‘It all sounds fine to me.’ Dr. Llewellyn shook his head and dislodged the stethoscope from his ears, ‘I can’t hear any problems Gary. Are you getting this jumping sensation now?’
‘Not at the moment,’ I said.
But for the past week just when things were going right in my life, my heart went wrong. It would start jumping, crushing and pushing against me, I would be left in intense pain like my sternum had taken the brunt of a bullet train just as I glimpsed moments of pure joy. Perhaps I should have ignored them, accepted them as part of life then maybe things would be different. Maybe I would still be here now.
We were on the verge of a mutual nervous breakdown. It seemed the only logical ending to this wreckage. Neither of us had the courage to end it all or start anything new so we destroyed each other. We ate in different rooms, bathed at different times to avoid any accidental bodily contact, sleeping still happened in the same bed but I was more intimate with the edge of the Ikea Malm frame than I was with any of Emily’s extremities.
‘Hey! Wake up!’ she said.
I said nothing. I knew the routine. Morning joviality, via some duplicitous emotional blackmailing would later end up bitter over breakfast.
‘What do you want?’ I said addressing the Malm frame.
‘Wake up,’ she said.
‘Because I need you.’ she crossed the forbidden divide under the duvet.
‘I’m too tired for this shit anymore Em,’ I sighed. ‘Why do we do it to ourselves?’
‘Do what?’ she said placing an unfamiliar hand on my shoulder.
‘You see. That’s what I mean. These games.’ My eyes moved from the Malm bed and found the Dekad traditional style alarm clock. Ten minutes till pissing, before I would waste another four penetrating my mouth with a piece of Colgate lubricated plastic, and after a dry slice of burnt toast washed down with tepid Tetley, I would be drawn back into the rat race shedding tiny bits of myself like those mysterious, lonely shoes you see abandoned on central reservations.
‘Perhaps we need a new game.’ Her hands sought unfamiliar regions, she turned me around and I faced the steel Nymö lightshade, it’s voyeuristic cut-out eyes witnessing our renewed passions.
Someone had suddenly pushed a thousand volts through me, like it was our first time again. Like an out of focus picture had suddenly readjusted and now I was looking at the most beautiful woman on top of me. Tiny beams of early light inched themselves through the grey Marjan block-out curtains, danced and found us and reignited the flames for a second time.
‘Gary! Gary! Oh my god! Oh my god! Shit! Shit! What is it? Hun!’
I grabbed the Dekad clock and pushed it off the Malm table where it found the Hovslund, low pile rug. ‘Chest,’ I said. ‘Hurts. Shit! Shit! Shit!’
‘Oh my god! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have done that.’
‘No it’s fine.’ I call out through the train crash, ‘It was great. Just what we needed.’
‘Oh my God! Shall I call a doctor!’
‘No! I’ll be late for work, I’ll be fine.’ By the time the pain subsided and my heart leapt back where it belonged I was already late for work and the pain gave way to despondent normality.
The journey to work was the best journey I’d ever had. The late spring morning presented itself like an old faded photograph as a nostalgic sky muted itself beautifully across the horizon, the Renault started first time, every single traffic light turned green as I approached, and the radio played Bowie. Then there, lit with warm spring sunlight was a free parking spot next to the building. There were never any parking spots near the building. For once I didn’t have to double-park in the overflow and walk ten minutes. I parked up, switched off the ignition and screamed. My heart leapt out the windscreen in response to my rare afinity with the rat race. The car honked over and over in time with the crashing and smashing in my chest as my head careened again and again against the wheel.
By the time the pain subsided I was already ten minutes late. Whatever enthusiasm the journey had drummed up I now watch die at each step up the stairs. I heard the last vestige of enthusiasm expire as the dying notes of Windows’s mocking chimes segued into Steve’s foreboding footsteps.
‘Gaz! Gaz! Gaz! How you doing!’ Steve air-punched my shoulder. ‘Good to see ya, good to see ya mate! Coffee?’
Steve never called me Gaz; never expressed his fondness at my presence; never, ever offered coffee; and if he punched, he meant it. I stared at this jovial, hyperactive, managerial doppelgänger.
‘What’s gotten into you?’ I said.
‘Just good to see you mate. Let me get you a coffee!’ And with that he rushed off.
All through the morning I peered out the corner of my eye at this strange double that some benevolent recruitment agency had swapped in the night, looking for little telltale weaknesses. But after he brought me the fourth coffee of the morning I decided that Steve was a changed man, my job was the best job in the world, home life was good, the sex was incredible. I smiled at my desk for the first time, before the smile became a scream and my heart lurched out and over the partition divide.
For a week, the debilitating pains would come at the most inconvenient of times. In rare moments when I was starting to enjoy life, my heart would leap out like I’d been cattle prodded in the chest with a thousand volts. And then they stopped and so did my happiness.
‘Gary. Gary. Can you hear me?’
My eyes flutter, darkness fades to light. The warm glow gone. Everything feels cold and green.
‘Gary? Do you know where you are?’
I look up and around and find myself in a room, the smell of bleached latex hits me. Machines beep.
‘Please try not to move too much. My name is Dr. Williams. You’re in hospital. You had a heart attack.’
I look down at my shirt, ripped open, clear jelly spread where Emily’s hands had been.
‘You had a lucky escape Gary. You were gone for a while. But we brought you back.
Don’t believe the hype, there is no loved one reaching out from a white room, no St. Peter handing out flyers at the pearly gates, no harping cherubs. No, the anteroom to the next world is a lot like the normal world except time jumps around and everything goes your way for a while. However, in those short minutes where I existed between two worlds I lived the best week of my life. Like a dream where everything is real and yet not, where the light always looks like a spring afternoon, in that beautiful moment where I died, I lived like I’d never lived before.