If my dentist wasn’t a dentist, he would have been a political analyst. Or maybe he is, in his spare time. I must ask him at my next check-up. My experience of ‘butchery dentistry’ during the Soviet Era makes me plan the trips to Alex’s practice to the finest detail. So much so that I’m already an hour early, hoping to have made a mistake and hear Jenny saying your appointment was yesterday, but she offers me tea instead. A patient asks whether we should be waiting for fresh scones too, and the room bursts into laughter.
I never thought people could laugh at the dentist, but there we go. I laugh too, when the door opens and Alex shows me in. Any news, he asks. I think about my 42 mobile news alerts screaming from the back pocket. It’s only midday. I barely slept these past four days, waiting for a catastrophic British exit, worrying about knife crime, thinking that my next-door neighbour could be a serial killer for what I know, as he always looks cheerful when I walk past his garden. This exact scenario featured in a three-part documentary I watched back to back last week. I am sure I have an undetected disease. The scientist who presented the last episode of Horizon made me believe that I’m so ill, I started monitoring my dog for behavioural changes.
Any news, then? As I struggle to answer with an open mouth, I mutter No, though I want to confess my addiction to technology when he takes his phone out and says I wish there were no news. Like in 1930.
Alex reminds me of the ideal news bulletin, on 18thApril 1930 when the BBC news presenter had nothing to communicate to the nation. His script of the 8: 45pm bulletin was: There is no news, followed by 15-minute piano music.
My gums look healthy, while the D-Day celebrations are in full swing on TV.
There is no other sign of life here,
only my fingers caught between
the wooden pages of a newspaper.
When everyone else builds
the flat packed cement houses outside,
me and the nurse behind the glass
scrutinise each other, munching dry biscuits
saying sorry for the spoilt tea nobody drinks.
Of this I am not yet so sure.
I suppose she checks the pulse,
the nurse with a concrete face
keeps filling in the charts
with the same precision she fills in
the crossword spread open
over my legs.
I do not mind.
I say to her ‘could you please remove the batteries
from the white clock’ the time
does not matter now
what matters, I think she says, is hanging on in there.
Her own watch upside down
hanging on, just about, with her name badge.
I offer her my bed.
I could after all sit in the waiting room
by the door
or make her coffee, I suggest.
But Susan points her finger at that hole,
uncovered wound on my chest.
‘For now, let’s just talk.’
The bare wall is
the last thing I remember and
Susan watching the news.