Episode 17 – That sick feeling
The Wednesday group
I got here early to give Melanie, the receptionist, a box of chocolates. She was brilliant last week, when I was being sick in the corridor. It was so embarrassing, and I’ve felt stupid about it all week. Thankfully I didn’t throw up in the group itself – that would have been totally humiliating and I’m not sure I would have ever come back.
‘Some stomach bug,’ I reply to the inevitable questions.
‘So nothing to do with what we were talking about?’ asks Kate, as if she doesn’t already know the answer.
I’m not falling for that one. I shrug and say, ‘Who knows what’s going on in the unconscious?’
Roz of course won’t let it rest. ‘You’ve come to the right place to find out then.’
‘Don’t let’s start off with another spat between you two,’ says Martin. ‘There’s important things going on and if Stevie doesn’t want to use the time, then others might.’
‘Any news from Julia?’ asks Suzy. She was a few minutes late so missed Kate’s announcement that Julia had flown back to Spain to sort things out.
‘I find it hard to imagine that Julia’s way of sorting things out is going to be very constructive,’ says Roz.
‘I think you’re very harsh with Julia,’ says Suzy sniffily.
‘What are the chances of getting any space to talk about what’s happening in my life? Or is this a girl’s night out?’
Roz rolls her eyes but Suzy apologises. ‘Oh Martin, I am sorry. Tell us your news.’
‘OK. Well, you know that Janey, my daughter, and her two girls have been staying with us for a while. As I suspected, my son-in-law has lost his job in South Africa and it looks like they are living with us for at least the next six months. He’s gone off to his parents in Surrey while they see if they can patch up their marriage – I told you he had been messing about with another woman, didn’t I? Anyway, last week Mary told Janey all about my behaviour over the years… a pretty sordid and disgraceful tale, as you can imagine. Janey went ballistic, as you might expect, and let me know what she thought in no uncertain terms, I can tell you! Then she just wailed and wailed – terrible, really. Anyway, the storm passed and she and I have been doing a lot of talking. I’ve never really talked to her in her entire life – that’s always been Mary’s role.’
He looks quite choked up at this point and stops.
‘I can understand that,’ says Will. ‘I have never been able to properly talk with Jessica. It’s only now, with all the emotional upheaval in the family, that we are beginning to get to know each other.’
Martin nods. I think this must be ‘male bonding’, because they are both clearly feeling something that I don’t get. All sounds pretty obvious to me.
‘What does Mary think of it?’ asks Roz.
‘At first I think it put her nose out of joint, but last night she said she was proud of me… that’s a first, I can tell you!’
‘It’s been the other way round for me,’ says Roz. ‘Leo and I could always talk to each other, but now it’s impossible. I’m not sure if he can talk any better with his father, but I’ve lost that link with him. That makes me very sad.’
I don’t feel linked to anyone, except my dog. How sad is that?
We all fall quiet.
‘It’s those links that are so difficult,’ says Kate. ‘The ones that are broken, the ones that go horribly wrong, the ones that are starting to grow, the ones that we long for…’
I am waiting for her to carry on, but she doesn’t. She would normally ask us to think about how that was working out in the group. Maybe we’ve been brainwashed for long enough now to ask ourselves that question.
‘Who are you linked to, Jasmin?’ I ask.
‘My sister, my parents, and my best friends Coral and Yumi… My auntie in London, and my cousin in Hong Kong… And my boyfriend.’
I am shocked. I wanted her to say ‘nobody’ and be like me, but instead she comes out with this list – and a boyfriend?
‘That’s really good, isn’t it!’ Suzy smiles. ‘I am so pleased you have all these people you feel connected to!’
‘You’re a dark horse, aren’t you Jasmin!’ jokes Martin.
‘And in the group?’ Kate asks. We’re not ready to graduate after all.
‘Here I am not so sure.’ She looks down at her feet, embarrassed. It’s clear to me that it’s Will that she really connects with here. I’ve always thought she’s in love with him. Suddenly I feel queasy again and have to zone out and concentrate on my breathing. I’ve got a really vivid picture of Will on top of Jasmin, and she is so tiny. I have to get away from it and think of my calm place, like the school counsellor taught me to do years ago.
When I stop feeling sick and can tune in again to the group, they are talking about Will’s wife Jacqueline, who seems to have had some sort of breakdown. I’ve missed a lot of the information so I might have got it wrong, but maybe supermarket man turned out to have a wife who fought back, unlike Will. Jacqueline has discovered something, anyway, that has rocked her.
‘Sorry, I’m not quite sure – do you mean “breakdown” as in “cried a lot”, or “breakdown” as in “smashed the house to bits”…. or “gone on antidepressants”, or “been admitted to hospital”?’ I ask.
‘Where have you been for the last 10 minutes?’ asks Roz sharply.
I can see Kate looking at me.
I am certainly not telling her. To be honest, I’m not really interested in Jacqueline. I was just trying to get away from the mess in my head. I should have asked Jasmin about the boyfriend.
‘You don’t look great,’ says Martin. Instantly I fill up with tears. I’m all over the place this week.
© Chris Rose 2012.