That’s someone else. I’m the guy with his nose in his book, reading and flipping pages and not being there. Aside from the nurses, it’s just me. Just me and the chatty guy.
He arrives with volume.
“I hate these things. Always scare me. They petrify me, in fact. When I was first diagnosed, they scared me to death.”
I look up enough from my book to see him gesturing towards one of those circular, wire-framed, rotating racks. Somewhere else it would be full of postcards, or ordinance survey maps. Here it is full of information pamphlets.
I manage a semi-nod and maybe even a grunt. He disappears to produce a urine sample and I continue to read. I hear a flush and he sits down again and it’s another paragraph before I realise my plight is hopeless.
The chatty guy in the hospital waiting room will not be denied.
“So how long have you had MS?”
Everything stops. I see the sunrise through a large glass of whisky from my bedroom window in the summer of 2012. I swallow my first response that it’s none of his chatty fucking business when I got MS. This is a place of shared suffering.
A couple of weeks ago I sat on a couch in an old wooden house with an old friend I’d not seen in half a decade and I told her about it and she smothered me with a hug so warm and full of love I didn’t know what to do.
Chatty guy pulls me back.
“How’re you doing?”
I’m tired and fucking sore, dude. But I’m fine. I’m managing. “I’m fine.”
That’s the fucking scariest question you can ask. “Balance is a bit tough.”
“You do yoga?”
Fuck off. “No.”
“Do yoga, man. It helps with the balance.”
Fuck off. “I run. As much as I can.”
“Wow. Running with MS?”
As long as I can. “Keeps the fatigue at bay.”
He’s going on to my medication. How am I finding it? Fine. Better than injections. So much better than injections. He mentions how scared he was. He points again at the rack of pamphlets about living with MS and tells me how they petrify him. He then tell the nurse that he’ll get all his info from the internet and I know why he’s scared and maybe why he’s so chatty. I’m called into the office and nod towards him and mumble some attempt at “nice chatting with you”.
My meeting turns out to be a meeting to arrange more meetings. I need blood tests and an MRI and some sort of schedule. I leave. Chatty guy is still chatting to the nurse. The MS ward is on the 4th floor. Quiet; away from the rush of the rest of the hospital. The elevator’s crowded but they make room for me and an old man with a cane.
As I leave the hospital it occurs to me that the chatty guy in the hospital room is the only person with MS I’ve spoken to since I was diagnosed. And I have no idea what his name is.