I click onto my emails and see the confirmation. I will be returning to the College of Law next week, to complete the very final piece of my mandatory professional qualifications. I had forgotten about this course, this exam, in amidst the whole actual-working bit of it.
I open the email and just seeing the logo takes me back.
It was February 2008, and I was closing the door of MindReader’s car behind me. I was six weeks into the glandular fever that would – though I didn’t know it – limit my life for over three years. Everybody’s recollection is that it floored me immediately, but it didn’t go exactly like that. There was a strange interim period in January and February when I was sometimes jaundiced, sometimes blue with anaemia, sometimes too tired to stand up, when my glands felt like stones around my neck and under my armpits. In February 2008, en route to my first exam, my spleen was enlarged – I could feel it against my ribs – and the motion of moving my hand to lift my bag from the boot onto my shoulder caused a tidal wave of tiredness to sweep over me. My eyesight was fading in and out, changing minute-by-minute; a combination of the epithelial layer of my eye being shot to shit from the virus and my prescription changing because the muscles around the lenses were weak.
I said nothing on the way to the exam. I can tell you even today what I was wearing – boyfriend jeans, a teal-colour t-shirt. I took with me three Quality Streets leftover from Christmas and a bottle of Lucozade.
As long-time readers of my blog know, I did the most un-Billygean-like thing I have ever done in my entire life and walked out of that exam before I began, declaring myself not fit to sit. It was a combination of not being able to see the questions, being too tired to pick up my pen, and the rule imposed by the College of Law that if you begin an exam paper you cannot declare yourself unfit to sit and would have to take a fail grade. MindReader was in that exam, and I didn’t even look at him as I left. I was too tired to email the law firm who sponsored me through the course – who I now work for – and too tired to give a shit about the £50 I spaffed on a taxi on the way home. I got home and went to bed. It was the last time I was out of bed until May. It was the last time I left the house until July. Between that exam and my recovery which began in June there were many, many moments I wish I could forget: sitting in an ambulance the day my blood stopped clotting, seeing the doctors’ puzzled faces around my hospital bed, my father having to wash my hair for me, my boyfriend having to feed me, being too weak to sit up for ten minutes to play a board game on my birthday, being carried into the garden in April, walking to the kitchen for the first time at the end of May. The horrors go on. It is not easy for me to re-live this.
And now I’m going back to that college. My exam will be – I don’t doubt it, such is my soap-opera life – in the same room 412 that I walked out of six years ago.
I accept the course dates into my diary, shake my head, and open a can of coke at my desk, looking out of the window and appreciate for a minute that here I am, sitting up, all my organs doing what they should, and that I am doing something as unhealthy as drinking a can of coke after the super-healthy gluten-free casein-free caffeine-free paleo algae-eating supplement-taking years that followed the glandular fever.
Somebody approaches my desk. They put a court order down on it, a fingertip tracing lightly across the date for the hearing. “Alright to cover this, Billygean?” they say.
I look at the date and my mouth twists with irony. I went to the exact same location a year ago on that date, which was my last day at work before I got sick again. So different were my symptoms to the glandular fever that they are not even comparable, but nevertheless the memory of me driving up north in my car, sweating even though the air con was on, a hand shaking as I reached to pull my hair off my face, a nosebleed in the car on the way home fills me with a horror I can’t really articulate here. They are not rational, these memories. I do not need to think about these horrible memories, but I do. For once, I curse my skill at recollecting dates and times, because it does me no favours.
“That’s fine,” I say, taking the court order and staring at it.
And so next week I will go back to the College of Law and the week after I will go back to the next location I frequented before the second most-serious health setback in my life.
And I will be fine. More than fine.