Whilst working on material for my next novel I found the following monologue that I wrote some time ago. I can’t remember what I wrote it for, but Andrea is a character that featured in ‘Vera, Andrea, Holly and Sue’, a play that morphed into a musical and that we took for one mad week to the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m quite fond of Andrea so I thought I would dust her off and present her as a blog. (She would think that was something that needed to be surgically removed.)
A doctor’s waiting room. Andrea approaches the ‘receptionist’, in this case the audience. A bumptious hypochondriac on the surface she is unconsciously revealing that the root cause is a crippling loneliness.
ANDREA: ‘Scuse me. I’ve been waiting nearly an hour to see Doctor. I’ve been sat still for so long I think I’m developing that VD thing. You know, Deep Vein Thrombosis. The old man next to me is having trouble disposing of all phlegm he’s coughing up and what with my weak chest and the kid with the spots dribbling on my inhaler I feel a bit…uncomfortable.
I’m not one to complain…you ask the doctors…they all know me. But I have to be careful ‘ cos I’m not a well woman. I’m just recovering from virile pneumonia. My name? Andrea Tillman…you’re new aren’t you? You’ll get to know me I’m here most days. Will it be long? Only I’ll have to take my mid-afternoon medication soon. (Shakes her handbag that rattles like the percussion section of an orchestra.) I have to take it regular. I’ll sit down again shall I? By the way I have to see a doctor on the ground floor. I can’t manage stairs on account of my vagina. (She sits and addresses the audience as if they were other patients.)
Terrible trouble with me vagina I have. The pain is excruciating. (She looks up in surprise at the reaction to this and indicates her left breast.) In me chest. Vagina pectoris. The doctors have been good though. Very kind and caring – which is nice ‘ cos you don’t get that anywhere else. But like they say you got to fight it. (She burps loudly.) ‘Scuse. Inevitable vowel syndrome. You can’t give into ill health. I think mine dates from a fall I had a couple of years ago. It were quite bad that. No ones fault of course – and ‘e left me anyway. The hospital was lovely. Really looked after me they did. Me own room. Even got flowers when the other patients got better… or died. Me mum even came in to see me once. Told me to get up and get on with it, said I’d never make any money lying flat on my back in bed all day. I said – why not? it worked for you. I haven’t seen her since. But I don’t give in. That’s the thing about me you see. I never give in. They don’t really know what’s wrong. I’m a Medical Mystery. (Coughs) Sorry, emphysema. That’s why I’m here. I think I’m having a prolapse. They said to come back if it got worse and I’ve got an awful pain in my side. Just here on my left side, very sharp. I’m pretty sure it’s appendicitis. You have to have an operation for that don’t you? Stay in hospital quite a few days. What? Oh it’s on the right hand side is it – the appendix? (Crestfallen). Right. But maybe that’s what’s wrong. Why it hurts so much. It’s on the wrong side! I’ve got a very high pain threshold you see. When I was having my kid I was in labour for three weeks and the pain was so agonising that I knocked two midwives unconscious, broke a gynaecologists rib and inhaled so much gas and air that I floated to the ceiling and had to be pulled down by four porters with window hooks. But it’s not the pain that is so hard to deal with. It’s the cynical depression…
I died once you know. Oh yes. I had an out of body experience… but then, given my body it was quite nice to get away for a bit. They wanted to switch me off…drew lots and everything. But I came back through the tunnel. There was someone calling me back… It can’t have been anyone I knew. And of course on top of all that I was diagnosed yesterday with severe hypochondria – I wonder if it’s that that’s giving me that unpleasant discharge. Oh. Is it me? At last. I’ll be as quick as I can everyone. But after all time is the best healer – just as well in ‘ere, init?
S. LYNN SCOTT