Sometime late morning it begins, a root of something that only as it grows do you recognise as pain. You have had coffee, as you do every morning, and now you feel the kind of heaviness that sends you to lie down. At home, the friend who is staying with you, whom you half invited and who may have misinterpreted your keenness for company, notes your early return and approves of your plan to retreat. For both of you it has been a year frantic with change and learning and emotion, and even if it is likely indulgent – so what, you’ve earned the right to call a morning off the books and instead take a heat pack and wish it were night all over again. She even microwaves the heat pack for you. You take it to bed where you think you will read or watch television or luxuriate in some way.
The feeling continues to grow, though, and turns from an elusive shadow in your abdomen into something more clawing, with a definite shape, even though you’ve never much liked admitting to physical pain, having been told stories of your grandfather walking into the doctor’s office on a broken foot, and having been praised by brothers for not crying when grazes brought blood to the surface. But it’s pain, this time, with a beat all its own, a pulse that echoes your heart. You find some Ibuprofen, take the recommended dose.