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August 23rd, 2022

It Began With A Heart Attack

This Twitter thread from user Electra Rhode (@electra_rhodes) was actually very good for my heart…

Tube on strike, I dawdled to Paddington on Friday. Passing the old wrought iron sign for Pizza Express, I was reminded of an event 30+ years ago, when I got caught up in a drama that resulted in a divorce, two marriages and many changed lives.

It began with a heart attack

Like Friday, I was ambling along the Marylebone Rd.

Coming towards me are two guys, one a bit older than the other, nicely dressed, laughing, backs of their hands brushing occasionally, as they walked side by side. It’s 1pm & I assume they’ve just had lunch or are on their way.

The older man stops in the middle of the pavement & clutches his upper arm. And drops to the ground. The other guy shrieks, I might do too. I’ve just done a first aid course. I throw my jacket on the ground, kneel down, fish out the mouth guard thing we’d been given & start cpr.

I keep going with heart attack guy (his name’s Tom, btw). His friend, (Tim) wails at our side. In this distance I think I can hear sirens, but it might just be my own heart beating faster than is ideal. Bystanders comfort Tim, someone definitely calls an ambulance.

It feels like 6 years, but only 10 minutes later a paramedic nudges me aside. Good job. He says. I struggle to my feet. Tim and I cling to each other as we wait to see what’s coming. Tom’s loaded into the back, and Good Job Jeff tells us which hospital they’ll go to.

Tim & I are left at the side of the road. The looky loos disperse, & I ask Tim if he wants me to come to the hospital. Better not, he says, they’ll call his wife. Tim isn’t the lover I thought him to be, he’s Tom’s assistant at a fancy merchant bank. Oh. I say. Yes. He replies.

We swop addresses, me because I want to know if Tom makes it, Tim because he’s been snotting up my best cloth hankie which I’d forgotten I’d given him, and he’d like to return it. We pause then. On the corner of the street, at all kinds of crossroads.

Maybe tell him, I say. Maybe. Tim replies. Neither of us checking in on what exactly that means.

Three weeks later there’s a hankie in the post. Washed and pressed. A little note inside.

He’s ok. I told him. We’ll see. Xx T.

Alright, I think. We’ll see.

A month later I get a letter in the post. This is Sheila, Tom’s wife, and boy is she pissed. Legitimately.

She got my address from Biff, who got it from Tom, who got it from Tim. Who, if you remember, got it from me. Wait. You say. Who the hell is Biff? He was best man at Sheila and Tom’s wedding. Back in the day. I find this out three weeks later after a flurry of post goes each way.

So. Tim has told Tom he loves him. Tom has told Sheila he might love Tim (sorry and all), Sheila has cried at anyone who’ll listen. And now Biff has written to me. He loves Sheila, do I think he should say? I ask him if there’s a reason why he shouldn’t. I wait. And wait.

Roll it forward a year. Apart from a Christmas card, a bunch of birthday flowers & a postcard to my pa (idk, it’s a thing) it’s gone quiet. I think no more it except when I walk down the Marylebone Road or blow my nose.

Then a wedding invite turns up on the mat. Sheila & Biff.

The wedding is fancy & I buy a new hat (dark blue velvet, thanks for asking). It matches my best shoes. Tim & Tom give Sheila away & pay for the champagne & flowers! So, that’s a better surprise than the last one they gave her. Biff says, hey the best man finally got the bride.

Roll it forwards another few years, when equal marriage comes in, and there’s another invite on my mantelpiece. Tim and Tom.

It’s a glorious day. I wear the same hat, but I’ve got new shoes. Biff and Sheila fund the drinks and flowers. A gay men’s chorus turn up and sing.

More years pass. The hankie is getting tattered, so I stick it in a clip frame on the wall. Occasional postcards still turn up. Then there’s a lull.

I still think of them though, when I walk past that wrought iron sign. Once or twice a year. Or if someone asks about the frame.

A while later, there’s a black edged card in the mail. Tom’s heart finally did for him.

Tim says, we got almost 30 years, because you learned CPR on a first aid at work course, that your boss made you do.

Thanks, El, he writes, for saving all our lives.

Wow.  Just…wow… Thanks, El, for reminding me how good life can be after all…how good people can be after all.


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