My marriage has lately resembled a tent which had been erected upon an iceberg which is now drifting into warm seas. Just as the campers in this scenario may have crouched gloomily in their tent, conscious that the structure upon which they depended was disappearing drip by drip, I was aware that our marriage was essentially destined for meltdown. Yet I had rare occasion to speak with my wife Polly yesterday, after months of silence. Her lover, Callum had given himself a large injection of insulin. Callum is not diabetic – the insulin belonged to my wife – but he had probably assumed that he would get high from the insulin. I later learned that he had been scheming to get his hands on the insulin for some time, but that Polly had always kept it out of his way. After the injection, Callum very quickly passed into some sort of coma. When Polly realised how Callum had become incapacitated, she knocked on my bedroom door.
“Biggy,” she asked politely. “I wonder if you could help me with Callum?”
It was like the old days. I issued instructions which my wife followed obediently. She fetched a large hypodermic and I filled it with coca cola. Under my orders, she injected the coke directly into Callum’s stomach. I then suggested that she inject a shot of coke into Callum’s frontal lobes. By this time, she realised that I was joking.
“Biggy,” she smiled. “This is not funny.”
“And you are not stupid. Have you ever heard of coca cola being injected into a diabetic’s stomach?”
“I thought that this was a Polish thing…”
Polly’s eyes twinkled and for a moment I found myself pleasantly surprised at being outsmarted.
“If you look in the First Aid box, there should be a bottle of orange jelly…”
“Here!” Polly waved the bottle triumphantly.
“We should smear some inside his mouth and throat…”
“But this is very old. The sell-by date is 2003.”
“He’ll never know.”
“He could get food poisoning.”
“That’s not food, it’s raw glucose.” I squirted a lump of the jelly into my fingers and then tucked it briskly inside Callum’s mouth, shuddering at the unexpected clammy dryness of his flesh. A blob of foam detached from the lather I was working up inside Callum’s mouth, and it slipped neatly down his throat.
“Err… we should now put him in the recovery position?” Polly wondered.
“I think that his left hand goes under his face… so that he can vomit into his hand…”
“You should not lie him on his mobile phone, or his weight might break it…”
“Doesn’t one leg stick out somewhere?”
“He’s like a ton of bricks… Did you check that he was actually still breathing…”
Callum’s lifeless body was repeatedly arranged and rearranged, and he was probably subjected to more exercise than he had ever been when conscious. He finally sat up, frowning. “What happened?” He was suddenly trying to stand and Polly was insisting that he lie back down in the recovery position. She was totally absorbed in him, totally concerned, and I now felt excluded and even a little insulted. I packed up the First Aid box and retreated from the scene. Administering the orange jelly, although a minor incident – so brief that it may have scarcely registered in Polly’s understanding – would resonate in my mind all day, awarded gratuitous significance like a little twig adorned with fairy lights.