Open up your gut, says the doctor.
I peel it open with my bare hands, my fingers right through the skin. It’s like putty, really mushy. Open, open, my belly opens like a mouth, a toothless mouth. Did you ever make Plasticine animals when you were younger? I didn’t. I watched someone else. My stomach feels like that. What I imagine it should feel like. Imagination is something they’ve taught me. My stomach feels like something I should put into the oven to harden up.
Yep, it’s like I thought, the doctor sighs.
He gives one of those grave doctor smiles. He’s pleased he’s right, but sad because he’s right. Not sad for me, but sad for him. There’s another notch on his bad news headboard. It’s a notch meant for me, but turns out I’ll probably be dead. Soon. He’s the one who has to look at his headboard every night and remember that he’s not dead, he’s still safe, opening up people’s guts and adding to the headboard every night. The Red Baron of gut examination.
Is there nothing we can do? I ask, even though I know there isn’t. It all relies somewhat on my self-control, and that’s always been a missing component of my hardware.
The doctor hums, and he wiggles his hands, shakes his head, nods his head, steps from one foot to the other. He’s considering something. I don’t like the way his eyes keep resting on the hole in my stomach. I wish he’d stop looking at it. I can’t look at it. My hands are nesting inside of me, curled around the corners of my ripped open gut, but I can’t look at myself. That’d be horrible.
I get ones like you in every day, says the doctor.
Chortling, I sit up. My gut unfurls ever so slightly. I have to keep it all stuffed in with my hands. I still can’t look down. There’s no way I want to see what it looks like, all that internal.
It’s not easy for us, I say.
Drinking alcohol is not a necessity, Mr. Olive, says the doctor, smiling gravely again.
I lean forwards and say, everybody drinks alcohol.
It’s true. They do. Even the doctor drinks alcohol. I know it. How am I meant to fit in if I can’t drink alcohol? Making friends is hard if you don’t drink. When I drink I think everybody forgets what I am. Does that make sense? I’ve talked to people who say that it makes sense. That alcohol makes people forget who you are, and even you forget who you are. That’s the point of drinking. Isn’t it? You don’t have to tell me. Friends are everybody, and everybody is a friend when you’re drunk and happy and forgetful. When you’re drunk the world glitters with a hundred thousand facets of senselessness.
That’s how I validate it. That’s how I process it. Can’t anyone see that I want to stop processing?
It’s reached a point where I don’t give a damn if my gut bursts. Alcohol is needed for me, for everyone. This is all figured out now. On holiday I went to a waterfall and in the water there was rubbish, so much rubbish, cups, bottles, crisp packets. How can I get over this if I don’t drink? I watched a video of a turtle having a piece of metal removed from it’s nostril. I don’t know what pain is, does the turtle? Do their hard little noses feel pain like my gut doesn’t? People get hurt everyday, their hearts break, that’s what they call it. Heart break. A broken heart. Children live in boxes. Faces watch from tin shanty’s. There are people on earth who don’t have anything to drink.
…forbid. People on earth with nothing to drink.
Not even alcohol.
How I am meant to get over this?
Why was I put here? Was I put here to get over this?
You’re not like everybody, Mr. Olive, the doctor says and begins checking thing off a checklist, looking at me every now and then.
He just sounds so sad, this doctor. You’d think he’d get another job.
I say to the doctor, fine, alright, sew me up, and then ask, how long have I got?
As far as it goes, you’re still quite young. You’re meant to last fifteen years. I’m moving that down to six. I’ll be in touch with your Superior. He’ll be in touch to talk to you about…your addiction. You know, addictions are a fallacy not meant for you – I don’t, I don’t quite know where you’ve got it from.
He rattles all this off from the other side of the room. This is how he deals with it when he can’t drink alcohol. He goes to the window in his office and imagines he’s talking to himself. I’m not here. Was I ever here?
From the desk drawer the doctor takes out a thick needle and some thin metal twine. He pulls on two skin-tight white gloves.
I lay back, close my eyes, and wait for his touch.
Was I ever here?