Diabetes Cure  
How did this happen?
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Night falls with my new comrades; each and every one of these old men has shown me a kindness;

a smile of understanding or a few choice supportive words. ‘Do you want a Rolo?’ ‘I don’t think I’m allowed,’ in soft voice. ‘I find it’s best to have one first, and then ask,’ says the Indian man who farts all of the time and the Doctor on rounds is pleased with his farting. – This advice I live on for years to come. Now together we stretch out our necks like baby giraffes to watch a portable TV propped up on a corner table, playing what can only be explained as some kind of personal curse: a Jonathan Ross food special counting down one hundred mouth-watering and delicious recipes, which I will never taste and the one hundred unusual ways I won’t of course be preparing them. One such meal; a juicy steak with all the trimmings wrapped in foil and cooked against the engine of an American muscle car as it’s driven over a rural stretch of Interstate. The resulting feast that lay before them on the bonnet as they delicately unwrap hot foil. I lay there on white cotton feeling oh so sorry for myself. Depressed yet unable to completely resign myself to the echo in my stomach and loss of knowing I would never be allowed, to taste, to touch, to smell, even inhale such gracious meals again: and I’m thinking to myself – quite clearly for once, thinking through the evidence which led me here…

Massive cramps. Cramps in my calf muscles so painful and occurring so frequently, waking me throughout the night. I’d become scared, even to go to sleep. Cramps forcing me to limp upstairs every two minutes when I so desperately had to take a piss and piss some more: thinking on how I pissed so much that mid-way through one piss I would start to need another. ‘That’s him back in the bathroom,’ embarrassed smirk, Angela tells Mum. And guess what they thought I was doing in there, behind a clasped shut bathroom door, age sixteen for twenty minutes at a time? Between pissing, dragging my carcass into the kitchen, drinking vast quantities of anything trying desperately to quench my thirst; brain confused to shit I craved sweetness and invariably went for the sugariest drink available; never quenching my thirst for a moment, only keeping it at bay for the duration of the syrup liquid pouring onto my tongue. Brief cessations through gulp and swallow: I drank tons of the stuff, Nestle powdered banana milk shake, mixed listlessly with bottles of Tizer as I swayed again back and forth through park gates.

Rab Crowlin whistling up at my living room window for school in the mornings; the week or two before this happened, I ventured down, my eye lids still half shut, ‘How you no talking?’ He thinks I’m in a huff because he kicked half a puddle over me last I saw him. ‘I’m sleeping,’ comes my reply, then he laughs, thinking I was being an idiot, and I had similar doubts of myself that day, though now I see why I was trying to capture every bit of rest I could.

Two minutes to nine and frozen through to the bone, desperate to get in doors, already I’d need the toilets and the drinking tap. ‘There’s the bell,’ shout the obvious; my nerves on high alert; was this why I was always so nervous? And first there is French class, or was that in the afternoon; the whole thing an exhausted memory detailed by an out of focus witness.

Weary of lectures on Europe and well versed in the knowledge I was far behind, ‘Soooo…?’ me nodding my head slightly as if this was the first time and I didn’t know what he was on about, just wanting to hide away in a ball somewhere, ‘So where are your glasses? Where are they? Why aren’t you wearing glasses boy? You get them for free on prescription from the NHS. So WHY aren’t you wearing them? Why aren’t you wearing your glasses BOY?’ Fair enough I couldn’t see a thing, but that’s all I needed, to be picked on for something else. Then being pulled up to the black board, chalking up, and “Où sont vos lunettes?” ‘Read it out loud boy.’ I could never comprehend the writing, no matter how close my table. Maybe it was a white board, marked with green and red pens, either way it all merged with light before reaching me.

Seems that’s me now, in amongst a bunch of, ‘Unemployable ignoramuses.’ Missed the deadline: unable to read and write in fluent French by the end of term. Still put off by the sepia tone nineteen seventies textbooks with their creased cultural portrayal of flowery French families in dirty brown houses drinking from bowls of hot chocolate. ‘Quelle heure est-il anyway?’ I squinted to watch the class clock, tick tock on by so slowly. – Je m'appelle Paul, Non? Oui?

Periodic table; but as with everything else, nothing connected, no underlying logic no substance. Reasoning is empty and I draped in cramp, surrounded by odds, caught in a hail of things happening over which I have little belonging. ‘That’s pure mental man.’ ‘Aww no way man, that’s pure shockin!’ flicking spit balls, ‘Whit is it?’ ‘Ah don’t know.’ as class teacher, Mr Highbrow Eyebrows enlightens us on how he is a foremost mind in the field of Nuclear Physics, of how he knew how to build an A-bomb had he the components; said mere moments before singeing those four-inch long bad boys on the flames of a Bunsen burner. On choosing subjects in the third year I had requested to do Physics or Chemistry to avoid this preordained pish; both of those classes were restricted to students not doing Art. Hey, at least I’ve learnt how when you mix sand and peas in a jar that they mix together but not on a chemical level, and the dumb arses were kept plenty entertained with time enough to watch salt crystals grow in plastic beakers as I adjusted aching, jumpy, stiff legs onto tall stools.

Pythagoras theorem’ and I just didn’t know. Math had pretty much stopped making any kind of sense with my high sugar brain restricting problem-solving skills to a complete stand still. Clearly, even now putting green, square blocks into blue triangle spaces and to cap it off; my teacher rattling my nerves, ‘I’M A TEACHER NOT A JAILER. You’re all ‘Muppets’.’ Okay, that’s five minutes into class; time for the slap head and Mr Italiano next door to start passing funny notes via ignorant child, clearly comparing students in a game of ‘Numpties Top Trumps’.

Under posters of tortured monkeys and black and white Holocaust trains, CND logos and HR Geiger fantasy art, Modern Studies fell another tired-thirsty blur. Class maniac JoJo continuing to leave the rest of our group table too scared to learn, except for times when he desperately needed someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on; when his eyes would well and it blazed apparent that under his bravado of intimidating lunacy, lies a boy, some raw nerves, confused hormones and a violent home from which to stray as much as possible. Playing Moashey had put him in grave danger, who would have thought tossing ten pence coins against piss filled doorways to see who could get the closest and a setback of double-or-nothings could surmount to debts of one hundred and forty pounds? He is as sure to be on the end of a knife for that as I was to need to ask the teacher if I could go for a pee for the umpteenth time. JoJo had a plan however: on a run of stealing charity boxes from newsagents along the Shettleston Road to pay his way. I wonder how that’s worked out for him.

My mum on requesting I be put up a level, witnessed me being shooed away; in senior explanation, ‘Mmmm, – thoughtfulness represented in a hum – although Paul would have space to learn in a higher level class, the difference in learning difficulty would be black and white. I understand class C to be a difficult learning environment: you are not the only person to inform me of this. Because Paul has missed too many weeks in absence due to sickness already, he could not possibly catch up.’ So I continued; stuck with a Goth for a teacher who applied her white mask on the bus in the morning and bemused us in the afternoons with idioms, ‘Pulling out all the stops people. Putting the pedal to the metal. Best foot forward. Against the clock and X marks the spot.’ What? – Hello anyone? Really, was it best that I did not learn at all? Modern Studies, what about common sense? Why did none of these people think to look into my health a little more seriously?

Drama class and Mr Thesp taught us how to commit suicide by swallowing handfuls of Paracetamol. Slugging them back in a romance blemished with confusion, ‘Whisky is always the way.’ Teetering back for a moment on an excuse to stop; it seems they will only sell small quantities of Paracetamol at a time, ‘So you will have to walk around the block to a number of local retailers to attain a high enough quantity. Don’t worry about quality,’ he would say in his deep extra Scottish drawl, ‘Then you sit home alone: back straight with stiff nerve you glug it all back.

 

 

 

 

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This sends you off into a nice little blasé haze,’ – a half puff of smoke gestured from his fingers tips, opening gently toward the sky as he pouts a last breath of unwanted air, absolution in his contented smile. So far removed from his improvised comedy about the deaf in the waiting room of the Doctors Surgery, back when he came to visit us in primary school, ‘WHAT? IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? WHAT?’ and so on. I got the distinct impression this was all, more a hint to us than a cry for attention by him, but his frequent nervous breakdowns blurred the boundaries and I just didn’t know anymore. I don’t know much of anything anymore. – I sat quietly, pushing down heartburn and trying to digest school dinner. ‘Having to pee, again,’ – Anyone?

Art class had become equally tetchy; the only class I ever loved, and a teacher Mrs Swift who loved me in return, from the moment she heard me utter the words, ‘I don’t like football.’ Why I’d begun to snap back at her I didn’t know. Why did I speak to her in such a way? Why did it seem so just to do so? – What am I talking about, I didn’t even realise I was doing it, or did I? – Till it was too late. Of all the people I should have been working up the nerve to speak back to why did I answer back to her? Why was everyone having a go at me? An entire class held breath in pained anticipation waiting for her to erupt. Mrs Swift, not a teacher for easy dealings. Stooped posture draped in blacks of lace and felt, grey hair brushed and tangled, silver clasped back, jewellery home-made on each and every finger; she shed a wry smile on a small few of us, the rest she kept on tenterhooks but she never reacted to me. She looked over instead. Knew something was deeply-worryingly-wrong, she knows me all too well, let me go because she knew in me that I’m not the type. There was more, something far worse going on and she looked over at me from the other side of the classroom to let me know. Let me away so patiently and I miss her for that. – I needed her to be the one to tell me what it was.

English continued as usual, smiling at Sharon throughout the entire lesson and hinting that I fancied her; the odd bit of footsie under the desk where the combined static of her woollen tights and my nylon trousers could have blown us all up. The cutest little groove trails down on the tip of her nose, even her Cranhill perm, more natural and less Cranhill than all the other girls and sex was never off any of our minds while listening to Rachael bang on about how she was going to lose her virginity, real soon. – Speaking of which, I’ve not wanked off in ages, maybe next time I do something will come out. As for course work I have no idea, I only attended in hormones and sudden reading difficulty had made all my words jumble on the page. The lights were beginning to dim.

Guidance Counselling is good, they have taken the pains of explaining to us, ‘It’s alright to be ashamed and embarrassed of your families.’ Taken further personal time out of their busy day, via an appraisal form, to assess and instruct on our limitations, ‘We processed these through a special computer.’ It seems I should be ideally suited thus potentially employable as a Fisherman or Miner. With all the mines and oceans in Glasgow, I find it hard to find fault in their persuasion. The fully-fledged Catholic boys got to be Fishermen or Carpenters, and with so many girls already pill popping and sleeping with Taxi Drivers, some are destined to be prostitutes; no one was in any doubt about that.

Ginger haired Counselling person is very pleased to stress, she earns a cool twenty-four thousand pounds per annum, and this is way more than any of our parents could ever expect to earn, we would be more than embarrassing ourselves to even hope. Especially all ninety percent of boys just past the age of being scouted for professional football; they and their entire families hopes and ambitions, pinned on a pipe-dream now passed on down through to their younger sibling. ‘Look it the baw control and he is only four, he will definitely make it intay the toap eleven in Scotland and then go own-tay play fir Bayern Munich, let’s no get joabs jist yet.’ Let’s all stay right in our place and not worry about Europe just yet. There seemed to be something amiss, clearly Mizz Ginger was excluding parents of pupils who drove cars costing more than her home; although obviously drug dealers, maybe they could have got me some medication. Why didn’t anybody notice that I was fucking see-through and in agony?

God, not gym class, let’s face it I was never bred for sport. I’ve been brought up primarily by three women: there’s been no football in my life or masculine activity of any kind, never has been; we watch ‘Mary Poppins’ at Christmas never ‘James Bond;’ although Mum has gone through a phase of calling me, ‘Mate,’ and punching me repeatedly in the arm. That will make a man out of me. – Was she harbouring doubts?

I did once ask the blonde bopped Physical Ed teacher, in her frequent red tracksuit, with statuesque physique of a Russian Short Putter, ‘Could I bring a can of Irn-Bru into class due to my being so painstakingly thirsty?’ she even enquired as to whether I had diabetes. I had no idea what she meant by that, not an inkling, no understanding what-so-ever as to the relevance of her question and she never followed it up. Instead she watched my face contort for weeks on end as I limp-ran along red gravel pitches far behind the rest of class, legs cast of lead, calves on fire, hacking and gasping and rasping for air; all that was missing was the floundering, – it’s not far behind. Fat kids with strapped down man boobs and inhaler addicts ran on by. She observed from afar, arms folded with back to the bike sheds along with the rest of the PE department; counting down the hours till they could visit the pub, where they will obviously stand in the same formation discussing what a waste of time we are. And this continued all the way up to class tests where we ran from either side of the gym in time with the beeps, which near killed me as I coughed and near floundered with no fluid in my chest, throat or entire breathing apparatus. ‘Not as fast as last time Paul.’

‘Here baldy baws,’ that will be me, ‘His your japs eye gone blind?’ Swimming Class, my balls yet to drop and not one single hair, complete humiliation and fear of the showers ensued followed by guess what, more bullying. It seemed angry young men that stab rivals through the lungs with screwdrivers and sexually abuse girls in the playground love nothing more than to stare, compare, comment and in my case laugh in pubic one-upmanship. ‘Lick ma baws. Maggot, maggot, get your wee balls kicked. Look it ma big dobber.’ Again I was stuck idle; in with the asthmatic, the hairy and the breasted: pre-pubescent me standing shivering flesh draped on bare bone, a rack of meat you wouldn’t pick up in the butchers. Wet wooden benches, starch textured towelled: getting dry by removing a layer of skin, watching numpties’ throwing inhaler tablets into the pool in desperate hope of altering pH balances’ to have class dismissed. – Surely I’ve got to reach puberty now.

...

All I can remember in sum total are weeks and months if not years of duress. I can’t remember being well unless I think way back, way way back. And the thing is; no one at this hospital has really told me what my real symptoms were. I know they point out my dry mouth, point to deep cramps in varying places and weight loss; they are all very forthright concerning me peeing a lot of golden urine, which by all instruction should be clear in a good diabetic (yawn). But they haven’t discussed with me my late development; never question my lack of focus or poor behaviour, to them I am just ill. There is no due diligence on concentration waning or on any level the cloud that swallowed me both visually and emotionally through the time leading to diagnosis. Retrospective prognosis to prolonged bouts of colds and flu put down all too simply and too exacting to my pancreas having bouts of stops and starts before eventually switching off for good. Semi functionality causing my immune system to become unstable: vulnerable to attack. Although this I look back on following seventeen years non-characteristic change as being the most inadequate proposal in their pronouncement.

...

Even if I didn’t care that they came nowhere near to explaining why; it kills me inside living with today’s knowledge that if they had put me on the sustenance I live on now, back when under their care, they could have caught me in the honeymoon period and made near escape dependency on insulin injections.

Hypotheticals aside, I was a statistic, a, ‘Nobody knows why. It’s genetic. Every diabetic is different: like fingerprints,’ and in the same breath, ‘Here, have the same medication as everyone else.’ How to explain to a boy that this was only the beginning, that what I was feeling was only a glimpse of how this condition could ruin me in the future. Nothing personal, no real interest, all experience capped off at the basics, no one under any obligation to look further. My life had been written off entirely as, ‘Reasonably bright, absenteeism, poor grades, and best to let him go – Jesus impostor,’ leaving me to fall between the cracks. It’s terrifying the stuff they left out.

 

 

 

Chapters

square point Preface
square point Heads, diabetes
square point Tails, diabetic
square point Succumbing to the D
square point How did this happen?
square point Dating, late 20's
square point Love
square point The talk, human resource
square point The three bears
square point Sugar levels ill, sugar levels well
   
   
   
   
   

 

 
 

 

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Blood sugar test strips. My cat swallows these.  
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