The sheets I lie on have HOSPITAL PROPERTY stamped all over them. I wonder who else has slept on them, cried on them, died on them. The room itself is a perfect duplicate of every other ward I’ve spent time in at this hospital. I could make my way to the bathroom with my eyes shut. The differences between wards always end up being the people. The patients, the staff, the tea lady.
Today I can hear great guffaws from the nurses’ station. Brisk footsteps along the corridor. A child trying out the acoustic echoes in the atrium outside my window. The child is five floors down… the acoustics are impressive. Once there was a violinist who played down there. He used to come and practise there, attracted by the same sound qualities that fascinate the yelling toddler. The sound circles around the atrium and returns, fuller than before, echoes onto itself, folding, as though the sound itself could travel backward in time.
The nurse came in with towels this morning. And a fresh gown. My room mate commented that it was the first time this week anyone had suggested a shower. I showed her where the linen cupboard is, for next time she wants a rebellious, self-determined shower. There are things you get to know when you are a frequent flyer.
I had my shower, sinking gratefully into the shower chair. Wishing I had one at home. I let the warm water cascade over my head for longer than usual. Closing my eyes I thought about my home, my bed. The peaceful quiet. A song slid through my mind and remained there, playing on refrain for the rest of the morning.
“…in the easy silence that you make for me,
it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
it’s the peaceful quiet you create for me
and the way you keep the world,
There’s no place like home. I feel like a big old baby, lying here in this bed, wishing I could go home. I want the nurse to come in and murmur something motherly. Something definitive. A time frame, a decisive sentence. Instead we all lie here, suspended from the rafters by invisible lines. We are the puppets on long strings, the marionettes who lie jumbled in a heap, waiting to clatter to attention when the consultant arrives. He stands there at the end of the bed. Discussing you for a few moments with his humbled registrars, before sweeping off to the next jumbled pile of limb, heart and head. As he leaves, my pieces clatter back onto the bed, out of order, out of sequence. I want to put them all together with superglue and snip the strings. I want to walk out of this marionette maison, better than when I came in. The longer I stay the less my body wants to work as a whole. My pieces and parts falling further away from each other, disconnected, fractured, dismembered, disarrayed. How will I keep pulling myself together?
I know I am the glue. My own determination is what holds me together. But it dilutes with every hour I am here. Starved of the peaceful quiet I so need; the words of comfort or reprieve. I look down at my hospital gown. Hospital Property is printed all over the blue fabric. I am branded like the sheets. I am morphing into the patient puppet. Voiceless, quiet, does-as-told. It’s too hard to fight against the system. It’s too big, too entrenched. I close my eyes tight against the day and the thoughts and the words. Against the visitors to the bed beside me; loudly eating fried food. The teenager’s parents, hovering over her, worried about her poor head. Cradling it in their arms and cooing soft sounds into her ears. I wish they would all go away.
I wish I could go away.
Instead I stay.
Property of the Hospital.