Life in a hospital bed is run on half-speed when you’re on a
come-down from anaesthetic. For several days.
Maybe that’s why there aren’t any visible clocks on the
You can only get the time by reading the upside down sternum
watches on the nurses. They’re worn like the vast battle medals the military, royalty
and despots sport on their chests, but nurses have only one, and it’s rubber
plated. You have to catch sight of the watch face and then translate the upside
down image to a right-side up real time image of the correct time. You need to
have some idea of the time, otherwise 10 past seven, and the opposite 20 to 2
won’t make sense if you don’t have some frame of reference such as: I’ve had breakfast;
ergo it must be 20 to 2.
It was 20 to 2pm when the trouble started.
The man opposite was having trouble…again. The nurses came
and drew the curtains. Then, the doctors let themselves into the tent in which
was attracting all the attention. There were silent bumps in the floor to
ceiling curtains and unsubstantiated metallic sounds as people moved about.
Suddenly everybody’s curtains were drawn for no particular
reason. I suspect it was as a sort of visual insulation against the drama in
number 22. I took this as a sign that I should rest and so I did.
I did not have the nurse’s watch, but when I woke I could
see between a small area where the curtains did not close, perhaps two inches,
and I could see two large, young men with tattooed necks sticking out of their
shirts being addressed by someone I couldn’t see or hear. There was a sound of
the bed being moved and then, silence.
When the picture was returned to my personal soap opera, the
curtains pulled to the wall revealed: an empty bed; the white board with the
man’s name and dietary needs was erased; the bed table was cleaned and empty;
and the woman who was mopping his brow when I first saw him, wasn’t needed