Protos Loop Hole – part six
continued from part five..
“…I had walked past the secretary’s office door in a daze. I found myself walking with Bobbie in tow asking what they were going to do to me. I never answered Bobbie because I didn’t know. But what was clear to me had realised itself in the total clarity, that I really had little chance of survival. Behind me I heard steps and a someone calling our my name. “Mr Taylor, stop, you need your file.” The secretary caught up with Bobbie and I, who for some reason had been walking twice as fast as we would normally. “Here.” She said, then paused for a second to catch her breath… “
“…Take your file and go back to the main building through the main swing doors. Turn left up a long corridor, then turn right just past x-ray, towards the Maternity ward. And then through the doors marked ‘plastic surgery ward’ and then turn right again. Go in to the waiting room and ring the bell.” She said and promptly turned and walked away from us. I looked at Bobbie and he looked back at me. ´“Did you catch any of that?” I asked him. “ No. Wasn’t listening.” He said with blank eyes. “Bollocks. I’m going for a smoke.” I said tucking the brown folder under my arm. Bobbie sprang to life and we both marched quickly back to the car where we had stashed our cigarettes. We stood smoking for a while in silence, both in our own thoughts. “Suppose we go to the ward now? I mean, after our ciggy that is.” Bobbie said. I just looked at him and took another drag and talked to the car park. “Plastic Surgery ward? What the hell am I going there for?” I couldn’t understand the directions given, let alone if I’d got the title of the ward right. “Bet I’ll hit all that traffic around Dorminister Town.” Bobbie said sucking hard on his cigarette. ”I’ll ring Barry and tell him I’ll meet him down the pub about three-ish”. Robbie reasoned time control with himself but I wasn’t listening. Maybe he was just trying to divert my attention from the drama that had just unfolded. He was rambling away to himself about some road being busy on a Monday and some junction having a ‘bastard of a round-a-bout’ at midday. I was still trying to unravel the directions to the ward whilst hurrying to finish the cigarette so I could start another one. It was like Bobbie and I we were having conversations with two other invisible people. Each making a statement that bore no relation to each other.
“I mean, what did the Doctor in Portsdown actually tell me?” I said aloud trying to put everything said to me to date in some logical order. “Something about that I may need a rebuild.” But I couldn’t remember exactly. “I’m supposed to have cancer, not come here for a nose job, aren’t I?” I said to Bobbie.
Bobbie, had been listerning all along apparently. “Maybe they just don’t have another space available. You know what the system is like, put my Mother in a corridor before she died.” I was sure Bobbie was exaggerating but said nothing, besides he may well have had a point. It was common practice to move patients around from ward to ward. Why not new patients? I decided to stop driving myself crazy and lit another cancer stick as my brother often described my habit.
“Ready then?” Bobbie picked up the pace of his smoking and threw his half smoked fag into a convenient rainwater drain. To my dismay and surprise Bobbie had remembered every word of the directions the secretary had given me and was leading the way like an experienced hospital pathfinder. “Sure you haven’t been to this place before Bob?” I asked him. “Maybe, in another life.” He said it with an air of confidence. We reached the end of yet another corridor and entered into a new space.
It was classic Gothic. Dark and foreboding, with the almost stomach wrenching institutional odor of bleach which seemed to make it worse than it probably was. The walls were covered with ceramic tiles, typical art nouveau style, quite nice if it wasn’t for the fact that some genius had covered over them in brown gloss paint. I decided that I had far more important things on my mind than continuing to critique the entire institution and its lack of colour sense. It would achieve nothing anyway. Bobbie walked straight into the room where he found a bell and rang it. Nothing happened apart from an echo. And so we waited. “Got a TV in here that’s good isn’t it” Bobbie said pointing to a large and rather dated looking television. “Probably doesn’t work.” I replied cynically. He couldn’t help but tinker with it. Whilst he was pressing buttons and checking the power source, I had sunk lower into my mind. This place did not inspire me with confidence at all. Perhaps I should walk away and go back with Bob. I mean I don’t feel ill, not one bit. What if they are wrong? What if I haven’t got cancer at all? What if I in denial? What exactly are they going to do with me in the operating room?
I sat down to think about it. Bobbie gave up on the old television and began reading cards that were pinned to the walls with tacks. “This one says, ‘thanks for everything you did to try to help my Father Sidney Dalton. Great caring, a million thanks again, warm regards, John Dalton.’ There’s load of cards from people, must do a good job here.” He tried to cheer me up. “Sounds like they all died Bob,” I suggested and forced a faint cynical smile “Do you want me to stay or should I get going?”
Bobbie started to ramble to himself again. “No. I’ll wait till you have seen the nurses, I wonder where everyone is?” He stuck his head out from round the door that we had entered into. “Can’t see no-one, typical”. He moaned and rang the bell again and again. In the meantime I had decided to stay put, knowing that if I walked away my brother and my wife would go crazy at me. And I couldn’t live with their worry, let alone my own. Better to stay and face up to whatever it was that lay before me, at least I’d know one way or the other if I was to live or die, at worst I may get a time forecast for my demise. Finally I gave in to Bobbie and told him; “Bobbie, you get going mate, you’re doing no good here, better get back to the firm,” said in a very quiet and gentle manner. “You sure mate? I mean I’ll stay if you want but maybe it is best if I do go.” He smiled and followed it up with, “probably just driving you mental anyway? And then he laughed. “I’ll tell your Brother you made it here alright shall I?” With that rhetorical question unanswered, he walked over to me and gave me an affectionate hug, which brought a tear to my eye. He was right of course, he had been and was driving me a little more insane than I already was.
Perhaps his staying gave me false hope of escape. Bobbie had stood firmly by me these last few months and we had become like real brothers. I was sad to see him leave. I began busying myself gathering pamphlets about cancer facts and support charities for cancer sufferers when I suddenly heard footsteps coming from near the wooden desk, just a little past the waiting room. I ventured outside the door. “Hello” I said to a lady in a cotton chintz blue dress. “Mister. Tranner:” She asked “Taylor” I corrected her. She had a funny dialect, one which, I knew, was going to present difficulty. “You should have been here half an hour ago.” Is what I think she said, but I struggled to translate her words into something understandable. The minutes of silence during the translation must have seemed if I was being rude to her. “Sorry, we, I mean I was directed to the wrong department and then somehow I just got lost”. I wasn’t about to tell her that I’d gone for a smoke.
The lie held up. She tutted and then asked for my brown folder. She was an odd type. She had a sort of permanent grin as though she had had a imperfect face-lift. Must be so, I thought she’s in the right place, which in turn brought an equal sized grin to my face. There we were facing each other, both grinning and neither really understanding clearly what the other was saying.
“Nice day!” I attempted to bring the exchange to some form of normality. “Thought you done a bunk.” I think she said whilst smiling at me all the time, which was starting to unsettle me even more than I was already. “Lots of you men do a bunk by the time you get here”. She murmured whilst continually smiling at me. “Really” I responded with a look of false surprise. Then it sunk in what she had said – I repeated it aloud.- ”Most men do a bunk by the time they reach here?” – She nodded as confirmation of an absolute truth.
….Why? What could be worse than death? The voice in my head asked me, but I couldn’t nor wanted to answer, because whatever it was…I was next in line.
Photographs acknowledgements: 1)Robert Neilson / The Guest Hospital, Tipton, West Midland 2)Corridors: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=480084