The hallways are typically stark, save the oil paintings of founding nuns and pedophilic looking philanthropists. Consequently there was little to stimulate my mind, aside from the lingering thought of Sarah. Lingering would suggest that it was on the periphery, walking back and forth; perhaps ‘loitering’ was a better description. That’s it, Sarah was loitering in my thoughts and she couldn’t be moved on.
Sam had been transferred from the ER to the neurosurgical ward. Last I knew, Sarah was working in the cardiac unit, so the chances of seeing her were slim as they were in different wings. With this knowledge I decide to wait in a non-descript room – not ready to see Sam just yet. I take a seat and the décor looks as if it had been switched out of an airport terminal and given just the right amount of sheen.
“Honey, what’s this mean?”
I watch as the grown man next to me writes “nay” as his place of birth.
His stupidity astounds me, but I guess the explanation he was given by his companion wasn’t exactly textbook.
“Did you dream last night, sweetie?” He asks her.
“Honey, fill out the form.” She fires back.
“So you didn’t dream then?”
“I dreamt we’d be here.”
“No, now fill out the form.”
A man, his head holding pace with the ground, moves past us carrying a bunch of flowers, ones you wouldn’t find in the hospital’s gift shop. These were pre-meditated flowers. To be given with more purpose than their gift shop counterparts.
“Over here, mate.” The ‘nay’ sayer calls, nodding at the man’s flowers and nudging his companion in the ribs.
She laughs and now I hate them both. The poor man, forced to halt by the idiot’s call, turns back in the direction he was headed and closes his eyes, as if to find strength. Finally, he gathers enough momentum and starts walking the corridor again, his head barely holding pace with the ground. I couldn’t believe the idiot next to me, and I almost say something. Then I imagine sticking the stalks of the flowers up his ass, and my lips give way to a chuckle when I think that they might start growing again.
It seems an appropriate time, so I move down the corridor to the neurosurgical ward.
“Sam Howard, please.”
After much deliberation and rustling of papers, the nurse, with enormous lumps on either side of her stethoscope, replies, “Sorry sir, there is no Sam Howard in this ward.”
“Sean Howard. I mean, Sean Howard is his name. Apologies. When we were kids he…” She interrupts -
“Room 4; down the corridor; on the left.” She motions, head still down, pre-occupied with a roster of some description.
“Thank you, Sister.”
I wasn’t sure if she was a nun and I didn’t give a fuck. Rude as anything. Prude as anything, even? I wasn’t sure.
The room smelt of Sam already, it was quite extraordinary.
“Hey mate, how you feeling?” I fane curiosity, with a touch of sympathy and concern.
“Not too bad, thanks, J.”
“No, but really, how you feeling?” Now choosing to adopt the tone of a school bully, mocking his victim on the ground in front of the other kids.
“J, you know what? You’ve got more grey hairs than dollars.”
“How long have you been holding that one in?”
I had no idea what he meant, but as usual my brain began to tangle itself in order to untangle his mess of thought. What does this mean? That I am too stressed? Is he saying I should work less? Or that I have heaps of money? I know I have lots of greys, Sarah always used to tell me that. She used to say, Jezza, you’ve got salt and pepper hair. The difference is, she always said it made me look distinguished. I doubt if that’s what Sam meant. Perhaps he was merely trying to weasel Sarah back into conversation, into my head. He knew that she always spoke of my grey hairs.
“What the fuck, Sam? Trying to get Sarah back into my head?”
“She’s not here, by the way, you can relax.”
I instantly relax.
“What? I don’t care.”
I did care.
“She’s not well, J. Something about going off the rails. Not like a train wreck or anything, she’s not physically harmed. The nurse said something about her not having worked in a while. Not well, she said. It’s no good.”
“Why the fuck were you even asking about her!?”
“J – even after everything, she’s still the love of my life.”
It was the first thing he’d said since returning to my life that I instantly understood. That I understood on face-value. The first thing he’d said, that I too felt, and believed.