Strange Encounter (More prose)

 I sat on a bench outside the hospital awaiting the arrival of a taxi. They said ten minutes; they always say ten minutes.

A disheveled looking man occupying an electric wheelchair made his way toward me. He wore pale blue pyjamas, plain, standard hospital. A roll up, pointed inwards, was pinched between middle finger and thumb. It started to rain; he pulled a hood over his head.
“How’s you today?” he asked, throwing away the roll up, not waiting for an answer. “They don’t know what’s wrong with me; that’s why they’re keeping me in”. The roll up lay smouldering.

 He was upset he was going to be in hospital for the start of Ramadan. I felt the need to be polite ; I asked how long it lasted, even though I already knew. His eyes, vaguely focused on some middle distance point, seemed vacant as he informed me it lasted a month, fasting during daylight hours. I enquired about drinking water. He shook his head solemnly. That’s why he was hoping it wouldn’t be too warm. I expressed surprise at the notion of taking no liquid, and he stared at me intently.
“It’s only a month”. he said. “The Prophet did it for a whole year”.
I felt uncomfortable.
“That’s a long time”, I said, a little weakly. “I wonder how he coped”. I heard myself; it sounded a silly thing to say. Still staring hard, he pointed a determined index finger, arm stretched to full length, toward the sky; he remained silent throughout the whole process.

 My taxi arrived. He smiled
“Have a nice day”, he said.

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Caesarean Section – Saturday September 30th 1972

In the 70s, ante/post natal care in the UK within the NHS left a great deal
to be desired. Thankfully that has changed over the years and mums are now treated
like human beings.

Sunlight edged through bevelled
glass, hovered softly across
the water, a jug of liquid gold

waiting for painful sips to be
taken as surges rose and fell;
you had decided it was time,
we would do this together.

You shifted and shifted
hour after laboured hour;
I pushed in vain, until
suddenly it seemed all
senses were cancelled,
crossed off the list of
essentials for giving birth.

I clawed my way out of
drug riddled fog; no doctor,
no nurse, no family – no baby.
My silent screams bounced off
icy walls like a pin ball.

Twenty-eight life long hours later,
trundling wheels through endless
corridors to nowhere led me slowly
toward you, stone-faced uniform,
accusatory, hostile silence.

We finally met, still painfully
divided by unyielding glass;
you were beautiful –
vulnerable, innocent,
impossible and real.

And I had failed you already.

 

 

Wendy L. Macdonald

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