I stare out of my ground floor bedroom window. Across the lawn, a group of people are pottering around the lawn. They are a mixture of ages and sex and share the same look of concentration. The sunlight bounces off the metal edges of their tools. They continue their labours and plant the new flowers.
Before my eyes, the empty flowerbeds come alive with colour. It reminds me of an artist’s palate; splashes of reds, whites, blues, greens awash together and forming one. I recall a painting of a vase bursting with meadow flowers. The petals had been done in great detail and they stood out from everything else.
The last plant is placed and there is a round of applause. They collect the tools in a wheelbarrow and hand it back to the head gardener. They all slowly walk off. The brown background appears better and now I have something other than emptiness to look out upon.
Standing, I watch the breeze play with some fallen petals. The song Colours of The Wind from Pocahontas plays in my head. The wind carries the petals and some leaves out of sight. I imagine them joining feathers, nut shells and twigs to create a swirling pattern.
I look down at my palms. They are clean and covered in lines. A little voice in my head tells me it’s wrong. My hands should be splotched with colours like the flowers outside. My fingers should be gripping something and my mind should be crowded with images. A bust of pain hits my head and I clutch it tightly in my hands.
A woman is screaming though white noise. It’s all I can hear. I squeeze my eyes shut and double over. My breath is ragged and I can’t fill my lungs. I stubble backwards, hit my bed and tumble. The bed explodes around me. Ripped duvet, blanket and pillow pieces float by with white stuffing drifting between.
Spread eagle, I watch it land around me. The pieces feel soft and watching them is calming. It reminds me of making snow angels and then seeing the snowflakes falling. When it stops I sit up and stand in the middle of the floor. Slowly, I begin to manipulate the mess into an image.
My door opens. I look up and see a nurse standing there. She puts her hands on her hips and stares at me like a naughty child. She questions me, but I don’t answer. I can’t explain this to her or to anyone else. They wouldn’t understand the complexity of it all, the raw emotions of the piece; the bleeding heart at the very centre.
I leave quietly. Though I can’t bear it, but watching them destroy my work would be worse. I wonder down the hallway, listening to the mumble of voices. It helps to imagine that I am locked in a dream as I don’t want to admit reality. My fingers trail the wall and turn the corner of a new space.
A large room appears before me. It’s made up to be a living room, with sofas, chairs, coffee tables, a bookcase and a TV. I count four people dotted around. Three stare at the screen, hypnotised by a game show and the other is sat on the floor. I’ve seen this scene so many times before, yet I view it with new eyes every time.
I know the man on the floor is Pete and a part of his brain is missing. He likes to be alone, like me, but he can’t be trusted not to try and bash his head in. The old woman in the arm chair is Dora. She pretends not to notice, but really she sees everything and knows all.
Next to her sits Patrick. A man younger then I and far more troubled. He mumbles all the time and makes so little sense. Rumour is he was a mathematic genius and a single sum drove him insane. Sharing the sofa with him is Laura. She has been watching me with a smile on her face. She is an angel under all that blond hair and fair skin. I am drawn to her.
I walk around the room. I can’t be still now, I’ve to do something. She is watching me, her eyes following me around the room whilst her head reminds still. Any thoughts of talking to her are dashed by the appearance of a nurse. The tea tray has arrived. I am forced to take a seat if I want a drink.
I wise for something stronger, but there is only tea. Another nurse pops in and helps give Pete a plastic cup of water. He refuses a biscuit. Dora has a cup of tea with a splash of milk and a chocolate biscuit. Patrick has water and my Laura has sweetened tea. I choice that too and have a pink wafer to nibble at.
Desperate the nurse’s better efforts to stop Pete spilling the water, he does so anyway. Once he’s finished drinking, the nurse is force to take him off for cleaning. We are alone again and the TV is the only noise in the room. It hurts my ears and eyes. I finish my tea and leave.
Wondering back down the corridor, I find the lift and press the button. It is empty when it comes and I go inside. Pressing the next floor, I feel the machine moving and it takes me upwards. The door opens and a porter with an empty wheelchair stands there. I slip pass him and head into a large room named Recreation.
Here windows look out across the garden, table and chairs are dotted around and the walls are decorated with bright things. A handful of people are gathered around one table. I go to the first wall and stand before it. There is a painting titled Our Prints. Under it are randomly arranged cut outs of multi-coloured hand and foot prints.
The next is called ‘Our garden’ and there is a tree surrounded by tissue paper flowers. I am not impressed by either of them, so I move to the next wall. This contains some self-portraits, but they are all badly done. A child could have done some of them better! The last one catches my eye.
It is of my angel. She is sitting by a window reading a book. Her head is down and her hair is covering part of her face. Her dress is dotted with tiny flowers and covers her whole body. I make the signature out in the corner, it’s mine. I touch the drawing and then quickly drop my hand.
A voice from behind calls me to the table. They are making collages from magazines. They ask me to join them and I do. When my art is complete, I leave. No one tries to stop me. I go to the lift and press the button. My hands are covered in drying glue. I look down at them and the voice tells me that it’s close, but not good enough.
I go to my bedroom and into the wet room. There is no lock on either door. I wash my hands and remove all the dry glue. I use the loo and have to wash my hands again. My creation from before is gone and my bed is freshly made. I sit down and watch the flowers waving in the breeze.
A knock at the door has my head turning. The new nurse comes in. She is only a girl and her uniform looks too big for her. She looks so innocent and I would like to capture that. She tells me shyly, that it’s time to eat and would I please go to the dining room. I agree and put on a jacket before heading out.
I take my normal place at the head of a table next to the far window. I often eat alone here. Mostly everyone else likes to bunch together on the tables in the middle. They seat the ones that need help at the other side of the room. Then the food is brought out. Tonight it is curry or bangers and mash. Pudding is chocolate mousse and to drink tea, water or juice.
There is nothing special about the food and it reminds me of school. The dining room is loud and I eat fast. Leaving quickly has its benefits as I won’t have to see people refusing food, throwing things around or throwing up.
Back in my room, I lie down and rest. So many thoughts swirl through my mind. One is stronger than the others and that is the image of me standing in an attic like room. Wooden beams run close to my head and the floor beneath me creaks. Light is flooding in from the single window. I am standing before a canvas and there is an empty sofa before me.
In my hand is a pencil and I am sketching the sofa. My other self is hard at work and in deep contraction. He finds drawing relaxing and has aspirations. He has seen the world and now plans to capture it on canvas.
I open my eyes and see the white ceiling before me. I sit up and look out of the window. Night has arrived and I can no longer see the flowers. Getting up, I change into a soft pair of pyjama. I find the book I was reading on my desk and sit there reading it. It is a fictional story about a couple in the Second World War and their sufferings.
A knocking is followed by a nurse telling me its bedtime. Would I like some help? No, no, I am fine. She leaves and I hear her knock at the next door where her services are needed. I take my book to bed and after a few more chapters put it down. I switch out the lights and settle for a good night’s sleep.
A light tapping reaches me and disturbs my dreams. I struggle awake and fumble for the light switch. The clock points out the late hour and I stumble to the door. It’ll be the night nurse come to check on me. I must have slept so heavily these past few nights and so missed her knocking. Why doesn’t she just come in?
I open the door and there is my angel. She puts a finger to my lips and presses a hand to my chest. She moves me backwards and closes the door behind her. She wears a thin night dress that clings to her body. My hands tremble as she lets me go. What does she want? We could get caught. Has something happened?
She answers none of my questions, but takes me to the bed. She forces me down and climbs on top of me, her wispy breath in my ear. Her lips brush my skin and plant kisses on my face. All this time she has wanted me just as I have wanted her. But I’ve not wanted her in this way. No…What I want is to make her my best reminded work.