The visitors

My mother visited me in the hospital. I was delighted to see her, but not what you would call surprised. This was soon after my by-pass operation, when the anaesthetic had not worn off. Mama had died eight years before, as I was vaguely aware. She was with my aunt, Mildred, who died thirty-two years ago.

The nurse, Harvey, came to say they were here to see me. He would clean me up first, for I was rather a mess. In fact, I seemed to be in a giant wheelchair, with bedding, my hands pinned; and I was at the edge of a steep tunnel. All the people below me — doctors and nurses and “support staff” — were moving about busily, but walking sideways as if the walls were floors, or upside-down as if the ceilings were. Those in my vicinity were correctly oriented, however.

Eventually I was wheeled to my mother and aunt. They were chatting cheerfully with each other; almost ignoring me. But then mama turned to me, with words of advice. These didn’t make sense to me, for I’d asked to have my hands released, and perhaps for a sip of water; not for what sounded like passages from Origen and Augustine. Could mama get me out of here? Apparently not.

There were so many questions I would have liked to ask, but I could not think of them. For instance, how did they get in?

The episode was made the more plausible because the staff were all wearing the muzzles, headbands, and plastic face covers of hospital gear in the Batflu regime. My mother wasn’t, nor was my aunt. Yet, they were not self-conscious. Upon leaving, they seemed familiar with hospital corridors that puzzled me.