Visiting hours

Only five minutes of visiting time left.
I walked past the nurses’ station,
turned right
passed a toilet
into the little side room.
A white bearded stranger in John’s bed.
Back to the nurses’ station.
I’m looking for John?
Oh, you’ve just passed him
– he’s in there?
Er, where?
In here – over to the blue door,
holds it open,
Ah – John sitting on the toilet.
I left them to it.
You can sit here with your friend.
A day room with widescreen tv
– not pink and out of focus,
just a little snowy.
The blue sky out the windows looked
fresh and clear.
George, burly ‘n black, hobble by on a
stick.
Mind, my friend – from John, tucking in
his zimmer.
You’re no friend of mine – from George
with no neck
in an over eighty deiselish sort of way.
Eye roll and twitch of the lip from Caton,
with a murmer of which I only heard
uncouth, cut, and arse.
Lunch came in on trays.
I sat John at the large table.
Cut it up very small.
I did. Steak ‘n kidney mash ‘n peas.
John fed himself.
Cecil, on my left, passed me
little packets of salt n pepper.
I tore them open.
He sprinkled them over
pureedpeas, mash, chicken
finely sieved.
He spooned enthusiastically.
Adjusted the oxygen when it slipped
from his nose.
The nurse said well done.
She smiled at him.
I smiled at her.
John started on the jelly ‘n ice cream.
George ate a big dinner with a big
spoon.
Paul sat across from George,
also looking West Indian,
but as different as you can imagine.
Black, but chalk ‘n cheese.
Sonny Liston ‘n Gary Sobers.
Dave sat opposite Cecil.
White. Different as sleep and alert.
Tony sat beside John.
Looked a little Chinese.
Had pilau rice with olive mash.
We zimmered back to the chairs by the
doorway.
John didn’t want – him (George)
listening in.
George cleared his throat, noisely,
looked like clearing his nose, didn’t,
luckily.
George slept. Paul, looking interested,
nodded off.
Dave slept in his lunch.
Cecil gave me a wave, mouthed Thank
You.
The sky was still blue outside.
John talked, hugged his zimmer, slept
a little.
We walked his zimmer to the toilet and
back.
We talked a little business – what needs
doing,
what sort of care home.
No, money doesn’t mean much, he
said, I agreed.
Nurse I hadn’t seen came in, officious.
I thought she must be checking the
afternoon attendance.
No – forms to fill in for tomorrow’s
lunch.
What about you, Dave? He was awake.
Orange juice?
Mash, Olive Mash or Rice?
Beef, Fish or Chicken?
Would you like the beef, fish, or
chiken?
Beef, fish or chicken?
Life or Death?
I left John. Gave him a pat on the
shoulder.
Went downstairs, stopping at the toilet.
Felt young.
Walked home, stopping at Tescos:
smoked salmon, cucumber and crusty
french bread.

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