The International Writers Magazine: Hospital Corner

A Lifeless Companion
Caitlin Metland

he door handle is brushed metal, the kind you see perching proud in new hotels, with minimalist decor and folded back bedspreads. The cool metal is kept at room temperature, it’s a constant, it is all constant. Built so you feel numb as you approach, the frosty white walls fold into each other, endless warrens of same said doors approached by the same afraid souls.

Hesitating.  Knowing what is within. For the sake of a door, denying what lies in wait.
My lingering fingers notice, there is no lock on the door. Just a door. The voices from the other side are just below hearing,maybe a television playing to no-one. I feel like running away, hiding from it in a child like disbelief. From the corridor a nurse comes bustling in her starched scratchy uniform. Painful lines complementing the walls. She turns and watches me, not quite able to go in. Counting the times she has seen it before.
‘You can just go in’ she says.

I know I have to go, being pushed from within.

The handle opens clockwise, the door pushes in. A new smoothness. The room is sterilsed, just as outside. The slow bleeping machines seem to be draining not prolonging your life. Wires running in and out of your skeletal body. I want to rip out all of the needles, the wires, and take you away from here, if only I could take you back to your old life you would be ok.

But instead my hands shake, unwillingly. I can only watch from the distance, held down by leaden boots. Your sallow face brings tears to my eyes. ‘I look that bad do I?’ you ask. I have to try to stop crying, ‘you looks beautiful’ I say, you wear your hospital bed with style.

I cannot ask you how you are. There is no answer I can hear. A useless question with only one false answer. I look away, scared. Until I see magazines beneath your bed, so I ask you what you think of next springs fashion.  You laugh and tell me how young the mannequins looked. You never use the word model, you believe they aren’t models, they are blank canvases upon which you design. You weren’t very inspired this season. They are loosing it. Youth needs to be injected into the industry.

A shadow is missing from the room, Simon isn’t here. Your partner of ten years has left your side.  But he will return. I ask where he went, you sent him to get some sleep. He hasn’t left your side, even when he knew. I couldn’t say that about any of my partners. Yet in a world when you are expected to never settle down you did. You defied those who said it would never work, they never even gave you a chance.
Your breath start to fail, you lose footing, stumble and start to trip over your words. You start to cough, each retching breath is drawn through your dying lungs.  I can hear your chest collapse, blood ripping up your oesophagus. Your life going. The hands that fly to cover your mouth are hands of an old man. Each vein protrudes against the grey skin, each bone shows it’s movement, circling against tendons, as your hands writhe in pain.

As you pull your hands back down to your ever contracting lap there's blood trailed across your hands. This time I think, will it be this time? I don’t think I can take any more phone calls, I don’t think I can take dropping my life to see yours gradually fade away. For years now I have been expecting, almost wishing it would be done. In the deepest, darkest part of my soul. But next time. Next time, I get the broken phone call, I hear the forever told tears and know I need to go. My shaking hands will not stop me, nor would my crushed soul. I will know that nothing else matters because this time, it could be this time.

The nurse who saw my fears bustles in. She must have heard your coughing.
She wants me to go, but I will stay until Simon gets back. I can’t leave you on your own in a white, cold, sterile room. I can’t leave you without any colours, and lights, and warmth. I will wait for........ I will wait.

© Caitlin Metland April 2006

Caitlin is the assistant editor on Hackwriters and an English Major at the University of Portsmouth

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