You may or may not remember that, some time ago, I was hospitalised because of a terrible dentist ruining one of my teeth, which led to a blood infection, which led to a massive upset of my diabetes – I didn’t have much to do in hospital besides read a horrible little book which was the only thing left in the gift shop, sleep and make notes on my phone for the few short hours its battery lasted before I was phoneless for the remainder of the week.
I did manage to note down a few hundred words in one of my more lucid moments, which became a little over a thousand before the week was through; I have long intended to continue them and turn them into a narrative, but I cannot seem to find the time or, to be honest, the creativity to do so; as such – here ‘Hospitalis’ (who says I can’t come up with random names on the spot?) a thousand words I wrote whilst unable to talk, walk or eat and with a pint or two of blood missing!
My fingers tap out a restless tune against my outer thigh, my entire being going into my right shoulder, my arm, past the elbow with the dressing and the dried blood, through the wrist and the palm and into my fingers. It is already irritating me and I intend to stop at the end of every repetition, but still they continue to twitch on. They are unwilling, perhaps even more than I, to succumb to the whims of sleep.
Despite that desire, I flicker in and out of awareness with an astonishing irregularity. Or so it feels; the sunlight slicing between the tilted blinds of the window ahead and to the left of me creeping across the floor in such disjointed episodes that I find it difficult to judge even the vague hour by. Not that, in full disclosure, I possess much in the way of that particular skill anyway, I have always preferred the clock or the digital watch to such a rudimentary timekeeper as nature, but I am aware of direction and shadow and those two should have been enough to give me at least the basics. They are not.
There are few places I can comfortably look, my eyes fixed on one specific point on the ceiling. My head is not constrained in any manner besides my own pain and social awkwardness but, still, I stare at this one spot; where the thin, cheap squares of the ceiling panels meet at a corner and their border, a bar of metal running two squares wide before being neatly intersected by another bar heading in the perpendicular direction, is smooth and unblemished. The panels have a marble-like appearance, or so is the intent, a speckled mess of white and cream and grey which do little to soothe the eyes of those who stare up at it in their own, private, jail cells.
I spend some time considering another patch of ceiling, by moving my eyes a few inches to the left. It is one such area where the two bars intersect and I study the black line of their meeting. I couldn’t be sure if each bar was a separate piece or if they were one long section which merely folded beneath and above its opponent. Almost immediately I decide that each two-section piece was its own, but the exercise kills some time as I tried to convince myself I saw the metal bend.
For time does not pass as swiftly as I might wish, whatever the constant shift of the daylight might make you believe. It is, instead, stretched like a lizard beneath a heated fluorescent light bulb. The ceiling occupies much of my sight but, occasionally, the pain in my neck causes me to roll my head like some creature possessed. The pain comes from the position of the three pillows, one of which I had requested on my first day but soon came to regret. The pillows appear relatively thick, particularly compared to some I have slept on in the past, but one soon discovers that they have an astonishing lack of substance to them; that they are worth barely half an actual pillow in terms of support. Therefore, the three pillows, with the weight of my neck against them, had compressed into one and a half pillows a number which is never comfortable, pleasant, or even wholly acceptable in modern society. No man has half a pillow on his bed! To think of half-pillows is to consider insanity, and the decaying of morals and begins a deep desire in one to wipe out the human race and restart with something a little less aggressive, perhaps, a little less ignorant.
The conversation of two nearby women reaches me. They are both a little overweight, leaning towards the bovine in appearance, and are dressed in clean pink cloth uniforms with white aprons built into the design; at once a brilliant addition and a useless defeat of an apron’s purpose. They both have the wide, flat features of the born proletariat and wide-set eyes which suggest some aquatic creature in their heritage. Their hair match in length and style, ear-length and boyishly curled but one is the same brown as a mouse I had once seen scurrying from dumpster to dumpster in search of paradise whilst the other is a fluorescent red which fails to compliment her as she no doubt believes it does. It would suit some young bohemian thing, smoking outside an art gallery or a night club, not this ageing creature with her fingers, like rolls of meat hastily tied together at the knuckles with string, waving animatedly in the air before her.
– Quarter to seven! She repeats emphatically, bringing her hands up as though she was going to grab her companion by the throat. I kid you not!
– Oh, you didn’t! The mousy-thing replies.
– I did, I swear!
– Oooo, she stresses the sound out like she were the advance warning of an air-raid siren, you’re so naughty! I can’t get up any later half six!
They laugh in shared experience and I pity them. How lucky I am, that I am lying here whilst they consider such things to be the height of decadence. Fifteen minutes of sleep and she thinks she is a rebel. I wonder if they consider suicide when they wake up, if they can find enough joy in those few minutes to make their lives worth living. I go to chastise myself, but they have gone and I forget them in seconds.
My eyes roll on, and I see the far wall, a dull, clinical cream to match the one behind me. There are curtains, suspended, rather than by the windows, on railings made of the same grey metal which crosses the ceiling. These railing are hung on long, thin poles which are set at ugly, intermittent distances. Though there are no more than two to each section of the railing, some are clustered together like guards around a brazier whilst others are positioned in relative solitude.
The curtains themselves are of a thin blue material, but their colour is dark enough to stop anything but vague shapes from being visible on the other side. They are folded now, pressed against the wall behind me as though they were an irritation; not mine, I would prefer them closed.
Wigan Hospital, you can’t beat it, can you? Thanks for reading guys, as always. Also, I know I say this a lot, but prepare for some big(ish) news on this really long piece I have been working on for about five months! (Christ, where has the time gone?)