I'd a terrible go of the 'Hegs' there the other day. I think it must've been after all my crying up in the office of the ombudsman's ombudsman but I was hegging all over the place afterwards, I just couldn't shake it. The first one came when I was on the tram. It was pretty crowded and I was standing with my armpit in some young one's face and this pair of middle aged women were chatting about the menopause and looking at me and holding their bags of shopping and it was then that the first heg got me. It completely throws you. You think you've finished crying, you're not even thinking about the thing that upset you anymore and then - BOOM - out of nowhere, a Heg.
My whole body convulsed with the force of it. I nearly lost my grip on the overhead strap and everything. I felt unsteady for a moment in the rattling tram and by the time I'd straightened up everyone was looking at me like I was pure mental. I could feel the heat of colour rising in my face and took a run for the doors as soon as the tram had stopped. They're a dreadful affliction, the Hegs. It's some small grace that they're temporary, it'd be an awful thing to be going around, hegging all over the place the whole time like you'd some kind of spastic, moshpit tourettes.
The second one was even worse than the first (it almost always is). A big, shiny 4x4 pulled up while I was in the street and the daddy, who was driving, asked me the way to someplace. The mammy was in the other front seat, looking at me and wearing a tight t-shirt and big black sunglasses that made her head look like it belonged to a giant bluebottle. The two babbies were in the back, the bigger one knocking lumps out of the little one with half a GI-Joe. I was just pointing up the road and saying "You see the second traffic lights, after the first traffic lights," when the second heg got me. It rushed right up my spine in an undulating wave, shutting down nerve endings as it passed.
My knees buckled and I pitched forward, right in through the passenger side window and on to the heaving chest of the mammy. Faintly I was aware of her cries of horror but I was in the throes of it now.
Another wracking convulsion snapped me back out the window as the daddy yelled, the mammy screamed and the babbies began to cry. Then the third and final wave - the forlorn and pitious crescendo of the heg. I'd lost all control of my body now, my shoulders and upper torso heaving with dry sobs, arms flailing, hands slapping against the side of the car and the noise, oh, the noise!
"HAAARR-UHARR-UNGHUNGH-HEEHAW HEEHAW OINK".
With a final, outrageous spasm, one of my flapping hands ricocheted the wing mirror off the side of the jeep and into traffic. That was enough for the family, as I heard the mammy's panicked wails of "Go go go go..." dopplering away whilst the daddy accelerated off in a smoking, blaze of rubber.
As suddenly as it comes, it is gone and I am left standing, outwardly calm and collected, as though nothing at all had happened, watching the cars pass by. My hands were feeling a bit sore from where they'd gone mental on the car and I think the mammy had hurt my eye with one of her boobies so I decided that I should step into a café for a sit down. A cup of tea and maybe a little cake. I stopped into a place that was full of little old ladies and got a window seat with a pot of tea and one of those cakes that looks like a load of squashed flies sandwiched between a pair of wet cracottes. I was just taking a bite out of my cake and gazing out the window when the third heg got me. I was feeling fairly content, what with my tea and cake and a nice seat by the window but then that's the downright insidiousness of the hegs - they strike when you least expect it. The ragged, retching inhale takes down half of the oblong of confectionery and jams it firmly in my throat, at the same time throwing me forward, face first into the double-glazing.
A little scream from the waitress, gasps and worried silence from the old ladies.
"Aaaah Aaaaaah Aaaaah - Hoooaaahhh - Haaaggghhh..."
I'm on the floor now and the heg has moved seamlessly into choking territory as the morass of squashed flies and cracotte expands to entirely block my throat.
"Whoooggghh Whooooaaaghhh Heghhhhhheeeuurrrghhhh..."
Someone has me from behind now, lifting me bodily and driving a fist underneath my sternum. It is the pretty, young waitress. A sticky explosion of soft fruit and undigested pastry showers the semi-circle of tartan-clad old ladies watching my plight but I am saved. On my knees, I weep with relief. Shuffling, feet swim through my blurred vision and I feel a hand upon my shoulder consoling me. As I try to stem the tears I find myself thinking that if I'm crying again now, then I'll be hegging again later. It's an odious cycle - my psyche and my body duking it out for control whilst my head and my heart try to get on with living.
"Nnhh Nnhh Nnhh Nhh - UhUhUh..."