... Would you mind just lying down on the table?
His tone was cool and calm. She wasn’t nervous but made sure to follow every request quickly. He asked the nurse to roll out some white tissue paper to cover the bed and to switch on the extendable lamp that stood next to it.
Should I …
Yes, he said without looking up. If you slip your trousers off for me and let me know when your done.
He pulled the curtain round, hiding her completely, confining her to a small space just around the bed with only a tiny gap left at the end where she could see his arms resting over the keyboard at his desk, typing. She removed her shoes and pulled down her leggings, folding them clumsily and putting them on top of her trainers on the floor. She sat down on the bed and felt the paper towel rustle beneath her. She ripped a small bit moving her body to lie back on the bed.
I, I’m ready.
The curtain opened abruptly and without looking directly at her, he pulled the lamp closer to her, holding it over her pelvic area. She could only see his eyes because of the mask and visor he was wearing.
So when did all of this start?
Er, maybe when I was eleven … or twelve?
Her intonation sounded like she was asking him a question so she laughed, pointlessly like she had made a joke, and tried to correct herself.
Sorry, I don’t know why I’m asking you.
She hated having to answer questions about herself, it brought her back into the room. She liked to stay quiet, and go somewhere else in her mind. She would try and detach her thoughts from the present situation. Like it didn’t even matter what was happening to her physical body because her mind and body were separate. She could be absent; her imagination could roam free because one didn’t rely on the other at all. Whatever happened in the room was isolated to the corporeal matter that was weak and deteriorating, relying on medicine to get stronger. Her mind was her own, untouchable. Her body was just the vessel.
He didn’t reply to her as he lifted her right leg up, resting her foot in the crease of his elbow, supporting her knee with his hand. He moved it around in a circle, first one way and then the other and then back and forward, finally he stretched it out straight, slowly. She watched his hands move around her leg, from her thigh down to her ankle. He was delicate and gentle. Every movement seemed to flow on from one another. There was something calming about it, like watching a beautiful ballet dancer move around the stage.
He placed her leg down and turned from her. He sat down at his desk and wiggled the mouse next to the keyboard. When the screen lit up he clicked on something and started to type. She readjusted herself and could feel her hands were clammy as they stuck to the plastic material of the bed. He stood up and turned back to her, putting both of his hands on either one of her hip bones and pushed down hard, using his weight to move side to side. She could feel the nurse’s eyes looking at them. Goosebumps had started to creep up her arms and the back of her neck and for some instinctual reason she started to hold her stomach in tight, tensing it.
Breathe, he said quietly, you can breathe.
She felt a strange intimacy with him. She exhaled and laughed gently.
He turned back to his desk and began typing again. It was silent. The only sounds were the faint noises of a phone ringing somewhere in the hospital and a door closing. Outside the day was overcast. A cold grey light broke in through the white plastic blinds. The window was open slightly and the blind gently knocked against the side of the window. The sound reminded the girl of the boats in the harbour, near her childhood house, the masts clinking in the breeze. She used to sit and watch them with her dad. She closed her eyes for a moment and thought of him. He loved that noise.
When she opened her eyes she looked in the nurse’s direction. The girl wondered how many times a day she had to sit in that chair, waiting for doctors to inspect patients and write notes; and how many personal details she knew about otherwise complete strangers. What did she think about when she was sitting there? What time her shift ended possibly? What to get for dinner? Maybe she was going on a date later, maybe she had just left her husband… maybe she wasn’t thinking of anything much at all.
He turned back to her and removed his glasses. He looked down and coughed slightly, to clear his throat maybe, or to think of how to phrase the diagnosis. She had been in this position many times before. She knew all she had to do was nod and say I understand when it was appropriate to do so. She knew how to withhold any emotions until she was a safe distance away from the room, the hospital even. But this time was different. He had shown her warmth. Only briefly, but she wanted to see him properly. To take off the visor and the mask, even though she knew he couldn’t. She wanted to see his lips, the lines around his mouth, the shape of his chin, his smile. He had dark hair and deep set eyes with long eyelashes protruding out. He must have been about forty. He was slender, but strong. There were veins on his hands that were darkish blue and raised. She tried to study every detail of what she could see of him, desperately trying to read his expression, his body language before he started talking to her in medical language she usually couldn’t understand, before she got lost in what was good or bad news and before she was sent out of the room alone to deal with what came next. She wanted him to tell her to breathe again.
So, from what I can see Miss …
THE LOW ROAD
I tried to kill a 14-year-old boy last week.
I don’t think it’s a massive deal. Not like alert the police big deal. I think it was just a slight slip in moral judgement. Again, not a big one. Just the sort that people get who realise they’ve accidentally stolen something and don’t return it, or flirt with a bartender to get free drinks.
Just small and innocent. A blip.
I didn’t intentionally set out to kill a 14-year-old boy by the way. I was driving, going to take myself for a solitary stroll, mostly to force another couple of hours to drip away while I wait for my life to start (which is becoming slowly synonymous with death). Not far from my house I saw a group of teenage boys and one girl walking along, stretched out in a line like a fucking zebra crossing. So I continued driving towards them thinking the natural thing for them to do was to start moving out of the way (slowly of course, no teenager can be expected to move faster than 1mph) but they didn’t. Instead I saw them starting to shout things at me. Waving their arms and pretending to dart out in front of me. One boy in particular, desperately trying to impress the only female in the group, was being aggravatingly arrogant. But, as I got closer, a calm washed over me. I felt myself turn the steering wheel towards him. He was on the other side of the road to his compadres and I made a bee line for him. Locked in a game of chicken, it felt like it was just me and him. I got closer and closer, his bold, confrontational expression turned nervous, even scared! and as I quickly swerved (I felt very powerful, like James Bond) … (I drive a Honda) … away from him to avoid a collision with a child, we made eye contact through my window. His face was shocked, eyes wide and mine fixated, squinting at him, my nemesis who I had just allowed to live for one more day.
As I drove away I saw the shock leave him and his friends started to point at me. He managed to get his bravado back after, lets face it, shitting himself, and once again resumed to shout things at me. But this time I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hear him. I just smiled and put my middle finger up and stretched my arm out of the window…