my arm out of the mirror’s reflection it was still fizzing away and spreading towards my shoulder.
By the end of my third vodka, about noon, the whole of my body was covered. It must be a trick of the mind I thought, there’s no way this could be invisible in a mirror. I raced upstairs to the bedroom. Jack had left his wet towel from his morning shower on the bed, moving it slightly to one side I paraded in front of the mirror trying to catch it out, turning quickly and then darting backwards and forwards seeing if it made any difference. It didn’t and now the sores were beginning to blister. I rang Jack on his mobile, naturally he thought I was drunk and started shouting down the phone,
“What do you mean the mirror is lying to you?”
“Like I said it’s not telling the truth” I tried to explain
“Now you know what it feels like” he yelled and then ended the call.
I sat weeping softly curled up naked on the cool Egyptian white cotton sheets that were a wedding present from Auntie Ann it was the only comfort I could find. I don’t know how long it took for some kind of thought to penetrate through the pain I was now feeling. But eventually one thought stealthily managed to slip through, that’s it Auntie Ann she’d be able to help. As I dialled her number the blisters on my hands began to pop like bubble wrap and the pain was intensifying by the second.
“Auntie Ann, Auntie Ann is that you?” who I expected to answer I don’t know when I had actually punched in the number and checked it on the screen on the phone twice
“Pamela?”
“Yes, it’s me; well I think it’s me”
“Have you been drinking again dear?”
“No, no honest well not since lunch time anyway, I can’t, something happened”
“What? Is it you and Jack?”
“No, it’s the mirrors, they’re all lying” I tried to explain
“Lying where? Have you taken them down?”
“Auntie Ann, please! I got up this morning and I started to get these lumps, they started on my arms and chest but now they’re spreading”
“Do you have cream dear, E45 should do it”
“Yes, I mean yes I have cream but I don’t think that’s the answer. I mean the sores aren’t the problem it’s the mirrors”
“Pamela you’re not making any sense” complained Auntie Ann
“Right, when I look in the mirrors I can’t see any sores I just look normal” I tried again
“You are normal dear, well apart from the drinking. Look I have an appointment I’m off to Tessa’s for lunch, see you Tuesday as usual, cheerio”
And with that I was once again left sitting pondering my dilemma. What if this was some kind of alcohol induced nightmare? I’d read about them in the pamphlets Jack brought home, something to do with a 10 or 12 Step Programme. I’d only briefly glanced at them; after all I am not an alcoholic no matter how they try to convince me. I just like the occasional pick-me-up. Now I know what you are thinking I’ve already had three this morning but it’s my day off so I am entitled to a bit of freedom on my day off.
That reminds me I haven’t had a drink for at least an hour, see I can do without it. I mean nobody moans about people smoking first thing in the morning, well they do but surely if you’re in your own home it can’t be doing much harm to other people can it? It’s all down to personal choice and I choose to drink, it’s an adult thing choice.
When Jack and I met at University he was all for a good time, going out every night, sleeping the days away but now it’s all responsibility, responsibility, responsibility, oh and don’t forget that old albatross the mortgage! Jack seems so distant, he says it’s me that I am usually so out of it by the time he gets home he just goes to bed so as not to cause an argument.
I mean, if I was that bad why didn’t he leave? Love that’s why. Can’t do without me, and that’s the way it should be. I love him so there’s nothing more to be said. I would do anything for Jack, apart from changing my whole persona which is what most of the arguments are about. I mean that’s just unreasonable.
I wriggled uncomfortably on the stool beside the dressing table and could feel each blister popping as I wriggled. They’re leaking now these little pustules. Jack will think I’ve wet myself again! I wonder whether my weak bladder is hereditary, I’d broached the subject with Jack and he’d just sighed and asked when I was going to face the truth which was no answer at all if you ask me.
It is indeed time for another drink. As I tried to lower myself gradually down the stairs I could feel the blisters stretching and stinging as I moved. This cannot be normal! I reached the kitchen out of breath with the exertion of the stairs. I reached for the vodka bottle which for some reason was empty. It couldn’t be I’d only had three hadn’t I? I checked in my little emergency cupboard under the sink, nothing, it was empty. I was becoming manic flinging open doors searching for any kind of alcohol and then I remembered mouthwash! Jack had made a mistake this week with the shopping and had bought one containing alcohol. He’s usually so carefully. I made my way gingerly upstairs breathing through the pain. I’m so glad I never became pregnant could never have managed the whole giving birth thing, mind you with non-existent periods that would be a miracle.
Reaching the bathroom I hung on to the bathroom cabinet as I flung it open. An empty mouthwash bottle stared at me; well it would if it had eyes. Jack had emptied it. Good old Jack!
What now? I’d have to go to the shop on the corner. I checked in the mirror once again but the sight that greeted me was normal. Only when I looked down at myself most of the skin on my arms was now congealed together in one big sore. I’ll just have to cover up.
Scarf, hoodie, coat what must I look like in the middle of summer. Doesn’t matter with a bit of luck no-one will know who I am in this get up, they’ll just think I’m some sort of eccentric or a celebrity. I manage the front steps and quickly checking down the road, finding there was no-one about stepped out into the street heading in the direction of the shop. Closed! It was lunchtime. Would this day never end?
I think there’s another shop by the church, passing quickly in case someone prayed for the leper. I listened to a conversation behind me.
“What do you mean it was only one” said a youngish voice
“I just felt I had to, it was the polite thing to do” said a male voice
“Polite, look in our condition we can’t afford lapses. Do you want to end up back where you were imagining the boils and the sores and not being able to go out and all that stuff about mirrors?” said the youngish voice
“I know, I know, I’m just glad you called this morning” replied the male voice
“That’s what I am here for. Now let’s get you inside” said the youngish voice.
I couldn’t turn round but could hear their footsteps retreating behind me. What was all that about? Was that a coincidence or what? That older guy must have the same problem as me. As I quickly turned I could see two men disappearing into the side entrance of the church. Maybe I’ll pop in after I’d been to the shop and see what it was all about. At that moment I had a searing pain through both my arms and felt as if the pain was dragging me along the street in the direction the men had taken. I didn’t even knock on the door, couldn’t as this invisible force pushed me through arms outstretched.
As I lay sprawled on the floor two men approached and lifted me gently on to a chair.
“Hi, that was a great entrance” said a quiet voice.
“Mistake, sorry?”
“Don’t think so, are you okay now?”
“Where am I?”
“Alcoholics anonymous”
“Oh my god!” I replied as I gingerly lifted my sleeve to see my skin back to normal and the pain was gone.

 

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