Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

He carries me to the bed and lays me across it. My eyes are opening and closing...
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The Independent Online

It's been brought to my attention that maybe not all of last week's column was the complete truth. I wouldn't say it was complete out-and-out lies. But I will admit to a slight degree of artistic licence. For example, it wasn't cowbells, just an ordinary doorbell, in fact, with an answerphone. And it wasn't edelweiss on the ribbon, but there was a ribbon. And it wasn't exactly Switzerland - it was somewhere else. And guess what? I didn't do my leg in snowboarding, but I did do it in. Touch of the Walter Mittys?

Oh! I forgot to say, about the Saturday night. I sat there very forlorn and downhearted. As the snow fell I realised that from the outside I must look like a very sad little snow dome. But I couldn't let all this go to waste. I dimmed the lights. Cranked up the hot tub. Not one, but two bottles of pink Dom Perignon on ice. CD remote control in my hand - candles flickering - I submerged myself up to my neck. I closed my eyes and wondered how tiny and hot I must be, compared to all these giant cold mountains that surrounded me.

Yes, I was feeling a lot better. I needed to have some fun, so I decided to play a game. The game was, I would telephone all my favourite people. The first ones to guess where I was and what I was doing would win a luxury weekend for two (not including me). And of course they would have no idea they were playing.

I ring up The Frog and said: "Hey Froggy, guess what I'm up to?" And he says: "Counting all your money." "Nooo. Bye, Froggy!" Let's try America. I call my new best friend, Julian Schnabel, and hear the best 10 lines of poetry that I've heard for a long time - but I guess I'm not in the giant circumference of a wave. There are many more ports of call. I turn the CD up louder.

There's a little bell by the tub. The idea is that you're supposed to ring it when you need the fire made up. I'm one bottle down and just about to open the second. I'm singing at the top of my voice: "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone! It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright, sun-shiny day!"

"God, my toes are weird." I can feel myself being lifted. The valet guy with the accent is hoisting me out of the tub. The part of me that is floating around the room is looking down in mega embarrassment. The part of me in his arms is thinking: "This is quite nice! I haven't had a shag since I can last remember." He carries me to the giant bed and lays me across it. My eyes are opening and closing, opening and closing. I wondered how he would take me. "A stallion of a man, hung like a donkey ..."

I started to think about the Bad Sex Award for literature. Could you ever imagine writing, or even thinking: "He shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro." It's an award I have often been asked to give. But if the truth be known, it's something I would like to receive! Oh come on! What's wrong with a winter love story? Give me something. Or shall I give you the truth?

Woke myself up coughing so violently. Saturated in sweat. Coughing up foam balls. My lungs are about to cave in from the inside out. It's 4.45 am and the winter birds are twittering. Docket's jumping around frustrated by that over-present noise. I can tell he thinks they are taking the piss out of him.

We're both stuck there, trapped in our soaring misery, the inability to move. That's what it's like when you're single and unwell. In 2003 my platelet count went down to 15 and I lost the use of my legs. Just a temporary issue for a couple of weeks. After I came out of hospital, I left my keys with Sandra, the landlady of my local pub. Either Sandra would come in and see me, or friends would pick up the key, make me something to eat, and drop it back again.

And last year after I smashed my leg up trying to shoot the duck snowboarding in Saas Fee - it was fucking tragic, man! - British Airways wouldn't fly me home unless I had nine seats (because I had to lie on my back, having my leg raised above me). I finally sneaked home via Italy. Still in a wheelchair on one of those little go-kart things.

My really kind neighbour picked me up from Gatwick airport at 1:30am in the morning. I was in so much pain. Mat, my ex-boyfriend, had offered to go around to my house and make me a bed on the ground floor. Too sad. Fuck it.

I'd take those five flights up the stairs any day! I think my worst moment was after coming back from the knee specialist (who I think was more interested in my good leg than my bad one, purely from an anthropological point of view). I'd had the car drop me off at Sandra's, at the Golden Heart. It was a really hot August day (oh yes, smartarse, Saas Fee is on a glacier). Sandra said: "Babe. You're not alright. Have a glass of rosé." I just sat there underneath the jukebox. My eyes started to smart. She put her arm around me and said: "Would you like a cup of tea?" Tears started to roll down my face. "No," I said, "I just want to go home." Isn't a love story much better?

Tracey Emin's studio is currently being relocated. Tracey is unavailable at present

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