Beyond furry, my tongue pushes cement across the roof of my mouth, skirting my naked gums. My mouth shapeless where once my full lips pouted; there are no false teeth today. My face is merely a replica of what I once was.
My eyes skate around the room, past curtains, past white coated workers; I am insignificant here. Beside me a girl cries. I am too close to her fear, her trolley so close to mine I could reach out and touch her face. I imagine a curtain between us, carefully not seeing her as others are not seeing me. This is a private place. All so close but each in our own world; a battery of patients lined up on trolleys.
My breath crackles in my throat. I can see a water cooler in the corner but there is no one to help me. As I slowly shift my weight in preparation to get down from this platform a man in blue passes.
“Careful now, don’t fall off!”
He smiles at me without really looking. The bedside comes up. I am an infant, caged. Unable to care for my own needs, not trusted to stand. I drag my sandpaper tongue across my crumbling lips.
Closing my eyes I attempt to swallow. One, two, three…
The young ones pass me. They are busy, their movements tense and purposeful. They do not look my way; I am in the ‘sorted’ area. Awaiting our next destination we are no longer their concern. A girl smiles as I catch her eye, but turns her head as she sees I want to speak to her. She looks uncomfortable. I am not her job, and she steps quickly into a cubicle; there are more people to sort.
I question the next young one to pass me. A frown appears; it was not her title I realise now. Her eyes scan the room to see if there is anyone else to help me. Like me, she realises there is no one else, everyone is too busy. She is defeated, her shoulders slump as she turns towards me and her eyes meet mine.
“Can I help you?”
She is relieved at the simplicity of my request and soon there is coolness slipping down my throat.
I am a Person again.