A life in the year of Emily Shark.
"Does it hurt?" asked the doctor.
"Only when it's prodded."
"What were you doing when it appeared?"
"I was coughing and moving a desk."
"Right. Breathe in again for me. Good. Okay, you can sit up now."
I'm dying. She doesn't know how to tell me but I'm dying. She ...
"It's a hernia. A very small one, and it's not dangerous, but we'll get a surgeon to repair it so it doesn't cause problems later."
"Er ... so ... it's not ... really bad, then?"
"Not at all. The surgery is routine, nothing to worry about."
Routine! Why did I once hate that word? It's a safe, clean hug of a word. Routine.
"Oh, that's great."
"Now, what's your availability like?"
"I'll just check my diary."
My beautiful little diary, with lots of days still left in it to live because I'm not going to die. Well, I am, but not because of this.
"I could take a day off work, and I haven't booked any holidays yet."
"Fantastic. I'll be in touch. In the meantime, don't move any more desks."
This diary has got me thinking. Up ahead, there are clean white pages, ready for anything. Behind, there are months of frenzied tick-fests. "Mark Z!" "Find Y!" All done and mostly forgotten. Is that what I want for the rest of the year?
There is something else, too. All the things I have ticked are things I did for other people. The things I had planned for myself have been crossed out, no doubt because I was too tired or too busy to do them. "Go dancing." "See film." Neat lines through all of them. I have been crossing out my life. For how long, I wonder?
Well, at least I've noticed now. Thank you, small, non-threatening hernia. A cough, a desk, and a doctor: that's all it took, and now I'm seriously thinking about leaving my job.
The deadline for resignations is a week away. Think, Shark: what do you want?
I don't know. I know what I don't want, though. I don't want to carry on crossing out my life.
I mean, what if this bump on my tummy had been a real bastard? Now I'd be thinking: OK, I've got six months to live. I'm going to leave this school right now and go for a swim in the sea. I haven't done that for years.
I would go straight down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. I'd wear something shiny around my neck so that little fish would swim up and take a closer look at it, wondering if this was a really special fish.
Instead, I'm facing more work from our lazy new head of department, and more poison from the slimy cow who wanted his job and didn't get it.
There's only one question to answer now, then I'll know what to do: where is the evidence that any of this is going to change?
More from Emily in a fortnight.