I wake up to the whirring of machines and blinking little lights. This, I declare to myself in my internal Alan Rickman voice, is becoming too frequent.
The smell lets it be known to me before I even open my eyes that I am, yet again, on a hospital bed. Unlike last time, I’m waking up knowing where and who I am. I also know I am in pain (this fact hits me hard immediately after I open my eyes). But that is entirely secondary.
Next to me, a transparent cot with a myriad of miniature white sheets and duvets. In it, little hands and feet, each populated by tiny fingers and toes (ten of each), move slowly and cautiously as if this little person was still swimming around in the dark. A knitted cap keeps a tiny head warm as it dreams. I mentally high-five myself for my part in generating and delivering this little person to the world.
My self-congratulatory thoughts are interrupted by the nurse I like (I’ve been here long enough to discern her from the ones I kind of like and the ones I deeply dislike), who greets me as she walks into the room and tells me there are three people here to see me. I joyfully greet her in return (Swiss habits, you see) and ask her to let them in quietly, as the baby is asleep.
I brace myself – I know exactly who to expect.
And there they are: Her. This Charming Man. Nowhere Man.
They file into the room gingerly and take their place beside my bed. She sits next to me, while the two gentlemen stand at an appropriately uncomfortable distance from each other. There is the normal exchange of pleasantries; they congratulate me on the new baby, comment on how beautiful he is, I ask how things are in the literary world, and, as expected, they tell me – nothing new, same old, same old.
Politely, She suggests that the gentlemen should go get me the day’s newspaper and some magazines. Reluctantly, they obey, ensuring they are both out of each others way, while also inconveniencing each other as much as possible (walking too slowly in front of the other, suddenly stopping at the door without opening it, opening it and not holding it open to the other – the games grown man play, like little boys, when they know women are watching). The air in the room is thick with the fumes of cleaning products and the awkwardness they left behind.
Once they are gone and their hilarious pantomime is over, She turns to me and smiles warmly.
“How do you feel?” She asks. Strong, I tell her. Tired, but strong. She nods carefully, and shoots my son a serene glance. She knows everything is about to change, and knows better than to tell me so. I, after all, can read her like a book.
“What happens now?” She asks. Even in my state, I notice a shadow of concern seep through her voice.
“I need to start again, work a little harder,” I tell Her. “But you already knew that.”
I try to sound reassuring, but her eyes widen like I’ve just hit her with a threat.
What I meant is this:
I’m almost done.
So it’s time to go back, go over the First Draft once and for all, and remember what I wanted The Story to be.
I look at the little boy asleep next to me; now that I think of it, I managed to create an entire human being pretty much from scratch in just short of 41 weeks. So I ask myself this: will a Second Draft be as laborious (ah – you get the subtlety of that joke?) as that? No. But it’ll still be hard work.
Hard work, plus an infant.
And as the gentlemen walk back into the room with newspapers, magazines, flowers, chocolates, bottled water, stuffed animals and everything short of an anvil, I think to myself:
This is going to be a long day.