by Emma Robertson
It was the snatched hint of a song, emanating tinnily from someone’s phone as they passed the door, that made me think again of the boy, the beautiful boy with the translucent skin and hazel eyes. Mellow Yellow; I haven’t heard it in years. It made me think of all the long-haired boys of my youth, but that one in particular. I wish I could remember his name.
There’s no music in here other than the arhythmical beeping of machines and the occasional soft shoe shuffle of passers-by. My breathing, amplified by the – whatever it is – on my face creates a two-time beat of sorts, but not one you could dance to. I sing the song to myself in my head to pass the time and conjure up the memory of the boy I’d loved when I was a girl.
He’d had a van, I recall. We used to go all over, listening to bands, and then make love for hours in the back of it. He had this awful purple rug; I laugh now at the thought of it, as much as anyone can laugh with all this gear on their face, but it had seemed so cool then. Lit by the psychedelic glow of a lava lamp, the air infused with the sweet aroma of joss sticks and spliffs, I’d consider it an assault on the senses now, not to mention a fire hazard, but for teenage me, it was paradise, as long as he was there.
George, that was his name, I remember now. He’d had that narrow-hipped androgynous look that was so fashionable at the time, all eyes and lips, pretty as a peach but masculine with it. I was so skinny myself then, he used to pour dribbles of wine into the hollow above my clavicle and sip it slowly, stopping every now and then to look me right in the eye, as if drinking in my very soul.
I remember the birthmark on the back of his hand, shaped like a swallow in flight. I used to stroke it and wonder what would become of us. My mother constantly warned me that a man like that wouldn’t stay around for long, that I should find a nice boy with good prospects. ‘Excitement’s all well and good, but excitement doesn’t pay the bills,’ said the woman who, I was convinced, had never experienced a moment’s excitement in her life.
The nurse’s voice brings me back to the present. ‘Mrs Morris. George is here to see you.’
My heart leaps, wondering if my daydreams have somehow manifested themselves until I see that it’s just some old man, not the boy from my memories. ‘Hello love,’ says the stranger.
I ignore him, too disappointed to answer.
The nurse sighs. I hear her say to the old man, ‘She has good days and bad days,’ before turning to me again. ‘Mrs Morris.’ She raises her voice. ‘Your husband has come to see you.’
He places his hand over mine and I spot the faded shape of a swallow in flight.