by Jane M Gibbs
Hospitals fill me with dread. A dread that first attacks my nose with the mingling of smells. Here in A & E, we have alcohol and sickness as standard. Cleaning fluids, bodily fluids, bodily odours, toilet odours. After all these years, my nostrils still haven’t acclimatised. The dread then moves up to my eyes as I notice the tense security guards, eyeballing everyone. Desperate smokers respiring outside the entrances. The foyer filled with incongruous places of refreshments and treats (occasionally even the mystical song of a piano), and mobile intravenous drips clinging like unnatural shadows. Buffered floors and fluorescent lighting that drains life from every face. Long, harsh corridors animated with marching nurses and young doctors, stethoscopes draped round their shoulders, awkwardly merging with bewildered visitors and deflated patients. Though often enough, these corridors are eerily abandoned, silent and watchful.
Yes, I dislike hospitals. Yet here I am. I could’ve moved on, but I chose to stay. Hopelessly devoted for twenty years come sixteenth of August. Our China anniversary. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I first saw your floppy black hair and pleading dark eyes begging for someone, anyone, to help you find that set of case-notes. It seemed an appropriate task for the new girl and I was happy to volunteer. Elated even, when I discovered the notes on the top shelf of typing backlog in the store room. You were so relieved, I thought you might faint. Next morning, when I found the little chocolate on my desk, I knew it was from you. The taste lingered on my tongue and even now I can summon it.
We’ve both changed since those early days. I’ve watched you rise from Junior to Consultant, observing every line that time has sketched onto your skin. Your hair now more silver, than black. Your jaw less defined, your neck more loose. The intensity of your dark eyes, now lessened by the dark rims beneath them. I remember you saying you’d not retire until you have a million in your bank. I see you check your balance. You’ve a way to go. As long as you remain here, so will I.
It shouldn’t have been this way. You should have saved me. The paramedic reached me too late. I know you tried. I watched you. And after, I watched you read my note. It crushed you just as eagerly as your hand crushed it.
But I can blow like a puff of air. Enough to tickle the nape of your neck. I can blow like a gentle breeze. Enough to wake you from a nap. I can blow like an angry wind. Enough to make a crumpled piece of paper rise from the bin and land in front of you on your desk. I know you have kept it. I know you have felt me. You will die on this job and when you do, you will see me. I am waiting.