The beds shuffle and slide as interchangeable as my access to self agency. One ward becomes another until the elusive long sleep turns into a plastic mattress in a holding cell. Inevitably it is irrelevant. Get better they say but their words belies the environment. The clip of the metal buckle closing across wrists, ankles, arms. How much for the girl in the window sir? The one with the oil spill pupils. Soon they say. Soon we’ll let you go. Tomorrow they say, a tomorrow that turns into a today that turns into a litany of false promises.
I wish I’d pissed the bed. Not to lie in my own urine but to give them something, anything to show my defiance of tomorrow. The questions are regurgitated. Are you agitated? I just laugh. My mouth still tastes the acidity of the washing powder that tinged the security guards suit I bit. Fucking bitch he cried whilst I ran just another metre on my fractured foot he’d crushed with his boot towards doors that would never open to tomorrow.
My new today is twisted blinds, flaking two way windows and muted birds I glimpse daily picking at something, anything to consume. Another ward and another day yet still no tomorrow.
They say tomorrow has a routine yet todays is tedious. Tomorrow, my tomorrow, is not their tomorrow. I walk slowly on the side of my foot for the breakfast, lunch, dinner and the meds. There are cookoos here but the walls are strangely absent of time. The world continues without me, I remember they have tomorrows whilst I am left with a shell of a day.
He claps and wanders incessantly with his ghost of a warden tracing his movements. Salvos suited his claps mark the meals louder than the nurses calls. We pass in the hallway and he fingers my sweater and rests his hand upon my shoulder. I ask him how long his tomorrow has been and he tells me three months and claps thrice. His brown eyes look at mine as if to say he already knows his tomorrow will never come.
The questions are repetitive. They ask why but if I knew why I’d tell them. Chase the long sleep. All I chased was seizures, a mask of my own vomit and blankets of warm urine.
“Do you want to die?”. Not particularly. It’s an ethereal game of hide and seek, balancing on that razors edge seeing how much my body can sustain. How close can you get to the sky without descent? The answer is in my subconscious and sleep is the only doorway.
He’s the youngest, bar me. We crouch behind a fire hydrant and suck cigarettes in a quiet camaraderie. He pulls down his hoodie and slips the headphones from his ears. Placing his hand in his pocket he looks up at me. Fingers contain wooden beads strung in a loop with a cross on the end. He slips it over my thumb. I stroke the beads slowly. Ten. He pauses. “A priest gave it to me, for protection.” It sits awkwardly on my thumb. His forefingers stroke the healing scars across the head and heart lines on my hand.
“Who is the priest?” I ask.
“I am the priest.” I hope my tomorrow comes in ten days. Before he leaves he hands me a tiny silver token to protect me further. His tomorrow is court.
Sleep is elusive as my bed mate talks in her sleep. She talks of her children, of petty money, of swindling husbands in between moans and sobs of frustration. I wish I could hand her back her tomorrow and agency but my words will be useless in the dark as her tomorrow hasn’t come for six months so I leave her to fart in her sleep.
Everyone in here has their tomorrows in their arteries. Some have halted their today by mainlining into their bodies. Others are strung in an endless loop of paper cups and plastic dispensaries so their blood runs thicker or thinner so their minds run faster or slower. Some slice and cut until their veins sit inside out, where they feel as if they are meant to be.
Her hand is swathed deeply in fresh bandages and she fumbles with the butter portion. I reach over and open it for her. “What happened?” I ask her. She looks at me, eyeing my intention. I had none albiet curiosity. “I put a kitchen knife straight through my hand.” I just nod. “It’s infected now see, my hand is in necrosis.” Unlike some of the others, she does not want a tomorrow now. Her children flit in and out during visiting hours but I see a relief when she gives them back. I imagine and wonder whether she traced the bones and tendons to find that millimetre gap so it would slide through cleanly. I barely see her after that as she retreats to lay in bed. I think she lies just thinking of today without the burden of tomorrow.
The algae green of his old weatherproof jacket twitches almost as much as the Parkinson’s narrates the gait of his constant loop. Up one hallway, down another, alongside the building. His beard almost touches his chest and his feet are as brown as the tobacco stains on his fingers. Bemused I watch him roll a cigarette. I offer him a tailor. He declines. The wind rushes between us and the trees continue to shake the dead leaves from the living with no thought of tomorrows.
It’s a cold spring. The season of rebirth is still filled with rain and icy winds. Summer is late. We all half heartedly pick at plates in the dining hall, only few words spoken. We’re all solitary in our search for respite, an answer or a semblance of normality. I think we have all realised winter is not going to end this spring.
“You got ACDC on that music thing sister?” The blackfella asks. I shake my head. “What about rap music?” I nod. He flips to NWA. “FUCK DA POLICE” he laughs. “Tried to get some weed in here sister, but the nurses stole my pockets.”
“Get your mate to bring you in some baked goods.” He laughs and shows me his new-old shoes. “They’re alright eh? Haven’t had new shoes in a while.”
“You voluntary?” I shake my head. “Could’ve come to the park sister.”
I am remined of the tedium and the invisible line I cannot walk beyond.
Finally I am called into an office and they tell me I am sane and can have my tomorrow, tomorrow.
There is a woman, tall and gaunt that walks the wards at night. Overcome with her insomnia she knocks and raps on every door. It’s two in the morning and she pauses at my entrance. Peering in she sees me writing.
“You’re going tomorrow?”.
“Where are you going?”
I don’t have an answer for her, maybe tomorrow has it.
By Pippa O’Sullivan
First published, November 23, 2013: HERE