Two doors up from me a lady sits in a waiting room chair beside an open door. She is reading a copy of New Idea. Her glasses slowly slip to the end of her nose. It is early morning by this point. I get a glimpse into the room as the nurse walks me down the corridor. There is a man in there sleeping.
I don’t have a night guardian, but every thirty minutes a nurse pushes open my door and shines a light to where I am lying on the bed. I lie on my side facing the window with the hospital blanket pulled up to my chin. I lie like this for several hours, completely still. I listen to the few nurses on duty, whispering to each other as they pass down the long corridors. Doors open and close, sometimes words are carried through the still, night air. ‘Just checking,’ is uttered the first few times, and then nothing, as if we have already formed a silent agreement in the night, that I am here now, that I will stay here.
I stay like this until morning. Once sunlight filters through the night sky I wait once again, for my door to be opened, for my name to pass through the lips of a stranger. This stranger will ask me the questions you never could. They will make jokes, not because they are morbid, but because this is the kind of thing they see every day and they need a way to cope too. They will make offers of Fruit Loops and show me the counter where I go to collect my food. They will show me the spot where I can watch the turtles. They will tell me I’ll be out in time for the evening news. This stranger will tell me all these things but what they really mean is, stay, what you really need is to stay.