‘They wanted to call an ambulance but I said no, don’t bother, I don’t want one.’
‘You didn’t want one?’
‘No. I didn’t want the fuss.’
‘I must admit I’m surprised.’
‘What – that I didn’t call an ambulance?’
‘No. That the gym didn’t call one anyway. I mean, there you are, collapsed on the treadmill, vomiting everywhere. How did they know you weren’t having a heart attack or something?’
‘I didn’t have any chest pain, Spence.’
‘I knew what it were. I just overdid it.’
Moira looks fine now. A vivacious, middle-aged woman, dyed orange hair, purple sunglasses, as confiding and friendly as a counsellor or librarian, but dressed for action in a yellow tracksuit top, red jogging bottoms, and a t-shirt that says: Pain is temporary; victory lasts forever.
‘Let me tell you a little bit more,’ she says, shifting in the chair. ‘I had the gastric by-pass a month ago.’
‘A month!‘And you’re down the gym already?’
‘Yes. Well. I wanted to crack on, Spence.’
‘What was the guidance they gave you about exercise post-op? If you’d had a caesarean you wouldn’t even be driving for ten weeks, let alone pounding away on a treadmill.’
‘I weren’t pounding nothing, Spence. I was taking it relatively easy. It’s a clever machine, you know. You get to pick the incline, the speed and all the rest of it. It’s not like I were running a marathon.’
‘You see, Spence, once I’d decided to lose all this weight, once I’d set my mind to it, I just wanted to get on and do it. Look!’
She stands up, takes off her tracksuit top, and holds her arms out.
‘Five feet tall and seventeen stone, I was. Well, I’m still five feet, but look! Look how much has come off already!’
With her right hand she waggles the loose flesh below her left arm.
‘I’ve got the bingo wings from hell, but don’t worry, I’ll get advice on them in a bit. I’ve got some photies somewhere, Spence. I was proper big.’
‘I think you’re doing an amazing job, Moira. I’m just a bit worried you’re taking it too fast.’
‘Yeah, but when you want something, you want it, don’t you?’
‘Didn’t you have an induction at the gym? Did they know about your surgery?’
‘Well, they did and they didn’t. I told them I’d had some abdominal surgery, but I were too embarrassed to tell them what it was. I just said it was personal. Something that meant I had to have internal stitches. So they said fine, no worries, it just means you can’t go on the rowing machine or them ones where you work up and down like this, with weights on the end and all that.’
‘Because at the end of the day they don’t want to get sued.’
She sits back down and has another sip of water.
‘I have to say they’re a nice bunch, Spence. It’s not one of them places stuffed full of mirrors and glamorous bodies in stringy nightmares making you feel like a bloody fail whale. They’re pretty good.’
I finish writing the paperwork.
‘Can I get you anything?’ she says. ‘Some yoghurt? I’ve got yoghurt coming out of me ears.’
‘That’s kind of you, Moira, but I’m good. Well, look. You seem fine now, your blood pressure, blood sugar, temperature, ECG and the rest.’
‘I know. That’s why I didn’t call the ambulance at the gym. I knew if I got home I’d be okay. Lucky I had a change of clothes, though. The taxi would’ve taken one look at me and driven off at speed.’
‘I think it’s probably a good idea to make an appointment to see your GP, Moira. Just to review where you’re at, give you some advice about exercise and diet. I’m no expert, but I think you should probably go at this a little more gently. You don’t want to set yourself back.’
‘I’m sorry to have dragged you out for nothing, Spence. It weren’t me that called. It was my son. He rang that advice line, and they said they’d be sending an ambulance.’
‘I’m not surprised.’
‘Sam’s a good boy. He’s a bit shy, though. That’s why he hasn’t come out of his room.’
‘Will Sam go with you to the doctor’s?’
‘No. He’s got to go stack shelves at the supermarket. The graveyard shift. Just till he gets himself sorted.’
I hand her the patient report form.
‘You can show that to the doctor if you like.’
‘So I’ll say goodbye now. Good luck with the diet. And take it easy. Don’t set yourself back.’
She laughs, and flexes her arm.‘So far so good!’