We all sighed as we were kicked off the bus and onto the busy back town high street. The music from the Turkish Food Centre we stood in front of danced with the heat outside. The tar in the road glistened and the boiling ground broke up the air as we gazed over the curve in the road, waiting for the next 75.
“What’s wrong with the bus?”
“I’m told. It is not me”
“But what’s actually wrong with it?”
“I was running late”
“Now we’re all running late”
“I was told. They tell me. I am just robot”
The bus driver timidly attempted to placate the ginger woman, both too fat and too skinny. He wore a white short-sleeved shirt. The same type as the Mormons who try and ply their shite to hundreds of god fearing Africans and West Indians in the town centre just down the road, maintaining a plastic American smile at the end of a day of rejection. He was Chinese or Korean. I didn’t stop to ask his life story. You don’t see many of them driving buses. East Asians or quiet, timid men. He was far too quick with an apology. He wouldn’t last. I wanted to stop and get a cold drink. Enjoy the moment of pause that had been forced on me, but I couldn’t risk missing another bus. If I stopped I would stop. I had to keep going.
I walk into the reception. It is hot and cool. The polish metal head at the desk stares into the middle distance, one ipod headphone stuck in his ear. I try and breathe. It’s hot and cool.
Nothing works in this country.
Nothing works in this country.
“We haven’t got much left, love. You’re a bit late. Maybe some chicken goo-jons”
It’s ok, I only want a beer. Do you have beer?
“We wouldn’t be much of a pub if we didn’t have beer!”
They aren’t much of a pub. But they’re right here, where I need them. I watch the bubbles float through the sunlight. I can’t really talk. Not that there is anyone else to talk to. Hospital pub. I’m not the first person here to need a drink.
The Ladywell Unit Ha Ha this lady aint well Ha Ha Room 48b there it is go on in but here I am on the first floor in the café staring at the factory made muffins.
“Can I help you, love?”
Men shuffle slowly. How can they wear tracksuit bottoms on a hot day like this? It’s so dark in here.
“You ok love?”
Yes I’m visiting my sister I’m not one of them I’m just visiting my sister she’s in Room 48b she hasn’t been well she hasn’t been. She was just laughing when I found her. Just laughing and laughing and singing the theme tune to a kid’s TV show over and over and over again and I didn’t. Know what to do I. She hadn’t been happy. She hadn’t been happy that’s why she went away camping. With her friends. After the ambulance took her I went through her phone and called them all up. Her friends. I was angry and asked them what drugs they had taken and they said none and they sounded like they were telling the truth but I’m not sure I believe them because how else can this have happened how she used to be normal how else could this have happened
They all cheer, their glasses meeting in the middle of the table. The young, beaming doctors. A tired looking nurse sits behind them, enjoying the sun and the moment.
“Write your name here” he says, deafened in one ear by the headphone. The one hanging loose spits staccato high-end as it swings wildly. I write my name on the tag without looking up at him and peel it off the paper, not needing the muted directions given through the thin glass.
I pull the name tag off my jumper, looking at the fibres caught on the back. I let them shimmer in the breeze before I fold it over, pretending that I’m not disgusted with myself. My hands shake and I let the nametag soak the beer that falls. My name runs and I hate myself.
It smells in here. Of must and bleach and plastic sheets. Of confusion and terror and other worlds. It stinks of spastics, as we used to say every year about the coaches the school would hire for sports day. Danny Conners used to say it loudest. Say everything loudest. People used to say things about her. Behind my back, but I knew. Danny Conners said it too. Loud and to my face. I’d never broken anyone’s nose before. Or since. I did it for her. I said I did it for her. But really it was for me. Because if I could break a nose for her, then why can’t I open a door? I can see her through the window, reading. But it may as well be a wall. My hand goes out and I feel faint and I can’t I can’t I can’t. I need a beer, I say, and I promise myself, I promise her I’ll be right back.
The bus traveled home without incident. The chatter of people, the chatter of the road became a blanket I tried to hide myself in. The sun couldn’t set fast enough.