An opening door with the hesitance of dread. Perhaps they expect to find me greened and bloated- the greyish tinge of rot at my edges. To them, I am an opaque hourglass - my time courses slowly seawards but they aren’t gingered to predict the untimely accident they will no doubt call “peaceful”.
Perhaps they expect a state of undress too horrible for them to consider. Though once I may have been beautiful, they enforce loathing. Dimpled and wrinkled, with the pallor of years, I often trace the bruised tattoos of varicose, thinking they might form a painful map of some importance.
The polite young man who has been politely visiting for some time, seats himself and begins to politely talk to me with the smug glisten of considered politeness.
“How are you today, Mrs. Albert?”
It’s always the first question asked, though I know they expect no deviance from slow deterioration.
I must have been silent for some minutes, for he speaks slowly with concern and a furrowed brow.
My name with its widow’s sting.
“Yes?” I have since forgotten his question.
“You’ve been awfully quiet,” he condescends to me.
“Have I? I hadn’t noticed.”
I had. Time has become the strangest friend to me. As I extend towards the infinitesimal, minutes have wilted and seconds are browned and shed of all significance. This is the autumn of my years. I begin to express this to the polite young man but thought exhausts me and tired grey matter elicits only a sigh.
“What are you reading today?” He leans forwards and then quickly falls back into his chair. They bathe me in lilac and lavender – the smells of age I reviled in my youth.
I had long since forgotten the book in my lap. Rather, I no longer feel its pressure. Had I been dozing when they found me? For how long? It’s as if a bullet is loosed from the barrel and a trigger then pulled.
I feel sluggish and slow and confused and aware. My breathing shallows. The polite young man leans in again and I gesture for water.
“Water?” he asks.
I nod, though I long for something stronger. The worst part about this clinically beige and stone place is the “ginlessness”. I long for gin, though dryness is encouraged (a softer kind of mandatory).
I open my eyes (had I closed them?) and the polite young man is here again. He is already politely seated and smiling politely at me. My hand is wrapped around something (too late) falling to the ground. Soporific, I hear the helpless shattering of glass (mine?) and the polite young man is here again and he is leaping forward to clear the wreck.
The door opens and I see him in the doorframe- as broad and strapping as our wedding day. I feel light pink and romantic. I feel as champagne does.
“Is everything okay?” he asks.
No, the voice is too high and never Irish. He is red with thick freckled ankles and in a dress. (It shatters like a glass too late from my hand).
The figure is sternly medical and now she is holding my wrist and holding something cold to my lips and something falls into the pillowed chamber of my velvet mouth.
We are all waiting for something. The polite young man who is here again looks uncomfortable and is mopping up something that has smashed on the ground (mine?). I believe him to be unprepared for responsibility.
I’m aware that the nurse with thick ankles is asking me to count with her.
We reach ten and I touch her hair.
“Such a pretty russet,” I say.
They both stare at me with shining eyes of kindness, but I remember they think me mad.
I find fleecy comfort in the pill I have swallowed without question.