I cut the middle finger of my right hand on a can of tuna chunks in brine – sliced it right open on the raised lid – and there was so much blood spilling from the wound that I was wondering how this whole thing could possibly be considered as being sustainably sourced. For a moment I was frozen to the spot, questioning how it was that a 35-year-old man could cut open his finger on a can of tuna, but as crimson dripped onto the clean kitchen counter I knew that I had to take immediate action. Life is difficult enough as it is without becoming known as the man who lost a digit to a tin of fish.
As I stood over the kitchen sink with my hand held under the taps, bloodied water splashing everywhere against the stainless steel, as though I had come to the sudden realisation that nobody really likes cranberry juice unless it is used as a mixer, I was feeling myself become light headed and a sharp pain was shooting through my finger. It seemed like it was going to take an eternity for the blood to clear away, so long that I might never get around to finishing the construction of my tuna salad for the following day’s lunch. Then I remembered that I am a trained first aider, and that running an injury underneath a cold tap might be how one would deal with a minor burn as opposed to a small laceration inflicted by a tuna can.
I raced through to the bathroom, cradling my wounded finger in the palm of my left hand in the way that I might if I had come across a stricken robin. Blood was pooling around the bird as I stood outside the bathroom cursing my obsessive need to keep every door in the flat closed. A mess was going to be made either way. Once inside, I wrapped the victim in a fluffy blue bath towel and applied as much pressure as I could manage, until I could feel it twitching and throbbing. I couldn’t be sure whether it is a wound or a fracture which should be kept elevated, so I held my right arm high upright and the left one to my heart, and after several minutes had passed, the blood had trickled to a stop. As I was fumbling, one-handed, with an unopened box of plasters, I observed all of the blood spread around the porcelain of the bathroom sink, on the chrome taps and the hand wash dispenser, and I was beginning to reconsider my position on blood spatter evidence in the Netflix series Making A Murderer.
The incident with the tuna can led me to reflect on recent events and consider where things had begun to go wrong in my life. It wasn’t as though I had been plunged into a deep despair when the sharp aluminium from the tin was plunged into my middle finger, but something didn’t seem right about a man whose greatest joy in months was when his cactus plant produced a pair of pink petals.
I was sitting on the same chair in my living room which, days earlier, I had awoken in at seven-thirty in the morning with little recollection of the previous night. Staring at the beige Elastoplast which was crudely dressing my finger like an ill-fitting jumper, I played through a highlight reel of memories which were laced with misfortune in search of an answer. There was the moment during the redheaded rugby players leaving night where tequilas were offered – and subsequently drank quicker than the time it takes to say ‘yes’ – that I kept returning to, like it had been bookmarked in my brain with a yellow sticky note reading: “this is where things were fucked up.”
My cheeks were blushing pink with the mixture of Tequila and Jameson, similar to the shade of the tie I was wearing. The potent pairing had worked its way through my entire body, from hazy head to dancing feet, and it wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed and everything became a blur. By the end of the night, I was in my flat with my favourite delicatessen delight, making another calamitous attempt at convincing her that it would be a good idea to date me. When I woke up in my chair the next morning, I was feeling like less than the sum of a six-inch sub.
As the days progressed, I was finding myself in the grip of a slow drying sock saga. Since I became what Argyll & Bute council describes as a single occupant in January, I have typically done my laundry between one and three times a week – ie twice – and regardless of the climate outside, I will dry my clothes on an airer which sits in the centre of my kitchen. Over the months it has become increasingly evident that there is a disparity in the time it takes different items of clothing to dry, and every time I run a wash I know that I am going to be plagued by the frustration of waiting days for four pairs of socks to dry. It is a vicious cycle.
Irrespective of colour or whether they are plain or patterned, dress shirts tend to dry in around a day. Jeans, towels and other large items are usually ready to be stored away in under thirty-six hours. But the socks, by far the smallest things in the load, take much longer than anything else to become fully dried.
For months I have been questioning the physics of socks and why it takes them such a time to dry compared with the rest of my laundry, which is hanging in exactly the same conditions. I haven’t been bold enough to try it yet, but there are occasions where I have considered changing the positions afforded to each article on the airer, as an experiment to see whether being closer to the ground makes it more difficult to recover from the wash. I’ve been feeling reluctant to do this, however, due to the fact that my underwear occupies the bottom rungs of the clothes airer, and moving them to the top would raise the danger that anyone who is unsuspectingly passing the kitchen window could catch sight of my pink socks and boxer shorts. I’m just not sure that I am ready for someone who I am not in a romantic relationship with to see my underwear, and I don’t want to make things awkward with my neighbours.
Bedsheets need the entire airer to themselves, and during the week I undertook the task of changing my sheets. Washing and drying them is not problematic, but putting a fresh layer of linen on my bed proved troublesome on this occasion. I struggled to feed the double duvet into its white cover, its size and unwilling floppiness making matters more difficult than they should have been. I have heard people speak about leading a horse to water and the difficulty of convincing it to drink, and I quickly realised that similarly, you can lay a duvet on the bed, but you can’t make it go inside a duvet cover.
After what seemed like at least seven minutes of wrestling with the duvet, I was feeling defeated by the cotton and began to consider how much it would really matter if I slept without a cover on the duvet. No-one is likely to see it and judge me any differently because of it, I was thinking to myself. The absence of a duvet cover on my bed isn’t going to be the reason another woman doesn’t want to sleep with me.
I asked myself who I was making the bed for. It is the sort of activity I can imagine a couple doing together at the end of the day, laughing at one another’s incompetence – just like sex. Then they would fall onto their perfectly made bed and make love, whereas I am a man who is doing everything by himself, and my bed is like an exhibit in a museum; something that was once useful years ago. Next to the display would be a handwritten sign which requests: “Please do not touch on the exhibit.”
The duvet was eventually stuffed into the cover, and the day after I sliced my finger on the can of tuna I went to Aulay’s, where the band of beards was joined by a friend of the plant doctor’s. We enjoyed several beers over discussions about literature, the question of which album we would choose if we were forced to listen to a record a thousand times consecutively, and hip hop, although it seemed as though we had the hops without the hip.
Soon our group was joined by a wavy-haired woman with an Italian accent, and I asked her more questions about worms than I ever knew I had. I enquired about what they eat and whether or not they have their own personalities, and after an extensive conversation regarding worms, I realised that the reason I was asking so much about her work was to challenge myself to understand the Italian accent. After some time, the subjects ranged from worms to Francesco Totti and the Mafia, and I felt that I probably had a better grasp of her Italian timbre than she had of my slurred Scots.
By the jukebox, I observed two young women scrolling through the selection of music on offer. Their first three picks were quite inoffensive choices for the moment, though they then somehow proceeded to mistakenly play ‘Something’ by The Beatles four times in a row. I opened up my wallet and found two pound coins amongst the loose change. With the coins clenched in my closed hand, I approached the music machine, imagining myself as some kind of jukebox Romeo. I made light of their Beatles blunder as I slotted the gold into the machine in a fumbling manner which probably didn’t look as seductive as I was hoping. We were talking briefly as the girls made further song choices, and they left two in the machine for me and promised to stick around the bar until they played. By the time their songs had finished, they had left their table, and my own Beatles song went unheard.
The town’s fortnight-long Winter Festival was underway, and on a blue and chilly Saturday, the Christmas lights were switched on. In a continuation of a tradition we started the previous year, my sister and I decided that we would drink some mulled wine before heading out into the cold darkness. While she and her partner took their daughter to see Santa, I prepared for the first pre-midnight gathering in my flat. There was incense burning in the living room whilst mince pies and sausage rolls cooked in the oven and a pot of mulled wine was warming on the stove. I set plates on the coffee table and was feeling pleased with my efforts when it occurred to me that I didn’t have any classical means of pouring the wine. I don’t own a ladel, or even a serving jug, and eventually, I had to resort to transferring the wine from the pot to a measuring jug in order to pour it into the mugs.
My guests arrived, and upon inspecting the pot of mulled wine, my sister queried why I had dropped a large, unpeeled orange in the wine rather than peel it and allow the flavour of the fruit to imbue the drink. I knew better for the second serving, but I was again asking myself where things had gone wrong in my life. With a wound across my middle finger, slow drying socks, a crudely made exhibit of a bed and a whole orange sitting in my pot of mulled wine, I wondered if this is really the life a 35-year-old man should be living. I thought back to a line I had used in conversation on Friday night, and it seemed to be true that I am not getting older, it’s just getting harder to live.