I scream but my cries are lost in the general mayhem. I listen and wait. I remember nightmares when I was a child. My screams would wake me up, but no one would come. I would scream again, with less conviction, and listen some more. Nobody stirred. Uneasily, I would fall back to sleep. I was a poor sleeper, in my early years. The family moved around the country, my father unable to settle down, and I would sleepwalk, fall out of bed, and generally have sleeping issues. Nevertheless, I was always full of whim and vigour when morning came, the night terrors forgotten, eager to face a new day.
These days, the dislocation is internal. I am not so much moved as unmoored from my familiar signposts. I scream to express my desire to be heard. If I don’t scream, how will they know I am alive? I remember getting Sparky from the kennel, his vocal cords all used up from the incessant barking. We never left him there after that traumatic experience. Will someone rescue me too? Will I have to stay in this hellhole? The noise is deafening, but it’s also a blessing. I am not alone in my fight. We are tied to the bed, not enough helpers for our lot.
I am wet. Wet and hungry. I can no longer talk, but I can still remember when my Marjorie was in hospital to get her tonsils out. She was so agitated that they had tied her down. I was shocked and had them untie my child. She cried in my arms as I fed her Jell-O. I hope I get green Jell-O. It’s my favourite. The nurses’ aid is changing my nappy. I don’t really care who sees my bottom. I only care to be dry. She tells me we will be fed soon and wipes the drool off my chin. What a mess.
The effort to eat is enough to tire me out. I fall asleep only to be woken up by screams. It is night, but you wouldn’t know it. The lights in the corridor are not even dimmed. They hurt my eyes. I close them again and will away the sound. When I was a young mother, I took meditation classes. We were shown how to integrate the ambient noise into our meditation. I have always found this approach the best one for me. If you can’t beat them, join them. The bars of the bed are raised, in effect preventing me from getting up and going to the bathroom. I press the red button for help but soil myself before the overworked aid arrives. He smiles to say he’s sorry, dries me gently and moves me around. I am getting bedsores.
It is morning. I hear distant cries. The person seems to be in pain. I feel okay this morning. My head is clear; I slept well without a sleeping aid. My nurse stops by, all smiles. I want to ask her about her new sweetheart. I smile what I hope is a conspirational smile. She only needs that nudge to spill out the beans. She shoves a ringed finger under my nose. “He proposed!” I beam at her. She beams back. “You’re the first one I’ve told. Here. I mean, outside of my family.” I love that she is so precise, so eager to be truthful. I touch my chest to show I am moved. She hugs me and tends to my needs. I hear whimpering. She stops in alarm. “Did I hurt you? Those bedsores are nasty. I will put a note on your chart, so you will be moved more often. Would you like to be wheeled to the common room?” I nod. She calls an aid and gives her order. “Move her to the common room an hour before lunch and wheel her by the window, will you? With a blanket because of the drafts. And feed her there if she is not too tired.” She winks at me and heads to her next charge. The aid grumbles but complies.
The mobile ones come to the common room, but the neglected ones stay in bed. The aid actually brushes my hair and changes my gown after bathing me. I feel alive. I watch the birds, their cries distant and joyous. I don’t feel like screaming today. I will give my vocal cords a rest. There is so much life out there, beyond the window. Cars, and clouds, and birds. People hurrying and people sitting. Someone speaking on the phone, another eating a sandwich. I eat too. They wheel me to a table with three other residents. We don’t look at each other. We are intent on not spilling the grub and getting it down our throats without choking. It’s a task that takes focus and determination. I am spent. I am wheeled back to my room for the afternoon. Marjorie comes while I am sleeping. The nurse says I’ve had a good day. I smile in my sleep and she leaves. Later, I see a bouquet of lilies of the valley, my favourites. I hope she comes back.