Twilight, by the silent sea

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A son visits his father in hospital

Submitted: April 29, 2008

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Submitted: April 29, 2008




At first glance the room appeared white. Stark, sparse, bright and painfully white. He walked into the doorway and lingered briefly on the threshold, allowing the barely furnished room to come slowly into view. The first thing to draw his attention as he stood at the edge and cautiously peered about the room was an enormous bird shit smeared on the outside of the fifth floor window in a protracted black and white smear. He couldn’t quite figure out how it was physically possible for a bird to have aimed its excrement at the deeply recessed window. He considered it briefly and arrived at the assumption that perhaps it had killed itself by flying into the window and this was the residual stain. Compared to the window the rest of the room was positively antiseptic. A typical hospital room, utilitarian beds with uncomfortable looking sheets and with beeping things beside them that were attached to the dying. The contrast between dirty and sterile made him uneasy and he pulled his gaze away.

The old woman hadn’t yet noticed his presence in the room. She sat shrouded in an intense silence, looking at the old man stretched out on the bed, as if she were waiting for something to happen. The young the man looked at her pitifully as she sat, perched, alert and distant from the outside world. Her features were discordant from those that were etched into his memory as a child. Where once she had looked the image of maternal sweetness, her features had now, in only these past few months, grown harsh and bitter. Her countenance was one of confusion and disbelief at the utter cruelness of this world. She was watching her lover of many years die in pain and she was completely isolated from his suffering, by virtue of the coma that the tumor had lulled him into.He couldn’t bring himself to gaze on his father, so his eyes found the floor instead.

He looked up to his mother, unsure and quiet.

“Hi mum,” he ventured

She turned her face towards his with a start and smiled with thin lips and sad eyes. She fussily got up from beside the prostrate old man and walked over to hug him vigorously in her pink knitted sweater.

“Oh love, I’m so glad you came,” she said beaming but with glistening eyes betraying an inner melancholy “How’s Karen and the Kids?”

“Yeah, they’re fine,” he responded vaguely “Life always marches on I guess.”

“That’s good to hear,” she said standing back slightly and holding him by the elbows firmly and obviously not really caring what he was saying, just happy for his presence “When are they coming to see their Grandfather?”

“I suppose when they get some time off of school. They’re pretty busy getting ready for exams and all that. So… how is he doing?”

“It seems like he’s getting worse,” she replied, her head turned away in a profundity of thought and her eyes firmly fixed into infinity “The doctors say it won’t be too long now.”

“Have any other relatives come to visit?” he asked redundantly, as he had already noticed the pile of flowers and other temporaria littered beside the bed.

“Yes,” she said, chest heaving in a sigh, “your sister made a visit just a few days ago, it was nice. I still haven’t heard a peep from Nathan, I guess he’s just too busy.”

“Yeah, last time I phoned he said he was pretty snowed under.”

“Yes I remember what it was like when your father was his age…” She drifted “Always on the go…” Her eyes were positively shimmering now “But I’m glad you could come.”

She walked over to stand by her seat, her hand to her mouth and bewildered by sadness. She sat down slowly holding her hand thus for quite some time, then she turned toward him and smiled over tears.

He walked over behind his mother and braced her by the shoulders from behind.

“It’s OK, mum,” He said unsure of himself and of what to say “It’s OK.”

He couldn’t help but stare at the old man now, his transfiguration now almost complete. Under a mass of tubes and esoteric machinery he was a husk. Skin thin and drawn tight across fragile bones. For some reason he could not help but stare at his father’s neck. The old man’s head was turned to the side, with unseeing eyes pointing at nothing in particular, and with his mouth slightly agape. In this position his voice-box looked grotesque, sharp and angular as if it could tear through the grey papery skin covering it with the slightest touch. He was also breathing in short, sharp rasps, which caused his voice-box to bob up and down alarmingly. He couldn’t quite comprehend the sound of this gasping, it was unlike anything he had ever heard or expected to hear coming from a living thing. It was dry and yet was interspersed with a strange liquid gurgling. The old man also seemed to be talking in a feint whisper. He seemed to be saying something important but incomprehensible. He was desperately telling his nothing phrases to the dead air. His mother tried to comfort his father by holding his pathetic looking hand firmly and saying that it would be ok, but it wouldn’t be ok, it could never be ok, everything was fucked.

His father was on a morphine drip that was not doing anything anymore, his mother said she didn’t know what to do, she said she couldn’t stand to see him in such pain. She asked him what to do but he had no idea, he fobbed it off by telling her that she should see a nurse or a doctor about it or something. She seemed to think this was a good idea and left the room to find someone down the hall who might know what to do. He was alone with his father now. He walked over and felt some relief at not having his mother in the room with her oppressive grief.

“Well I guess it’s just us now.” He said to his father.

His father was unmoved and continued to mutter, stare and breathe monstrously.

He stood over him and gently slapped his hands to his cheeks and dragged them down with a sigh. He closed his eyes a breathed heavily through his nose, his fists clenching and unclenching in the rhythm of his thought.

He opened his pale eyes which were filled with a penetrating clarity.

“You miserable old cunt,” he growled softly, lowering his face to the bedside to breathe his breath roughly into the old mans face “You were never there for me and you were always a fucking pain when you were around. Now you’ve created all this shit to go out with. I love you but I won’t give you the fucking satisfaction of knowing that I watched you suffer.”

He spat on his father. The old man wasn’t there. The spittle glistened upon his dying face, slowly rolling down towards the bed. He rubbed it off his father roughly with the sheet.

And he left the room quickly. He walked briskly to avoid his mother and was hastily out of the oncology section and into a tortuous maze of endless permutations of the same green corridor. On either side were the same grim scenes of sickness played out over and over with the bright flowers and balloons and the same caricature of lingering grey death in the beds.

After a few turns he found himself at the elevators and stabbed repeatedly at the button to descend. A few nurses drifted past in a haze of pedestrian conversation, dense with nothings about shopping and weather. After they left the waiting area for the elevators all was silent except of the constant whirring of air-conditioning and the far away muted sounds of something being wheeled across linoleum.

The doors opened with a ding.

Inside the elevator was a bed, a patient and a bored looking orderly. He awkwardly got inside and had to position himself so that the doors could easily close, uncomfortably having to face the other passengers. He pressed the button for the ground floor. He noticed that no other buttons had been pressed and knew he would share the ride all the way down. The orderly was distracted, busily picking at an angry scab on the corner of his mouth. The patient stared directly at him, his mouth open and making mumbling noises. He was desperate for something to look at instead of this new wretched creature. He looked at the drip bag coming up beside the patient. He tried to guess what might be in it but realized that he didn’t know anything practical about medicine. His gaze traced the path of the fluid from the bag, down the tube to the needle sticking into the thin skin on the back of the patient’s hand. He saw red where he didn’t expect it. Perversely the drip seemed to be sucking blood back up the tube out of the man.

A ding and the doors open. He makes a hasty escape from the lift into the foyer of the hospital. The foyer is busy with a large desk and many people bustling about trying to make their way to a small cafeteria to the left. He makes his way through the crowd towards the large glass automatic doors and emerges into the bright sunshine. Dazzled he looks around, there is a small road leading to the main entrance in front of him with a few taxis waiting for fares. In front of that a garden with a path leading to the street where his car waits parked. He makes his way over, through the garden and past a man having a heated argument with woman in a wheelchair with fresh stumps. He looks back and is surprised by all the smokers huddled sheepishly outside the front of the hospital.

He walks quickly and is at his car now. He gets his keys out and is inside. He sits down and slumps down with his arms and head upon the wheel. He breathes heavily. He looks up into the empty blue expanse of sky stretching outwards eternally, his eyes streaming with tears.

Overhead and up over the city flies a gull, gently wheeling upwards on the currents of the wind.

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