There's nothing like a minor surgical procedure to make you realise who your real friends are. The generous pals offering to shop for me and ferry me about in their cars, yes, they count. Kay, who is famously allergic to my end of town, but still made the trip clutching a bottle of rosé cava, she's one. The colleague who arrived clutching a Tupperware of freshly baked madeleines, well that was nice. My long suffering BFF who mopped up my brown sick whilst I was still obliterated on morphine and craving chocolate milk - well he deserves a medal. Serge on the other hand...
Said friends have stepped up their efforts to wean me off him, queuing up to tell me off (in the nicest possible way) that they want me to find a nice normal (ideally unmarried) boyfriend, and the conversation pretty much goes the same way each time.
'But I never meet any nice, normal people, like, EVER.'
'You go out all the time though.'
'I know, but I still never meet anyone.'
'What about Internet dating?'
'Been there, done that - the men on those sites are either just looking for sex or they're the blokes no one else wants. I'd rather see Serge than go home to an empty flat every night to file the dead skin off my heels'
I don't really blame them for despairing, but the truth is he's become an addiction for me. I go a bit doolally if I don't see him every week or so. Sad but true. I even fib about how often we meet, which only adds to the frisson. He's my dirty little secret, and I am his. It feels oddly comfortable.
A couple of days after the vomiting incident my friend Gavin came round to visit me to see how I was getting on. The truth was I was already bored of poking at my cannula scab and when he offered to drive me up to a friend's gallery for a private view I jumped at the chance. Well I would have done if I wasn't on crutches. I arrived to a hero's welcome, the brave little soldier (who was dying of boredom). Three glasses of wine later I felt myself once more and was holding court, telling anyone who would listen about how I had hilariously worn my sick bowl as a hat and locked horns with my nurse who was dying to get rid of me and free up my bed for someone less annoying.
Three hours flew past and I wasn't ready to return to my sick bed, so when my friend Steve proposed we retire to the roof terrace of a nearby bar I was first to agree. I was literally feeling no pain and managed to leave my sticks in the toilet before having to gallop lopsidedly back to get them. I felt better than I had in days. And with devilish timing the text came through.
'I'm having dinner with the boys. I'll pay for your taxi if you come and meet us'
A wave of excitement washed over me. It had (truthfully) been weeks since I'd seen him - first he'd gone away then I had, and I was suffering serious withdrawal. And the restaurant was only a ten minute ride away. It would be silly not to 'pop in' right?
So with my friends' disapproval ringing in my ears, I gathered up my distinctly unglamorous new walking aids and wedged myself into the back of a taxi.
I had no idea who 'the boys' might be, which just added to the intrigue. But the implication was clear - he had a free pass for the night.
He met me outside, and my stomach did a little flip as I took in the fitted shirt that hugged every contour of his buff physique - I'd never seen him wearing anything like that before. His 'going out' clothes. I felt massively under dressed - I'd only been expecting to go out for a couple of hours so i was sporting minimal makeup and comfy drawstring trousers that were perilously close to leisurewear. He led me to the table where 'the boys' were taking delivery of enormous manly plates of meat. I almost burst out laughing as the introductions were made - they were straight out of central casting. Three Turkish men, one short and fat who was moaning about his wife, another who was almost freakishly tall, recently separated from his spouse who was clearly gagging to get 'back out there', and one younger guy whose scalp gleamed distractingly from beneath his dark hair. The latter was getting married imminently and it appeared that I had crashed some sort of unofficial stag do.
They fussed around me and kept asking me, in a slightly patronising manner, if I wanted a salad (I didn't, by this stage tucking it their bottle of wine was all that interested me). I chatted away to them all and as Serge slipped his arm along the back of my chair I tried not to wonder what he had told them about me.
I watched them all gnaw the last of the meat from the bones of their macho meals, like a group of Hugo Boss-clad cavemen. Then it was all aboard Serge's trusty 4x4 to a nearby rather girly cocktail joint which they all insisted on going to, an odd choice it struck me, for such dangerously unreconstructed males. The hilarity increased after I ordered my usual vodka martni - when I returned from a trip to the loo they were all sipping delicately on a variety of pink and peach coloured cocktails - the evening was becoming more and more surreal and I wondered if there was still some rogue morphine washing round my veins.
We spent an amusing couple of hours in there, during which freakishly tall man plonked himself down slightly too close, and told me in detail about his 'funky' job. He came across rather cocky but was pleasant enough company. Serge was drunker than I've seen him in ages, he face was red and he was coming out with some truly bizarre little quips, like his brain had melted slightly. I was still self conscious at how casual I looked and made some jokey remark about how I usually look better.
'Yeah it's true, she usually does' slurred Serge, ever the gentleman.
'Well I think you look lovely' tall man whispered in my ear, and if I hadn't been so drunk I would probably have been a bit creeped out.
The bar closed and I wondered what on earth was next, as noone showed any signs of wanting to break up the Outing. I found myself in the back seat of the car, clutching my sticks and squashed between short fat man and the tall guy - we must have looked quite a sight and I'm amazed we didn't get stopped. Serge cranked up the radio as Led Zeppelin came on and started screeching along to it. The evening could not possibly get any weirder until we came to a halt next to a trendy new block of flats not far from my part of town. It transpired that this was tall man's new bachelor pad, which boasted views across to the City, a Juliette balcony and a naff screen print of Audrey Hepburn in the kitchen.
'It was here when I moved in' he shrugged when I challenged him. The choice of drinks was pretty much a decent quality Scotch or brandy so I went for what I knew.
'Whisky does make me go a bit mad though' I warned them. 'Last time I had some I tried to push my friend out of a moving taxi'.
It was clear by now that 'the boys' were wondering why on earth I had been allowed in to their grand night out. After one drink I was deep in conversation with short fat man about his failing marriage when I noticed Serge putting on his coat. There was obviously some prearranged plan that he would drive the groom-to-be somewhere, as noone seemed to question him. The two of them got up and in a moment they were gone, no goodbye, I don't think they even looked in my direction.
Despite being bathed in the warm glow of too much high proof alcohol I felt like I'd been slapped in the face. I'd been ditched at some stranger's flat with no explanation, whilst drunk and on crutches. For the millionth time in my life I wondered fleetingly how I manage to find myself in these situations. Audrey stared down at me, silently judging me. Breakfast at Tiffanys seemed highly unlikely. By now short fat man had resigned himself to a lonely night on the sofa, whilst freakishly tall man made a half hearted attempt to lure me into his bedroom.
'I think you better call me a cab' I said wearily. The party was well and truly over. I realised I didn't have any money but fortunately tall man took his wallet out and handed me some notes. I gazed back up at Audrey. 'Fifty dollars for the powder room, right?'
In the back of the cab I was already cringing about what my friends would say when I told them about my evening out. I'll reply that I won't be in a hurry to see Serge again, but this time I might actually mean it.