Sit me in a pub with enough sugary drinks, and I am more than willing to compete in a Quint-like scar competition. Not many can beat having their legs sawn off and replaced with well-disguised metal limbs, if they’re not Wolverine. Some silly beggar always reduces it to a face off over what is worse out of giving birth or being kicked in the bollocks, as if there isn’t anything remotely worse. I have no sympathy for either situation; you had it coming.
But there’s one pain that plagues us all, and for the short time it occurs (and it always will) it’s the only pain the whole of humanity can share.
I’m fast asleep, it’s probably 3am, and suddenly I wake with the pain of a thousand nightmares. My insides feel as though I’ve been probed by an alien race intent on filling me with enough water to end the drought in Africa. If it was oil, one of the Bush family would have invaded my belly button and started exporting my bladder’s contents to Nascar. I have the twilight lake.
As always, the lovely pull of sleep tries to make you turn from the pain splitting your sides, as your brain tells you that dream really should be returned to. The sleep voice is strong and calm, so you attempt to drift off. No matter what, you don’t move or roll, just in case it dislodges the finely placed dam in your bladder.
Tap, tap, tap, your normal voice starts to wake up, explaining that you really should just get up now. It will save time in the long run. You’re stronger than that though. Squeezing your eyes shut, you try desperately to ignore it until the phrase from a thousand mothers’ mouths forces you awake a degree too much: “If you hold it in, your bladder will explode.” Pissing the bed is one thing, but exploding like a fat man given a wafer-thin mint is quite another. Still the voice of sleep holds you back. If you move you will never get to sleep ever again. Never! You are stronger than this, you can hold it in. You are strong like bull!
You will now fall into one of two camps. There are those of us who jiggle. This will ease the pain, distributing the imminent eruption across the body. Others will breathe as though we excrete discomfort through our lungs. But eventually you will reach the dreaded point of no return.
The danger and the dark make it feel like an episode of 24. Shuffling quietly, edging out of the duvet with hand outstretched, you will attempt to emulate Helen Keller. Over the vacuum, around the table, through the door, you tackle the Kypton Factor-like assault course to the loo. Eventually it builds to a mad dash of terror, knees together, every available hole slammed shut as you scamper to the water closet.
Don’t turn the light on the voice says, it’ll definitely make you too awake. So in you go, and deposit yourself onto the toilet seat. You’ll want to evacuate everything quickly but the fear of the noise waking the neighbours makes you squeeze everything, until you just think ‘fuck it’.
And peace floats over you, like a finding a classic action film on when you’ve got home with a kebab. The pain is gone. You almost float back to your duvet, which is now soft as a cloud and cool as ice. Soon you will sleep like the happy dead, blissful with an empty bladder and a sense of calm usually only available through very illegal drugs.
And yet, despite this bliss, there’s no avoiding tomorrow night when you’ll repeat the dash yet again. Damn the sleep voice; damn the ageing process. So much for evolution.