Will Self: The trouble with my blood

Some time over the winter of 2010-11 I began to be gorged with blood – or, rather, my blood itself began to be gorged with red blood cells, with haemoglobin. I didn’t pay it much attention – mostly because I didn’t realise it was happening, the only perceptible symptoms being a certain livid tinge to my face and to my hands, which, I joked to family and friends, had started to resemble those pink Marigold washing-up gloves. When I took my gorged hands out of my jeans pockets the tight denim hems left equally vivid bands smeared across their backs – these, I facetiously observed, were the colour of those yellow Marigold washing-up gloves. …

On the stairs of the hospital’s Southwark wing there was a taped-up piece of A4 paper, advising me to go up and down them for 10 minutes a day if I wanted to maintain good CARDIAC HEALTH. At the fourth floor I could turn left to the BLOOD BANK, or right to HAEMATOLOGY 2. In front of me were some nylon bags about 18in cubed – white ones were labelled “Buffy Coats”; red ones “Platelets”. This was the realm of the logical positivists, I thought. I had trafficked in disease as a metaphor for 20 years now, grafting the defining criteria of pathologies – their aetiology, their symptoms, their prognoses and their outcomes – on to phenomena as diverse as the human psyche and the urban fabric, yet now I had a disease that seemed to me to be a metaphor – although of what exactly I couldn’t yet divine – I found myself in a viscid substrate, cultured with rapidly multiplying literalisms. When I told friends about my condition and what the most effective therapy for it was they all – all! – said the same thing: What? You have to get bled? What will they do that with? Leeches? I found this stereotypy infuriating: how big a leech would be required, I spat at them, given that they’ve got to take two pints a week out of me? No, they use a needle – and a big one, since my blood is currently as thick as tomato purée. (Guardian >>>)


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