Either the osteopath is a psychopath or he is the second coming. I see no other possibility.
I turned up on the doorstep of his surgery feeling demented from the pain that has been gnawing at the base of my skull relentlessly for two weeks.
All I had done was to duck under the tape of my horses’ field, a movement I have performed a thousand times.
But this time, as I turned my head momentarily upside down, something pinged and my skull exploded into the worst headache ever.
It was so bad I wrapped my head in a coat and became, like Tchaikovsky, possessed by the theory that it was going to fall off. Holding on tight with both hands, I made the builder boyfriend drive me to the GP surgery.
The doctor was supremely unimpressed. She stuck a thermometer in my ear, then told me to go home and take paracetamol. This produced the most marvellous sense of relief. I fancied the pain was subsiding, when in reality I had the worst headache ever.
Google the worst headache ever and there are a few options, chief among them a ruptured or leaking brain aneurysm.
Other choices include assorted neck and back injuries and a type of neuralgia that produces chronic pain around the base of the skull and behind the ear on one side, which was exactly where I had it.
For two days, I gobbled paracetamol and fantasised that the GP knew best until I had to admit this wasn’t even touching the agony.
I experimented with an ibuprofen and the throbbing subsided for an hour. For the next two weeks, I swallowed so much ibuprofen I started to inflate with fluid. My knees became the size of small melons.
I booked a massage appointment and a nice Thai lady worked on my back and neck. The next day I was chewing my way through so much ibuprofen, now with Naproxen thrown in, I fancied my stomach lining had hours to go.
A friend, it was, recommended this osteopath: ‘He’s very enigmatic. You’ll probably fancy him.’
I arrived at his small surgery half an hour early. Although the door was open, there was no one on reception so I sat down in the waiting area. I could hear the osteopath behind one of the closed consulting room doors talking to a female patient.
Sitting outside that room as she had her treatment, it turned out, was a big mistake.
At first, it was as though I was listening to the sound of a sticky floor. Then I thought he must be unwrapping something from a bubble-wrapped package.
Then I realised with horror that I was listening to the sound of the girl’s bones. Crunch, crack, click, crunch, clack-clack-clack, they went, until overcome with nausea I had to go outside and sit in the car.
After ten minutes, I went back in and the girl was gone. I hadn’t seen her leave. The osteo was standing there in a surgical uniform. He wasn’t just well built. He had the upper body of Popeye.
‘There’s been a mistake,’ I said. ‘Oh?’ he said.
‘I can’t let you crack me. You’ll break me in half.’
‘The girl in there was smaller than you,’ he said, and nodded to the waiting table. ‘No!’ I said. ‘Do you want to be free of your pain?’ he said. He had a mad look in his eyes.
‘What are you taking, Naproxen?’
I sat on the table and burst into tears. ‘I can’t let you touch me.’
‘What happened to you?’ He put his hand on my neck for one second, then told me my top three vertebrae were stuck.
I reached behind and grabbed his hands. As he tried to palpate my neck, I held on to his thumbs so he couldn’t do anything.
He sighed. ‘If you’re in enough pain you’ll come back. It’s not about the money for me. There’ll be another one through the door any minute.’
As he said that, the front door opened and I heard someone come in. The osteo walked away. I heard him saying hello to this patient and taking him into the room next door. And I heard the sound of the bubble wrap pops as he got to work.
I crept quietly out. Was this guy a mystical healer or was he addicted to crunching people’s bones? Was he packing them in back to back, as it were, so that when one wouldn’t let him get cracking on them he just moved on to the next? Or were people queuing up because he was so good?
‘You’ll come back.’ Dear God, would I?
That night, as I lay in bed popping painkillers, the words of the psychosteopath rang in my throbbing ears.