My little sister has gone away, and I have noticed that I am the one making all the effort to contact her. She has, in fact, made almost no attempt to respond to my heartfelt enquiries as to where we keep the washing powder, or to let me know if parmesan can go off. Despite her continued coldness, I miss my little sister most when I’m suffering from one of a hundred mysterious illnesses that plague me on a near-daily basis. I don’t like to make a fuss, so I soldier on bravely, and brush away any of the myriad offers of concern and medical attention that I am sure everyone would love to offer me, if only I would let them.
They can’t, however, because I’m suffering in silence. However, there is simply no point in suffering in silence if people do not know that one is doing exactly that, so I used to tell my sister exactly what was going on. I did so, obviously, so that she could then tell everyone else how brave and stoic I was being. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quite like that.
‘I’ve got a tremendously itchy inner ear,’ I told my little sister, years ago in a shared hotel room. ‘Mmm,’ she replied, pretending that it was 2am and that she was asleep. Luckily, I knew that my own sister would never be so callous as to fall asleep when I was suffering so mightily, so I continued. ‘It’s itchy, but it’s inside the ear. So I can feel it itch, but I can’t scratch it,’ I told her. ‘Look.’ I rolled out of my bed and into hers. (This wasn’t difficult, because when I share a hotel room with someone I like to push the twin beds together, precisely in case of situations like these).
‘Aagh,’ my little sister shouted in alarm, as I gently put my ear onto her face. (It was dark, so it was very difficult to determine where her eyes were). ‘I know, right?’ I was quite pleased that she was taking this whole thing so seriously. ‘What shall I do?’
Unfortunately, she didn’t have the answer. She equally was at a loss when I had ‘excessively hot right earlobe’, or ‘left little finger looking a bit fat’ or ‘forever pins and needles’ (the last one was a genuine medical emergency and I thought she was rather brusque when I went to visit her during her A&E shift about it). Looking back, it seems that she has in fact provided me with very little practical or emotional support, and often advised me to ‘shut up’ about things, which was completely counter-intuitive, because I was already being tremendously brave and suffering in silence. Which is why, on reflection, I will not be calling her long-distance to talk about my latest affliction – needing to go to the loo all the time and therefore having to drink excessive amounts of water, to prevent chronic dehydration. Well, not until this evening, anyway. (I have absolutely no idea where we keep the blu-tack).