The Big Hospital Lift

The lift was a large lift. There was room enough in it for a pair of beds with patients and nurses attending and drips and so on. All the machines and other things. But the lift didn’t really need to be so big. Not in this part of the hospital. There were two of them, two huge lifts when sometimes a patient from this wing might be in a wheelchair, but that was about it. If a number of patients were returning from a smoke on the street then they could all travel back to level five together, but apart from that it was utterly unnecessary to have so much room.

He travelled down to the ground level on his own and the lift seemed even bigger and more unnecessary when you were the only passenger making the journey.  He hadn’t travelled in the lift on his own before and it struck him: the lift really was big. Bigger than it needed to be. Altogether too big. He had remarked on the scale of the lift when they ascended after their walk. She seemed to agree although she seemed in no mood to really talk about the subject. He made a few more lift-related remarks because he really couldn’t think of anything else to say and then the doors opened and they were at the foyer of the fifth floor. Ward 12 was the ward and he was shocked when he first visited it a week ago. Shocked for two reasons. Shocked by how shocked he didn’t become. It was as if he had expected strange and unpredictable events with out of control people doing things that might make him nervous. And instead it was very calm. It was as if the calm had been imposed somehow for it was pervasive. Men and women sat in chairs and looked at the TV and shuffled in corridors and wore dressing gowns and the seated ones were very still. The nurses smiled and said positive things but the patients did not smile.

And he was shocked because it wasn’t ward 12 at all. It was ward 11. His aunty wasn’t there. She was in the ward with the less sedated patients who had expressions on their faces and some of whom were scary and some of whom weren’t scary but all of whom seemed more happy to be where they were than the patients in ward 11.

His aunty had given him some bad news. News about her progress and what would happen when she got out. He had thought about her future a lot and asked her many questions, some direct, others indirect and leading up to the main question in a surreptitious kind of way, without arousing suspicion, attempting to trap her, friendly and conversational, he thought, like a politician gets trapped by a good political interviewer. You make the subject say enough that they have to say more. Certain admissions lead to more admissions. Unless the subject says they won’t answer that because they don’t want to think about that right now, even though that’s all you’re thinking about, and you don’t know what the answer is and want to know if she has an answer and at home it’s the question which is asked again and again and you speculate and paint pictures with words about what could happen and what might explain a woman’s motivations and decision making processes, but it’s all making it up really, which you say repeatedly, and you admit that but that isn’t enough. No, you keep getting asked. Again and again. Day after day. And you want to know too, but you almost don’t want to know, for if the answer is something that isn’t the kind of answer you were hoping for then things could get very bad indeed. It could change life in all manner of ways, mostly for the bad, because although your wife wants answers there are definitely some answers that she does not want to hear. And you know that. You know that because you have been told. You would like to make the questions disappear but they will not until the answers are given.

And what he got from his aunty was nothing. Nothing concrete. Later – as if that word constituted an answer. A politician’s answer.

And the lift is so big and there’s only him in it and none of this is his fault, despite the accusations and other words of questioning and disapprobation. It really isn’t. The fault is not his and it’s not about fault at all, not really, but it is about guilt and the guilt is his. He didn’t do it and he doesn’t want it and he’s been told not to worry, but he can’t do that, as he always worries, and he’s been told that he should worry and it is easy to fret more than you had thought possible when you are in this position. He knows that if this doesn’t go well then many other things will also not go well.

He’s sorry. He would apologise if there was someone to apologise to. But there is no-one. And there’s no-one to hear him confess. The hopes of others are his hopes too. And his body sags with the sadness and the impotence of his position and he wishes fervently for something better.

On the street he puts the buds in his ears and the music goes on. It is raining and the wind is biting. Beethoven plays and it is in his brain and it’s like a drug. Much more than a sound.  There is hope. There is time. All is not lost and the music swells and the violins soar. He squints into the rain and feels better for a moment.

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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