It was 5 years ago, as far as M. could remember, that illness had begun to colonise his body.
Whether it was a series of illnesses or one evolving illness, he did
not know. And neither did the doctors. At first it was the dry mouth,
he could feel his tongue resting on his palate like a
furry object; the weird tang of his sweat, as reported to him by his concerned Mother. Then the stomach, the collapse of the digestive system. It began as constipation, a kind of hard bolus lodged to the left of the stomach, pushing on the lining. Nothing budged. And little or no sensation, no matter how much or how little he ate. He felt light headed, dizzy. Following a tip from a Greek iridologist, he took an overdose of vitamin C to budge it all. Gurgles, pains, stretches of unappeasable hunger that five bananas at midnight could not assuage, followed by stretches of a bird like appetite and rebellious spasms in the lower bowel. Wind leaked out of his arse at night and he woke to putrid odour. Then came the intolerances. Coffee was first, which he ignored, because he could not live without coffee. And so he lived instead with a continual fuzziness in the head. Then beer. Half a bottle left him with dark rings carved under his eyes and a cleft brain. The weak arm, the thick cracked skin on his feet. The nocturnal ache in his gums under the teeth. All of these were clotting
together, year by year, and this clot would eventually kill him, he thought. In the meantime, they drove him deeper within his own body, through which he looked out at the human community. Somehow his penis,
as a sexual organ if not as an organ of micturition, had survived. But it was surely only a matter of time.
Tests had been done. They had covered his stomach in a cold jelly and slowly passed over it a kind of barcode reader. Squinting, M. tried to see the images on the screen. He expected to see deformed and distended tubes, but glimpsed only a confusing grey snowstorm which the nurse pronounced ‘normal’. A camera was put down his oesophagus, they found nothing. Later, they put a camera up his arse. He had left
the hospital crippled with wind but without the opportunity of egress, and only when he returned home, in acute discomfort, could he let rip, and filled the flat with clouds of rancorous methane. Again, when the tests came back, all was ‘normal’.
And so whatever was wrong with him seemed to have no visible form. There seemed to be no bridge between his own experience and that body of knowledge known as Medicine. Each doctor in turn would effectively consign his experience to the realm of the imagination. If they couldn’t fit something into their grid of knowledge they denied it existence whereas, M. thought, the logical thing to do would be to question the grid in the face of what existed. They were therefore Idealists not materialists, M. thought, since those stubborn bits of matter, the contusions and niggly pains of the patient, which did not conform to their grid were instead consigned to the realm of fiction. They put you through tests only to prove, to their satisfaction, that you were a hypochondriac. They tell you to come back if it persists. Well it’s already persisted, that’s why I’m here.