Last stopJoe lay slumped in his chair opposite, his head resting against a pillow, his pyjama top wide open, exposing his sagging belly. His face was bright pink, almost cherubic, and his pupils deep red almost as if they were on fire, demonic even. He was angry and you could see it. Angry about being old and sick. He scowled. Classical music floated from a small, portable radio on a table in front of him and he moved his head in unison, hypnotised by its strains, his only joy in this place of lost souls. Little tufts of white hair clung to the sides of his head and his eyebrows drooped over his face almost blocking his vision. He looked at me almost enviously, wandering what I was doing there.

Jack’s head lay on the pillow, his mouth wide open gulping in the air. His eyes were closed tight, not wanting to open, not wanting to glance at the world of misery and despair around him. Better to keep them shut. To lock it all away in your drug induced sleep far away from the endless needles, the chemotherapy, the tiredness, and the fits. Far away from a world where you no longer belonged.

Roy snored like a lion, his body twisting and turning in his bed. Newspapers scattered all over the floor, glasses crashed down as he tossed and turned, groaning and grunting. He woke momentarily, stared at me and made a perfunctory barking noise. He raised himself up on his elbow and tore open a packet of maltesers, devouring them whole.  He waved at his friend opposite, pulled the sheets around his neck and sank into the abyss of stained red covers.

Colin was just a bearded face staring at me, his eyes wide open. Hair receding, his hands were clutched across his chest almost prayer-like. I nodded but he made no response. A picture of him as a young man in military uniform stood on the cupboard beside him together with one of a white Jack Russell. He tried to move but his head was fixed, his body rigid. He tried to speak but he was locked in a world where none could penetrate. We lay like corpses waiting for the daylight, waiting for that one moment when we knew that we had survived and we had lived to fight another day.

The sun gently glistened through the windows. The nurses and cleaners arrived and we returned.

© Graham Walker 2012

Photo courtesy of Flickr user codifi