So that was Christmas. I took the decorations down on Monday while Andrew made dinner. I got the lopper and cut the tree up where it stood in the sitting room, stuffed it into a black sack and tied it up to put out for the binmen. Nollaig na mBan. The first day back after the holidays.
Ann won't be coming back to work. Her visa came through the week before Christmas and she left on New Year's Eve. She's gone to Ohio. We looked it up on Google Streetview in work one day, had ourselves a walk around. There wasn't much to see. She says it's cold there, that the bread's no good and that there's no marmalade. I miss her. Maura sent her a recipe for soda bread and I sent her a rambling email full of carefully-worded concern. I am worried that she will be lonely.
This week it's just me, Maura and Aindreas. We finish off the box of Milk Tray and the Rocky bars that were left in Ann's stash.
Maura's mam talked for ten days straight over Christmas. She went hoarse. She's still in hospital.
Aindreas burnt down his family's kitchen making toast. Everyone was okay, so we laughed about it. But all the same. He says that the worst of it is that they don't have a new toaster yet, and that styrofoam snowflakes keep falling from the ruined ceiling above the hob and into the wok when he's cooking. The gluten-free bread he toasts for his second breakfast fills the office with a sweet smell, like tea brack.
Lorna's sister died. Lorna came back to work on Wednesday and she told me a little about her, about being with her when she died. I made "I know" noises but I don't, not really. For all the hours I spent with my grandfather when he was dying, I was in the car on my way home when he died. So I don't know. I can't even imagine. I gave her a hug because that was all I had to offer.
Ciara had a baby. A little girl. She is bowled over with love for her. She says she is like a little animal; small noises, warm and snuggly. I plan to visit, but I have planned it for two days after my piss-or-get-off-the-pot appointment with the fertility clinic. So we'll see.
How about you?
My Christmas was quiet, I told them.
Andrew had his appointment with the clinic in December. He spunked all over the floor. I'm sorry, but he did. He had to fill out a form for the receptionist and indicate what percentage, if any, of the sample was spilled. She was right outside when he opened the door to leave the special room, waiting to see how he'd got on. 30%, he said, and please don't ask where because you're standing in it. She wasn't, of course. He'd cleaned it up. Which makes you think; it must be someone's job to check and clean the room after each client, mustn't it? He said the room smelled neither of bleach nor semen. I wonder what they use.
In the pub on Christmas Eve eve I was thrilled to hear him telling his friends about his visit to the clinic, about the magazines and the spillage and the feeling of elation walking to work after your first wank in four days. I don't want him to feel embarrassed about it, about any of this. I am proud of him. But I can't seem to help myself. Imagine all I had to do to get pregnant was go to the clinic and have a wank! I say, making him small again because at the end of the day, I think that this is all about me. I am afraid I am making it harder.
Four days into this interminable five-day week, I finally got some drama of my own. I was out for a run on my lunchbreak (I know!) when I got a text message from my GP with news of the liver profile she'd run before Christmas. Blood test results abnormal. Dr. B. Naturally, I panicked. Then I tried to panic everyone else. I left a message for the doctor to call me back, and spent the afternoon studying liver disease on Wikipedia and caveats on health insurance websites.
Maybe it was autocorrect, I said. Maybe she made a mistake.
She didn't call me back. When I got home that evening, Andrew made me a bowl of chilli and a mug of hot chocolate and I went to bed with hair still damp from the shower and dreamt of an early death.
I got up early this morning, put my best dress on and brought the car for its NCT. It failed. I went to work and left another 5 messages for the GP. She didn't call me back, not until I had denounced her to anyone who'd listen, not until 6.30 this evening.
I'm so sorry, she said, we must have made a mistake. Your liver function is perfect.