When you came to after the operation, you looked just like a newborn baby. Your hair was plastered to your face with sweat, as if from the heroic exertion of pushing your way out of the womb fully grown. So what if the blue nylon hospital gown made an ill-fitting swaddling robe? Or if the drip by your side was pumping you with morphine, not milk? I wanted to hold you in my arms all the same as if I’d delivered you myself. Some midwife I would be, though – all I could do on this joyous occasion was to sit on the side of your bed and weep.
I thought that the Easter story was all about how Jesus suffered and died for our sins, so that we could go on being flawed mortals without too much hassle. He did the hard work for us, what with the cross, and the thorns and the dying and all. According to your precious Bible (Romans, 6): ‘as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in the newness of life’. But it didn’t work out like that for us. Anyway, noone asked Jesus what life is like the second time round; I’m betting it isn’t much fun. Nobody can erase what has gone before, not even the Messiah.
Ulcerative colitis is a bastard of a disease. I won’t go into too much medical detail here. To be honest, I can’t face going back over the definitions and diagnoses. Basically it involves the colon becoming infected and ulcerated so food can’t be digested properly. It comes in varying degrees of severity, and in your case almost the whole damn thing had to be taken out or else you would have died. The operation that saved your life also left you with a bit of your inside poking out, pink and tender – a lonely sea anenome washed up on the beach. The doctors put it into a bag and sent you home.
This was the moment where I was supposed to rise to the occasion; to be a devoted disciple. I think Mary Magdelene would have done a better job, but I was all you could find at the time. I wanted to run. To tell you I’m sorry but this wasn’t what I signed up for. That beautiful blue-eyed boy with the floppy fringe, the Bruce Springsteen collection and the love of Joyce, I want him back. Instead I bit my lip and tried to pretend it was all ok. Maybe there was something of the martyr in me after all. A martyr in a sulk. ‘It’s not fair!’ my inner teenager cried.
Inevitably our sex life suffered. We transformed ourselves overnight, from a pretty adventurous, amorous pair, into a Victorian married couple. Lights out, barely a word from either of us. The rustle of clothes coming off in the dark. The embarrassing elephant in the room that we didn’t speak of; we just heard it the slap of plastic against flesh and the slooshing of waste products inside. I think I used to hold my breath. I know I caught myself counting in my head: one, two, three, four… it never did last long before we turned over and went to sleep.
Sometimes life was kind of like how it used to be. We would drink endless cups of tea in the living room, or get pissed with your brother. I always had to shout to be heard over your voices and the wonderful but too loud music: Bonny Prince Billy, Nick Cave, Kraftwerk, The Fall. I’ve never met anyone before or since, that can hold forth on Derrida’s theory of difference, whilst simultaneously enjoying the might of ‘Leave The Capital’ or ‘Bengali in Platforms’ at full volume. But the night can’t last forever. In the end we had to make the long march upstairs to bed. Once you told me you were glad I was there, because nobody else would want you. What was I supposed to do with that? I locked it away in a box marked: ‘suppress’.
We broke up. But our relationship resurrected itself, only to die again, for good this time. I’m pretty sure Jesus is living for eternity as a single guy; I don’t know about you, or me for that matter, maybe this is our stint in the wilderness. I haven’t seen you for a few years and I don’t know how you are. When I bumped into your mate Ed at that folk festival a while back, he told me you’d had the ‘reversal’ procedure. I think that means you don’t need a colostomy bag anymore. This worries me a little, as you could get sick again, with your insides in instead of out. But there is a part of me that is purely curious, that wants to see what your body looks like now. Is it back to its former lithe glory I wonder, are you getting the girls and the boys like you used to? Show me, I want to see! Goes my inner five-year old.
You will of course have scars. But then so do I; it’s just you can’t see mine. They say that even after 2000 odd years, Jesus still has marks on his hands from where the nails went in.