I can leave the ward whenever I want to. This frees me of any fear as I wait all alone in the stillness of the after hour within its thick walls under a funky light.
The end of the work day is marked by a clinging stillness. Devoid of all patients and personnel one becomes acutely aware of the chipped paint and scars, the stained and battered Formica furniture painted in sickly yellowish brown tones.
The skeleton night crew is hidden somewhere behind the heavy double doors that are firmly shut and announce NO ENTRY beyond this point.
As I said earlier, I can leave as soon as my paperwork is ready and so am not in any real hurry to leave per se.
Just a few hours ago I had been privy to lamentations, tears, expectations, raised voices and lowered heads. Expressions clearly stating who had good news and who had nothing left; a concentration of life and death packed into a handful of square metres between porous walls and thick skinned doctors and nurses.
This silence is louder and more bothersome than the earlier cacophony. I had read two whole chapters of my book while waiting to be called for my scheduled appointment, with the aforementioned background noise as companion, but once alone I had had to put my book away, not able to concentrate under this bulky heavy silence
I find myself staring into the huge eye of the mammoth machine, once used to measure everyone's temperature during COVID. It sits, back up against the scuff marked wall, looming oddly between a Formica table piled high with medical information pamphlets and a water cooler. Unplugged, its dead eye pointed emptily in my direction makes me feel suddenly anxious. I shift position and gratefully hear the footsteps coming along the hall towards me.
The double glass doors open, crisply printed papers are handed to me and a brisk good bye and good luck are offered up before the blue and white clad individual, one of many responsible for my still being here, heads back into the depths of the long corridor. I watch his retreating back and feel lacking in my show of gratitude. Thank you seems so small, almost nothing at all against the whole picture.
I stuff the papers into my bag and open the heavy metal door that leads out to the stairwell. The door shuts firmly, almost definitively behind me, like a jail sentence.
Now I want to get out of there as fast as I can, while I still have the chance.
Title photo by Oleg Pavlove