My daughter is in a good mood as she climbs into a bin bag and says, from within its dark recesses,
“I have cripplingly low self-esteem”
It makes me laugh, and her too when I show her the photo I take of her hunched on the kitchen floor.
It’s remarkable that she is in such high spirits having spent the day studying sex offending and reeling off statistics at dinner informing us that “only half of the people convicted of child sex offences are paedophilic”.
She isn’t always so happy, but at least she tends to let us know how she feels, even if she sometimes won’t talk about it.
My own strategy as a young man was to keep absolutely everything from my parents. It made perfect sense to disconnect when connection seemed to bring nothing but advice I couldn’t take or encouragement I didn’t want.
In the hospital, I am gowned and waiting to be taken into surgery. There is a wonderful view of the London Eye and the city which I can’t fully experience.
Everyone has someone with them, except for me.
Whenever I have to face something daunting or uncomfortable I want to do it alone. I don’t want anyone talking to me, and I don’t want advice or encouragement.
The woman sitting in the corner says to her husband, the man with the tattoo on his neck that I cannot read, “I expect I’ll be last”.
As it turns out, I am, so I wait patiently in silence, reading a book with one good eye or listening to other people’s conversations able to dip in and out.
Lying flat on the bed a bright light shines into my face making the request to “Open your eyes wide” much more difficult than you’d think.
“Can we have some music on so we don’t have to listen to the constant beeping?” says the surgeon while I think about how comforting I have been finding the constant beeping.
As work begins the first few bars of “I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone” filter through.
When it’s finished they give me biscuits and tea. The anaesthetist smiles when I inexplicably give her my disposable hat asking, “Do you want this?” One of the unit nurses remembers me from my last operation. Their care is discreet but hugely reassuring.
When my son comes across the city from his office to take me home I am pleased to see him. He is taller than me and there is an indescribable feeling about hugging him. We chat on our way down in the lifts and across Westminster Bridge.
“I’ll be fine on my own getting to the station. You go back to work.” I tell him.
“Are you sure? It’s not a problem for me to get you on the train.”
“I’m sure,” I tell him.
We wave goodbye from opposite stations on the Circle Line.
At home, my daughter buys me a bag of Malteasers.
“Smell this,” she says holding a piece of paper with some scribble on it up to my nose. “Cheap pens smell like marzipan”.
She’s right, they do.
“You know the numbers on the side of the toaster?” she goes on. “I always thought they were “toastiness” but they are actually the minutes it takes before the toast is done. I know because I timed it.”
It makes me laugh, and I think about how much I enjoy being alone except when I really enjoy being with other people.