Last week I bumped into an old school friend on the tube. He was down working in London for the day.
We don’t see each other very often, so I decided to get off at Euston with him and go for a quick drink before he caught his train.
As we walk into the station bar he asks me what I’m drinking. When I say I want a coffee he looks a little taken aback. Over the years we’ve walked into hundreds of bars together, and this is the first time he’s ever heard me order a coffee.
My friend picks up his bottle of beer and we take a seat at one of the high tables. And as he takes his first sip, he’s still looking at me a bit funny, clearly wondering why I’m not joining him with a beer.
You see my friend doesn’t know anything about my UC or my colostomy bag. If we see each other once a year we’re lucky. When we have got together we’ve talked about other stuff. Despite waffling on about my illness on this blog, it’s not always something I talk about in day-to-day life.
But as there’s just the two of us, I figure now is a good time to tell my friend why I’m not drinking. And even though our paths rarely cross these days, we’re still very good mates. We go way back.
When we were at school we both had part-time jobs at Iceland. I collected trolleys and a perk of the job was getting to pocket the fifty pence pieces lazy shoppers left in the trolley coin lock. If I’d had a good day we could afford a scallop each from the chippy on the way home.
We both moved to London at around the same time. We lived in bedsits in the same street, both unemployed. That year we scraped enough money together for a summer ‘holiday’ which was actually just a night sharing a room in a faded, backstreet B&B in Brighton.
When we got jobs we splashed out a bit and spent Christmas and New Year in New York together.
For a couple of years in our 20’s we ran a ramshackle football team of misfits, made up of people who had barely kicked a ball before. One of our best players was a girl. It was the best laugh ever.
We’re proper old muckers. He’d probably be slightly miffed if I didn’t tell him about my UC. He should know, really.
So my friend listens intently as I take a deep breath and explain about how I got ill and ended up with a colostomy bag. He looks very thoughtful, and even pulls out a pen and asks me to spell ulcerative colitis. Blimey, I think to myself, he’s taking this very seriously.
And then he says, “So the colostomy bag is on the inside?”
“No, it’s on the outside,” I reply, giving him a quick flash of it under the table.
“And you can’t drink?”
“I can drink, but I don’t.”
“Hmm-hmm,” he murmurs, nodding his head, quietly assessing everything I tell him.
“I try to avoid fizzy stuff,” I continue, “Things with bubbles in tend to make my bag blow up.”
My friend mulls this over for a second.
Then he asks, completely straight-faced, “Can you eat Aeros?”
That is the single best question I’ve had from anyone since becoming an ostomate. And that is also why we’re still best mates.