Hospitals

Here I was, at the hospital again.

There we were, at the hospital.

I rushed away from the bus that had delivered me, hoping I wouldn’t miss visiting hours. It felt like I hadn’t been away for very long; around forty days to be precise – I counted afterwards.

I made my way through the ridiculous revolving door.

We rushed from the van we had thrown ourselves in only two hours before. The urgency with which we had sped down the motorway ran through our bodies like ominous electricity.

We moved through the horribly clean revolving door.

Trudging.

Sighing.

Grumbling.

I was frustrated by the mechanism, which was turning so slowly…

… it almost seemed to be moving time backwards.

Finally free, I hastened to weave through a mixture of the elderly, families and the doctors and nurses who had no desire to be early in their audience with the infirm, ill or dying. After reaching the reception – my coat managed to wrap itself around me again, fearing that I was trying to leave it behind – I approached the desk enquiring about the location of my reason for being here. A man politely handed me a telephone and told me what to say.

Released, we hurried to the reception, blurted the details necessary to the over-made-up woman, with the usual air of self-importance a receptionist has, and eventually found our way from her nasal directions.

The tinny ring sounded in my ear and continued to do so until an exasperated voice answered me, giving the information I was desperately seeking. I profusely thanked the luminous-yellow angel – who had seen my fear and soothed me – and swiftly moved on. Propelled by the desire to see that life was still present in the body of the person I was here for.

There was no time to thank the self-involved bitch who had directed us. It was vital that we moved as though there was no time left in the world, as though it was only our sense of purpose that pushed events along. Life was fleeting, we knew that now as it slipped away from the body we all loved and adored.

I indiscriminately moved past wards –where hope and hopelessness watched over all in tandem; past lifts –which only brought bad news; past patients – awaiting their fate; past nurses – exhausted from the company of illness, barely relieved by fleeting moments of joy; past cleaners – who were chemically banishing even the most basic traces of life within the confines of these walls.

I asked only one person if I was going the right way.

The lift could not come fast enough, sluggish in movement – as if all the death that surrounded it had forced it to surrender any feeling of urgency it once possessed. We threw ourselves into the gaping mouth, hoping to survive the next minutes in the same way Jonah or Pinocchio wished to survive their respective whales.

I reached the ward I was looking for and spoke to several nurses before someone could finally tell me where I should have been. I asked how my person was, relieved to hear that he was recovering well. My pessimistic attitude lifted – to the point where I felt like the fluorescent lights were sunshine, the warmth of the heating the rays on my skin.

We found our destination, the air hung stagnant, choked with the stench of despair – the allegedly cheerful colours of the ward’s door only gave a false sense of hope to those gullible enough to think that this place could offer them anything in the way of a solution.

The sun light did nothing to warm us; Death’s chilly presence had reached our bones, he beckoned us through the door- threatening us with who he wanted next.

Timidly, I entered the room to find him lying there in a bed, surrounded by a Hydra of wires; it appeared as though removing one would result in the growth of two more.

Slowly we walked into the ward where everyone was in the family room. There still isn’t any place as bleak and pointless in the world to us. We were welcomed by drawn faces, dark shadowed eyes and ruffled hair, where the stress had caused tangled fistfuls to try and escape the inevitable sorrow. We all looked at each other; all united, and yet divided. Death would eventually conquer us all.

His bloodshot eyes look up from his exhausted face and he murmured a greeting. I silently thanked the quiet entity of the universe for removing the grimace of pain.  I bent, extended my leg behind me, like the dancer I never was, kissed his forehead and whispered that I was glad to see him smile again. I was relieved to see no trace of the pain that had lingered around his beautiful features the day before.

The machines kept going. He kept breathing. We kept hoping. But the colour was washing slowly out of those eyes that we’d all adored from the cradle, and now, devastatingly, until his grave. Some of us sat with him for a while, having to move in shifts so none of us lost any precious moments which were more valuable than gold-dust.

Tears threatened at every moment, but hands were squeezed, shoulders rubbed in subtle gestures of mindless solidarity. None of us seemed to be feeling anything other than dread; hope was just as washed out of us as the colour was from the hellish room. The air was just as suffocating as the pneumonia that was going to claim what was ours, that no one realised they needed to fight.

I found myself a seat and proceeded to hold his hand for the entire hour I was there, leaning on the bars at the side of his bed. We talked about everything and nothing all at once, content with orbiting one another; left to our universe.

My shift was done. We exchanged love, told each other we’d squeeze hands and exchange jokes again. Unsuspecting of the end. Hopeful of a tomorrow. Conned into security by a system that fails too many. We won’t be together again until Death greets me at my end.

I had to leave, life outside these godforsaken miracles didn’t stop just because of one victory, so I left the same way I came – a leg stretch, a hug and a kiss on a forehead. I left the place that had fooled me into hoping and walked out into the evening air buoyed up by gratitude, thankful that I managed to salvage some optimism.

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