Two days ago, I went into the bloody hospital. Hate those places. People go there to die. Doctors who don’t look you in the eye, nurses who talk so fast the words don’t make sense until they’ve been gone ten minutes.
All those machines, all those things to fill out, all that personal information that ends up in files of paper and in computers and nobody ever goes back and reads what was in it before. If they did, they’d know this stuff and I wouldn’t have to say it again.
And the bloke next to me keeps telling me how lucky I am, how he’d be off to buy one of those tickets to win millions if he’d survived such a thing.
It was a fall, no more. A long fall, I admit. And I did hit the old noggin, but that’s tough. Not just tough, it has a steel layer outside the skull, courtesy of a motorbike accident a few years ago. Okay, a lot of years ago, but the point is, it’s not going to crack under the pressure of a fall.
The back is another country. Maybe it’s the extra weight of the steel in my head.
Nah, just kidding.
It’s a back, designed to do a specific job — hold me upright! So what do I do? I crawl around on rooftops, duck under the roof in the spaces between ceilings and tiles, slither through small cracks to get at fluffy insulations. The back always aches, but now it’s in a bad state. Bits of bone cracked. Not one or two, but enough that they’ve locked me in this frame thing to stop me moving.
And I want to pee, but I’m not … ah, damn it. I press the button and the nurse comes and the pressure is eased, but I think of what it will be like when I go home.
I live alone. Not even a dog now. Just me. What happens to me if I can’t move the back, can’t walk or toilet?
Better to die, I’m thinking.
And I cry. I feel like I’ve wasted my chances.
What have I done with my life that the end feels like such a let-down? What have I done to be remembered for something worthwhile?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of the adventurers. Don’t remember which one. At high school, I wanted to be a professor, to be smart and respected. Faded after the first year.
At trade school, I wanted to build my own business into a franchise, have my name on everything. Be rich.
But the dream was a family, a wife and kids, a sense of belonging to something. When that workshop accident happened — I was twenty-one, so not quite ready to marry — and I lost my favourite toy, that dream had to be cut out like a cancer.
Then I wanted to be more creative, use my mind, so I took up writing poetry.
Yeah, I know, a roof plumber poet. How far is that going to get me? Nowhere, in fact, and I gave it up the first time I read a book on poetry — have you seen what’s in ’em? Too much for the old head to take it in. There are enough rules and numbers in plumbing, and I didn’t want to have to learn more.
I took up riding motorbikes for a bit of release, and rode out through the hills into the country every weekend. It was great. Freedom. Then the accident. Seven months in hospital before I woke up, followed by years in rehab, and told never to work off the ground again. Like a man could live on fresh air.
That was the last time I was in a place like this. They haven’t changed. The stink of people and their messes undertoned by chemicals and squeaky shoes.
My life was a mistake. I shouldn’t have been born, I shouldn’t have been adopted out by the mother who didn’t want me, I shouldn’t have been conceived. My life was nothing of value, to anyone, least of all me.
The doc swishes into the cubicle, files and papers flapping. Bright brown eyes peer over his glasses.
“We should have you out of here in a week,” he says. “The bone fragments are arthritis, and unless the primary bruising and swelling don’t improve in that time, you can go home. Pleased?” His smile is forced, but I understand.
“Thanks, doc,” I say. “Is there any way I can speed up the process?”
“By resting. That’s the best we can do if you refuse medication. Rest and give the body time to heal.” He squeaks as he moves, his back flashes through the door, and he’s gone.
When I get out of here, I’ll go fix the big roof of the orphanage, no charge, and I’ll go to one of those community college things where they teach you how to write poetry. The only two things I’ve got to make my name worth the life given: charity and creativity.
I’ve missed a few days this week, but will be putting out a post at least once a week. Next week, I hope it’s going to be an interview of an author for a new anthology.
I’m not in the anthology, but it’s on my list of ARCs ‘cos it’s a favourite reading genre for me, especially as short stories. And I’ll do a review here once I’ve read it :
Doesn’t that black cat in the old cemetery look intriguing?