Let’s welcome Paul (Arvo) to the site with his first submission – a stream-of-consciousness piece that sparks the imagination.
I’m out walking. The sky is code blue against the buff grey of low concrete blocks that make up the geography of this odd small, strange city.
It’s an unplanned walk, the kind I like the best. The sun is shining on my back and I almost feel happiness. Like it’s a friend I’ve not seen in years, an accidental meeting, awkward at first but ok, not like we could meet for a drink yet, but ok. A woman passes carrying a strange, orange, folded corrugated box. Here, it could contain anything.
I’m searching lots of identical-shaped signs, all in the same uniform font. All I’m looking for is the shop. I’ll need to go in one of the buildings, it’ll be on a corridor. It’s always along a corridor here. I pass a sign marked I.C.U. I get a shiver, like I should tip my hat or genuflect or something. Walking into the shop I scan the shelves: razor, shaving can. I’ve not showered for 3 days. Deodorant can only cover so much. I hand the things over the counter. The woman smiles and doesn’t ask. A million stories in a million faces, why should she? She asks what block I’ve come from, I tell her. ‘There’s a shop there,’ she says. ‘Doesn’t stock these though,’ I say pointing at my stuff, ‘No blokes there.’ ‘Oh, yeah. Do you want a bag?’
On my way back I remember the car, if I don’t remember to update it, I’ll get a ticket. There’s no ticket on the car so far so I put money in the machine and get a fresh white square from it. As I approach the car the attendant in his yellow hi-vis is strolling over. I prepare in my mind what I’ll say – ‘No, I didn’t renew my ticket: other things on my mind. Do you feel good about your job?’. But as he approaches, he smiles. I notice he has a slight limp.
Back through into the block, to the ward door. I buzz. ‘Hello?’ I explain who I am, a patient voice says ‘Visiting hours are….’ I talk my way in. Men here are contraband you see, smuggled in under cover of darkness, dissidents in this odd city.
One of the less ‘by the rules’ midwives has found me somewhere to shower. I am pathetically grateful. I undress in the odd en-suite bathroom to a labour room.
Stirrups to add to the bed are piled in the corner. A large blue birthing ball sits in the bath. It has some kind of logo stamped backward on it from bouncing, I don’t have the processing power left to decipher the writing, though I want to. I turn the taps on the bath, then flick the metal switch to turn from bath to shower. I step into the mild fan of hot water. ‘Warning: This water is hot.’, the sign reads behind the pipe. I wash off the emotion of the past 48 hours. I wash off the blood of my baby and my lover. I let the water run. When I get out I know I have to go back to that place of whispers and wires. One day soon maybe I’ll look that old friend up. Maybe, but not today.