“If I speak what is false, I must answer for it”.
Thomas Fuller said that. Seems obvious, I suppose. I think Thomas and I would have got on so it’s a shame we missed each other by just 300 years. He was pretty much my age when he died, he got very ill on my birthday, which I’ve done loads of times although he got ill on my birthday in 1660, and he often sounded a bit like me. “We are born crying, live complaining and die disappointed”. I mean, that’s pretty much every single thing I’ve ever said in one sentence.
And “If I speak what is false, I must answer for it” seems very prevalent right now. Everyone lies, and everyone knows everyone lies but they love the lies so much that they decide it’s now true. But that’s not why I’ve been thinking about my dead friend Thomas. I’ve been thinking about what he said because I often get words wrong. I say the completely wrong word by accident and it changes everything I want to say. Because, unlike Thomas, I’m a fucking idiot.
But, like Thomas, I am middle-aged and ill. YES! The dream double. I’m constantly exhausted, I’m constantly in agony and I have every disease known to man. Let’s list those diseases right now, Ladies…
I have asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, diphtheria, croup, whooping cough (had that for a while now), sickle cell anemia (don’t know how I got that, I think my body is a racist), the plague, smallpox, largepox, heart attack (I have a heart attack), dick flu and a bum full of strokes. I have every disease. But I soldier on bravely.
It’s rare anyone ever wants to talk about illness. It’s not like skateboarding or Garbage Pail Kids stickers or whatever is cool these days. But a week ago, my arthritis got so bad that I couldn’t move. At all. This is “normal”, said a doctor who thinks its normal to be a corpse who can feel pain. It’s just a “flare up”. This was such comfort to me as I lay in bed completely static and screaming my unmoving tits off.
Later that day, I was fine. It was just a “flare up” after all. I was right as rain. Nothing to worry about. But… you know… I wanted a bit of sympathy. Aren’t I at least allowed that? Just some acknowledgement of my bravery. I left the house and bumped into a neighbour who said, “How are you?”
A perfect chance! I can talk all about the pain of my ungodly arthritis and get all the sympathy and medals I want. Hooray!
Now, if only I was a bit more like Thomas Fuller. If only I didn’t get all my words mixed up all the time. If only I wasn’t a fucking idiot.
All you really need to know about what happened next is this: I got the words ARTHRITIS and DIARRHOEA mixed up. Jesus fucking Christ. “If I speak what is false, I must answer for it”.
“I’ve not been well actually”, I said with a brave face. “Diarrhoea”.
My neighbour screwed his face up in a disgusted, I-don’t-want-to-hear-about-that way.
“Yeah. It’s been really bad lately”, I said, like a hero. “Couldn’t get out of bed for hours”.
My neighbour looked sickened. He just looked appalled and sad and said “God…”
“Yeah. I’ve had it for years but only started getting treatment for it a few months ago. It’s been fine for months but today… Today was just awful”.
“You can’t have had it for years”, he said. That was very kind, I thought. Yes, I do hide it well but it’s true. I’ve actually had it since my late 20’s. My neighbour then just stared at me. This was great. Way better than I was expecting. He knows the agony I’ve been through, he knows how long I’ve lived with it and, yet, here I am standing in front of him with no visible trace of my illness and he just can’t find the words. This was exactly the sort of pick me up I needed. Yes, neighbour. You’re right. I am brave. Very brave indeed.
After more explaining of my bravery and the terrible affliction that has clearly not got the better of me, he finally spoke. “Jesus”, he said. “Christ almighty. What… what are they doing about it?”
“Nothing they can do about it really”, I told him. “You sort of just have to live with it”.
You live with it like a hero would. One day at a time. “I don’t think I could have avoided it”, I said. His face now completely baffled. Yes, I get it: I’m a legend. But time to put him out of his misery. I’ll explain a little bit about the illness, then he’ll get it. “My dad has it so… you know”.
“Wait.”, he said. “Diarrhoea isn’t hereditary”.
I spoke falsely, and the payment was a rush of redness to the face. The penny dropped. I am a fucking idiot.
All I wanted was a bit of sympathy. Some there-theres after a painful day of dealing with arthritis. Something I deal with every day. And I think I deal with it pretty bloody well, actually. Very pretty bloody well. And all I wanted, all I fucking wanted was just a little bit of recognition. A little admiration for dealing with something so well. I wanted someone to look at me and think “There goes Michael Legge. A man who does not give into pain but rises above it with dignity and courage. There goes a hero”.
But no. Because of ONE TINY LITTLE MISTAKE, one incorrect word, one misuse of our great nation’s tongue, I will forever be considered the man who shat himself for 20 years.
Fuck you, Thomas.