The grey light slowly creeps into the room from the window behind the couch. A table, chairs, and a small cluttered kitchen slowly emerge from the darkness. They’re colourless, kept in shadow by the thick curtains that hang in front of the windows behind the sink and by the table. The room is silent, bar the muted tick, tick, tick of a clock you found at a church fair in other days.
Soon, the ticks are overlaid by a soft scuff, scuff, scuff and the quiet creak of a wheel on your frame. You stop, steady yourself, the door opens. You’re hunched over, grey and shapeless like your furniture.
In the kitchen you slowly reach for the last grubby mug, swirling it round and round as it fills with lukewarm water. With a stretch you reach up to the microwave, and the yellow light accentuates the lines on your face as it goes round and round with a soft hum. You’re still, but jolt when it beeps. With a trembling hand you carefully take it down and drop in a teabag from the tin on the bench.
At the table you move the mug from your frame to a pile of papers from which, once seated, you pull a random newspaper. You turn to the crossword. Yesterday’s crossword, you realise. The one you were doing before she came to shower you. You squint at it through your glasses, trying to make out the letters you carefully inked in yesterday, all identical in their illegibility.
It’s mid-morning before you remember to take your pills. You stand slowly, passing wind, clasping at your frame as the world tilts again. Scuff, scuff, scuff. In the kitchen, you carefully open the old blue Tupperware container that holds your medications. You pull out a small brown bottle, shake four into your hand, and take them in one go.
On your way back to the table you stop at the calendar on the wall by the fridge. It’s out of date by a year, but you like the pictures so you keep it. You push your glasses further up your nose as your eyes find the day. Tuesday. Social worker. Your eyes slide out of focus as you think. Tea, biscuits, talking. Waste of time. The clock seems louder. You look back to the calendar.
Saturday. Elderly support group.
On and on and on, ad infinitum and ad nauseum. You look to the closed curtains. You should probably open them – she’ll notice if you don’t, but at the moment you don’t care. With great effort, you go back to the table with a gentle rhythmic scuff, scuff, scuff.
You’re in the loo when you hear a car gently purr up to your house and stall. You didn’t make it on time again so you’re trying to clean up, but you’re in no rush. You know she has another house to visit after yours, so the longer you take the less you’ll have to talk.
Your heart leaps – that’s not the social worker’s voice! This voice is younger, softer, male. It sounds like your youngest grandson, Tim. You haven’t seen him since your wife’s funeral and suddenly there’s a sense of urgency.
You scuff to your bedroom in double-time for another pair of pants. Tim must be … what year is it?
That makes him … seventeen now?
Gosh – you wonder if he’s taller than you, he must’ve grown at least a foot since you last saw him, and how wonderful of him to visit and then you’re wondering how he’s doing at school, and how you must remember to ask him if he’s still playing the piano, and you’re wondering if you’ve got any biscuits you can share with him and how
you’ve been, echoing around here, and suddenly your vision is blurring and you realise you’re crying properly for the first time since your wife died and you sit down awkwardly on the edge of your bed, almost overbalancing with your pants around your ankles and your face an expressionless mask from which tears surge forth and flow silently in braids through the lines on your face, before dripping into your bare lap.
With surprising agility, you stand, pull up your pants, click off the brakes on your frame and make for the front door. Sunlight is beaming in through the small windows on either side of the front door, lighting up the entryway with warm yellow tones.
You’re nearly at the door, and you start to reach out while you’re still moving. The movement nearly sends you crashing to the ground but your hand finds the doorknob and you steady yourself briefly before flinging it open and turning and stretching the stiff muscles that lie under your sagging face into a smile which dies before it even began.
There’s no one there.
Your body feels like lead. Immovable. Your insides? How can you describe something that doesn’t feel like it’s there? The sun goes behind a cloud, and colour fades from the world that disappears from view as you slowly shut the door. It snips loudly as it shuts.
In the kitchen, the ticks are again overlaid by a soft scuff, scuff, scuff and the quiet creak of a wheel on your frame. You stop, steady yourself, the door into the living room opens. You’re hunched over, grey and shapeless like your furniture, but older, emptier.
It’s not lunchtime yet, but in the kitchen, you carefully open the old blue Tupperware container that holds your medications. You pull out a small brown bottle with a shaking hand. There’s still 20 left. Enough, at least, you hope it is.
You say a silent prayer, then lift your hand. Footsteps behind you make you turn. As you do you see the lanky body of your youngest’s youngest boy. The pill bottle falls from your hand as you reach for him, and he casts aside the basket full of washing he’s collected and catches you before you fall.
This story was written by a third year medical student. Jordan Reid is a pseudonym.