As I walk the dim corridors of the Oxfordshire hospital at 4am, I wonder on a spiritual level what has brought me back here once again, exactly what is it that I now need to learn? I live in London, so why am I back here at ‘the scene of the crime’, the same hospital where my Dad lay a few years ago after his cancer operation, before he eventually passed away. I knew the hospital well but never thought I would be back, especially as a patient. I remember saying goodbye to the institution as I made my way out that musky winter day a few years back. I slowly pace the endless asylum type corridors stopping to gaze at the donated paintings from former patients on the walls. I have little energy after 2 weeks of not sleeping and hardly eating, and from somewhere I hear a desperate shriek from a lost soul in a bed nearby calling out in agony. My heart was pierced by their anguish, I wish I could help them, and I thought… I am not so badly off….. I thought of God, I thought about why people suffer, and then I thought…. don’t think, separate yourself from this movie and create no-one to carry the burden, as if there is no-one to carry pain, pain cannot exist.
I run over last night’s operation in my head. The long run down the corridors to the operating theatre, wheeled by the tired porter, on my portable bed, my life carrier for the night, which seemed to transport someone else’s life. I chuckled to myself in the lift, thinking about my lift phobia, as we went down to operating levels. Coming into ‘theatre land’ and meeting ‘The Angels’ as I saw them, the smiling anaesthetic family who somehow managed to make me laugh while they put a tube down my nose and into my throat. I am sure one of them was introduced as ‘Brother G’. I liked that, and trusted the black man in the beanie hat. I saw other angels in blue procedure cloaks surrounded by heavenly crisp white walls, and before they put me under I told them so; ‘you guys are like angels, you’re wonderful’, it had to be said, I wonder if anyone had said that to them before while sober? The last thing I remember was Barbara, the surgeon, waving to me and smiling through a small window in the operating room.
Where can I smoke? it’s been a day since my last cigarette. I come to a door that required a credit card swipe to regain access, so I may not be able get back in, but I had to get out. I walk through and start my decent down four flights of glass stairs to the car park below. The cold wind blows me sideways as I try to light my smoke with a magazine stuck between the doors keeping them slightly ajar. Why the hell am I smoking this while there are kids upstairs with cancer? What the fuck is wrong with me? How could that child in the canteen today be so happy with no hair and tubes everywhere? I deeply inhale, feeling the smoke rush over the swollen wounds in my mouth, and exhale the smoke upwards towards the cheap neon lamps, watching it drift away like a cloud. Suddenly chemicals hit other chemicals and I feel light headed and my knees almost buckle. I need to get back inside, I am weak and delirious. Should I crawl back up the stairs, who cares if anyone see’s me? Then I spot a lift and make my way towards it trying not to faint. I think about settling down in the lift for the night, that is, if I can’t get back into my room. Finally I reach the door to the ward with the credit card swipe system and hold onto the handles and my head sinks down exhausted. I notice a ‘call’ button on the side of the door. I ring and I wait, I ring and I wait, desperately trying not to keel over. Part of me wanted to collapse so that I would be at someone else’s mercy. After what seemed like hours I jump, as a monotone voice leaps through a crackling speaker, “yes, can I help you?” “I need to get back to my room” I say….. erm room ten….. I’m locked out… Sorry… can you please let me in?” All I hear is the clicking sound of the door opener and I stumble through and take pigeon type steps back to my room.
I lie down on the bed my heart beating loudly in my chest and I suddenly notice someone come into the room after me. It’s another angel, the beautiful young nurse appears and calls me by my name “are you ok Will?” is all she says and all I can muster is a murmur as my eyes fall back into my head.
A moment can seem like a lifetime and a lifetime can seem like a moment.