Tuesday 1st December 2009
Gestation: 9 weeks, 4 days
One year ago.
And again, we don’t know whether we’re Arthur or Martha. Maybe we’re Arthur and Martha.
Yesterday, a pre-admissions clerk rang to tell us that Suse’s operation would be today, at 4.30pm, and that she’s not to eat anything after breakfast. So, last night we went to bed, knowing that after we see Kath today, Suse is likely to have bits of her chopped out. Or, more truthfully, last night we went to bed, and then I got up to rant out about the injustices of the world, before returning.
To sleep, perchance to dream about salpingectomies.
And I sleep quite well, in a dead-man-walking kind of way. Knowing that we have one last appeal before we inevitably head to the gallows, my entire night’s dreams are based on the one theme: our defence. There I am, a super-barrister, giving my closing argument on how our poor, innocent tube has been wrongly accused, unfairly involved through association.
I build my argument to a packed courtroom, describing the noxious influence of this recalcitrant embryo, overpowering our impressionable tube, entangling it in the alleged crime. I explain that the Beta-HCG has continued to fall, showing nothing if not the behaviour of a reformed, honorable body part. This is a tube that just needs to be given a second chance, people. Give our tube a go, Dr Kath. Give it a second go.
We wake from an unrestful sleep. We prepare ourselves for the admission, packing a week’s worth of luggage, never again willing to be caught out as we were in Byron. We drive across town, where I drop Suse and her Mum off at the hospital. They head upstairs for today’s blood test; my pivotal, surprise witness for our eleventh-hour defence.
Meantime, I weave around the streets of North Melbourne. I search for a four-hour park, aware that blood result will be through at the two-hour mark. And that Murphy is likely to ensure that this is the precise time that Kath wants to see us.
As it happens, Murphy is in a jovial mood. As I lock the car, with several bags in hand, Suse rings.
“Hey hon, where are you?”
“About a mile away. I just found a four-hour spot.”
“Right. Because Kath is here. She’s just nipped up from theatre.”
“Okay.” Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. “I’ll be there in three minutes.”
Best-laid plans shit themselves all over the street as I run, a couple of laptops bouncing in the bags over both shoulders. The aching lower back I’ve been cultivating from the laminated floor of Emergency Room Twelve, just three nights ago, groan in heady disapproval. I pick up speed, and make it across the lights, dodging cars as they come, like I’m in a game of Frogger. They sure make good anti-skid brakes these days.
I leap up the stairs, rehearsing my soliloquy, the star barrister who’s been waylaid by a maze of unexpected obstacles, and kept from his pivotal summation. The jury are becoming restless, the crowd begins to murmur, wondering aloud where I am.
The tube is destined for the gallows. For sure.
I make it to the lifts, where a woman in a suit presses the down button a split second before my up button. I resist punching her. She walks off down the corridor five seconds later. Clearly, she is just another obstacle. Part of the whole plot, only inserted at this time to make my final appearance all the more impressive. The lift beeps open, closes in my face, and reopens, a yawning chasm.
In I leap, hitting the second floor button, hitting close, and waiting for an egg to boil. Eventually the doors shut, it jolts up, it pauses for a while and then it opens. I run the length of the hallway, like I’m at an airport, my cries drowned out by a Bryan Adams ballad, as I desperately try to catch my long lost love. Just before she jumps on that plane.
I enter the suite.
“Hi there,” I puff, “my wife…is in…with Kath.” I jog towards her room. “Can I go through?”
They nod, unsure what other option they have. I turn the corner, where I almost headbutt Kath, with Suse and Helen behind her, as they leave her office. It’s like I’ve turned up at a children’s party just in time to help wash up. They look back at me, smiling. I hold up my hand, waiting to be given a tea towel.
“Ah, just in time,” Kath quips.
“So what’s the go?” I asked, trying to smile. Instead, it’s clear that I’m harried, frustrated, anxious and irritated.
“Why don’t we go back in here for a second,” Kath says, opening the door to her room. It seems there may be one last slice of cake left, and she’s willing to share it with me. We all sit, ,y shirt sticking to my back. “Suse looks pretty good,” she begins, “and I think we can just sit on things for the moment.”
The jury was in a good mood.
Even without my closing argument.
* * * * *
“Susan has a soft belly,” Kath says, repeating her findings to me, “which is reassuring. The Beta-HCG is continuing to fall, and with what I’ve seen on examination just now, I think things are stabilising.” She pauses for a moment. “Hopefully things are settling down.”
“We’re about ready for that to happen,” Suse says.
“Sure. And with the surgery booking today…” She pauses. “Well, it certainly sounds like things are a bit better today. You sounded pretty wiped out on the phone yesterday, Susan.”
“I was pretty wiped out on the phone yesterday,” Suse says, wryly.
“So. After all of that, I still think the best decision is to hold off for a couple more days before rushing in.”
I really like this woman. We’re in no rush. There are easier ways to lose weight.
She must have seen my speech notes.
* * * * *
So we leave.
We’ve been given two days grace, now on home arrest. Our week ahead is on hold, the electronic security band chafing at our ankles. It’s like the week that opens up when you suddenly learn you’ve been retrenched. The silver silhouette of the threatening clouds on the horizon.
Suse hits a wall, realising that the shackle is still in place, the unknown looming forth again. Today is playing out like a slurpee headache, a sugar coma; the inevitable dip that follows the high.
We’re both coming down.
It’s good news hidden in a dirty chip wrapper. Better the devil and all that, even if does take souvenirs. But if we avoid that, if can just keep both tubes, I can live with the demons for a few more days.
We do what we can to keep occupied. Suse gets into her design work, I busy myself anyway I can, and Helen – well, Helen is just plain supportive. As she always is. She is the air of reason and sense, wisdom and peace that we aren’t.
She balances us out well.
* * * * *
A couple more hours pass. In that time, I faff about, not sure quite what to do. Eventually the phone rings. I rush out of the study, to where Suse is. She presses the phone tightly against her ear.
“Oh, hi Kath,” she says, trying on her nonchalant voice.
I come close, leaning in. Trying to hear Kath’s voice. I stand there, staring at Suse, willing a reaction out of her. She stares blankly at the ground.
I consciously take a breath. And then, she speaks:
“Four hundred and thirty two? Really?”
The Beta-HCG has dropped from 964 to 432 in forty-eight hours. It has more than halved.
The methotrexate is working.
Suse hangs up, and we hug. She falls into my arms as we embrace. Wordlessly, we hold hands, and we walk to the bedroom, closing the door quietly. We lie down, and we cradle each other.
And Suse begins to cry.
* * * * *
We’re out of the woods. For now. ‘A hair’s breadth’ is a hackneyed phrase, but this time, it feels right. A more-trigger happy Obstetrician would have whipped it out days ago. In fact, pretty much anyone without Kath’s cool demeanour would have.
We really were that close.
We may be left with a sorely swollen tube. But at least we’ve still got it.
And one-and-a-half tubes is better than one.