Наталия Самохина - Литконкурс 2020, проза

Posted 4 October 2020 · (2107 views) · 11 comments · 8 people like this

Наталия Самохина - Литконкурс 2020, проза

Never let Bill go

All names are fictional


Having parked the car near the stocky brick building, I am taking inside of me the smell of blossom, coming from the garden. There is always something flowering here all year round. A sensor door smoothly opens before me and I’m entering the reception. I’m saying “hello” to the receptionist and signing in. In order to get to the main part of the building I’m pressing the button on my right, located very high on the wall near the door frame. The most important thing now is to get in as soon as possible, to prevent people who are on the other side of the door from slipping out. I meet the eyes of a woman who comes to me straight away. Her eyes have no expression, emotionless. The woman is called Jennet, she is one of our residents with Alzheimer’s disease. I ‘m saying: “Hello, how are you?”, holding her hand and promising Jennet to take her home. We make few steps in the hallway and hear a very loud, annoyed voice, coming out of the room on our right. I know the person, speaking Spanish in there, as well as the fact that she is not supposed to be in that room.
 I manage to get Dolores out of Caroline’s room quickly and successfully. Dolores joins us. Very soon our procession is replenished with a new member – a man with Down’s syndrome. He is in his early sixties but has a brain of six-year-old child. Like a real kid he is over emotional. Sean is very upset about something, talking to himself, his eyes are watery with tears. I stroke his hair, promise to get him nice biscuits and lead my caravan towards the dining room, which is on the way. It always takes me a long time to make my way to the staff room, where I can put my belongings in my locker. That is why I come to work before hours. This is my Australia or, to be correct, a part of it. This is a nursing home where I have been working in for nine long years. This is a place of grief and joy, smiles and tears of desperation, where pain is overcome.
 
Working at this place, which is the last refuge for most people living in there, you must learn how to have a thick skin. Your philosophy of life gets changed, as well as your approach to life and death. A lot of things get changed.
You come to understanding that for eight hours a day you are somewhere on the edge of worlds, like Charon, the carrier of souls of the dead across the River Stix. Did Charon remember names of everyone he supervised? Did he feel sorry for them? He, highly likely, paid an emotional tribute to the courage of those, who completed their earthly journey with dignity and bravely met the eternity. The person who gave me an example of victory of fortitude over infirmity was Bill Morris.


Bill wasn’t with Alzheimer’s disease, nor with any other types of Dementia. He had clear mind, a young soul, an unlimited love to life and people, except that everything of these was held by his tired fragile body, which Bill made move around with his strong will. Walking with the height rollator on the tip of his toes, like a ballerina en pointe, Bill could make his way into the garden to feed birds. He was strong enough to get in a wheelchair and visit the other residents or attend concerts, held a couple of times a week. Yes, he was able to do a lot of things. For example, when all of us were run of our feet, searching for the missing resident with Alzheimer’s disease and ready to call the police, no one else, but Bill could tell us that the person got on the building roof. When it happened, Bill was talking to his parrot, kept in the big cage outside of his room and he became a witness of that amazing event.

One day, while taking care of another resident, called Betty low, I noticed an old photo in her room. In the photo next to Betty, sitting with her husband, was a young man who wore a white apache-shirt. I had no difficulties in recognising Bill in that fellow with the great open smile. Betty informed me straight away about Bill, being a big ladies’ man. That was absolutely true. Old age did not turn him into a creature with no gender, he appreciated feminine beauty a lot. It did not prevent Bill from living with his Japanese wife in love and respect for more than 50 years.  

Yes, Bill’s wife was one of the 650 wives of Australian servicemen, who got a permission to enter Australia to reunite with their husbands in 1952. In the years following World War II, some 12,000 Australian servicemen were posted to Japan, mainly to the naval base in forty kilometers east of the city of Hiroshima. Although these soldiers supposedly had a strict no-fraternization policy with the Japanese, they couldn’t avoid communicating with Japanese waitresses, maids, typists, interpreters, working at the base. Who could stop young hearts from falling in love? “Even knowing that she was from the enemy, I couldn’t refuse her…”, - Bill told me. Before the entry permit was received, Bill with the other servicemen had been fighting for his love with the Government bureaucracy for four years. That was another proof of his fortitude, loyalty and strength of character. It is hard to know, what was more difficult for Bill: the participations in hostilities, which he got his medals for or his exhausting battle for his right to be with the loved woman…

One evening I was working on the wing were Bill’s room was and I came in to cancel his call. Bill already was in bed. His face was grey and lifeless. He couldn’t talk, just ask me to call home, to his wife by signing. I rushed to the Team Leader for help. There are no doctors, working in Australia’s nursing homes. We have Registered Nurses as our Team Leaders, to be responsible for taking important decisions. Our Team Leader that night was a young Korean man, called Biblical name Sion. Having had a look at my face and listened to my report about everyone’s favourite Bill Morris, being in a critical condition, he called an ambulance straight away.    
When the paramedics arrived, I had already got Bill ready for hospital. And Bill was gathering his strength. Looking at his face I understood: he wouldn’t let anybody get him of the bed onto an ambulance trolley like a sack. I truly felt he was making his worn-out heart to pump blood trough his veins quicker. His grey face turned pinkish, the lips, absolutely lifeless before, were smiling again, the sparkles came back in his eyes. The fighter was ready for his final battle, the performer was preparing himself for making a great entrance. Bill got out of the bed with ease, like a young man. Placed his hands on the rollator handles. One step forward – and graceful turn; for two more steps en pointe – and one more turn; little run of three steps – and he already got onto the trolley. Now It was my turn to make an entrance: I was obliged to help my friend to finish his performance, which was being watched only by the paramedics, looking at Bill with respect. I bended myself over Bill and told him the following: “Even do not try to escape! You have no chance to hide yourself from me even in there: I will follow you and bring you back!”. In response to my words the dying man pulled me towards himself and kissed me hard on the lips. Do I have to mention that the paramedics were impressed?  

When I returned to work the following day, the first resident to meet was Bill, who, turning the wheels of the wheelchair with his hands, was going towards the front office. It was a great load of my mind. I knew exactly that my friend would be fine for the nearest future.  That evening I was working on the other wing and during the shift I only had a quick word with him. I had two days off after that and when I returned to work again, Bill’s room was empty and the door sign with his name had already been taking off…  

I am sorry Bill; I am sorry for breaking my promise never let you go from the world you loved so much. I do not know how it will be like in afterlife. Could I, Orthodox Christian, meet you, Catholic in there or it will not be important at all in the other world, where everyone will have to go to? But you are not gone. You are the one who didn’t let me go. You continue living in my mind and my heart. Every time when I pass the room which for me remains yours forever, I can see your great smile as a promise that everything going to be fine and I will have a good quiet shift.  
 


Nataliya Samokhina

 


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