Shaking a Dead Geranium - A Vignette
Honorable mention in the 45th New Millennium Award 2018
Published in the Beyond the Walls Anthology 2017
Orange lights, fluorescent yellow vests and a beep beep beep of an alarm that would bring nurses running. The air smells of old cut grass. A trio of bin men beat a tribal tattoo on the green wheelies. They throw away the dregs of summer in resentful clunks. I bid goodbye to sunny August days that were heartless and fathomless. When I slept with the lights glaring and dreamed of dark near realities, deceitful friends and faceless creatures of infinite authority.
Light scowls out of Peppermill court, throwing out memories. Despite myself, I remember. Alexxia told me about the two teenage lads that share her headspace - their shrill, bloodthirsty voices. She wouldn’t give up her boys though, even if she could. She told me that, over a beef sandwich. About the rock that weighed down her pocket since they confiscated her knife.
Grace, vegetarian and pathologically religious; wanted to save my soul. I wanted to find my soul, either misplaced or gone, I didn’t know which. In the silent morning, I imagine Grace’s voice. Her singing was a celestial hymn; its joy jabbed needles into my deflating heart.
Days measured in bland meals. I talked at my broken friend, asked about his job, until I found out he was on a holiday from Her Majesty’s accommodation. He never uttered a word.
The hospital has moved closer to home since I left. It lurks, peeks over my garden fence. Some days it beckons. Not today. Today will be a good day.
It’s a new building, should not have ghosts, not like the old asylum. A part of me is written into the stones of that historic pile. The last morning before it was condemned, they walked past us carrying tables and chairs. Took the toilet roll dispensers and the soap ones too. We sat, clutched our bags and waited for our transport.
I walk behind a couple holding hands under a street light’s indulgent smile. They let go. But they walk shoulder to shoulder and say nothing. This is courage. I know this because I’ve watched, in awe, as people did not cry in front of me.
The traffic lights are all green, no ambers or reds break my way. Today will be a good day.
Onto the path down the side of the hospital. There’s a layer of mulch covered over by a gathering of leaves that chitter in the breeze. Many hued - peridots and cinnamons and pumpkins and browns – like flames, like hearths, like Hades. The path undulates. From cracks where roots of ancient trees assert their sovereignty, I fear hands reaching up to grab my ankles. Other people have raised their shades and begun their day. I send a smile, unreciprocated, to a blonde lady in an orange scarf.
I look down the dark corridor of the slumbering department. I left my swipe card behind last week and no one is here yet to let me in. So I lean on a wall, and write.