Printed from WriteWords -

Incontinence & Dragonflies

by  Bobo

Posted: Friday, September 5, 2003
Word Count: 1534
Summary: Autobiographical. Wrote this when I was about 22 and edited it a few days ago...10 years later!

Kirsty struggled with Dora’s knickers; waist-high pants that could have housed a family of four and which were resisting Kirsty’s efforts. She helped the frail old lady edge backwards towards the specially heightened toilet which seemed always to be standing to attention, ready for duty, concentrating hard on the task in-hand as she didn’t want a repeat of last week when Ralph had slipped through her grip and broken his ankle. As Dora descended - oh-so-slowly - towards the opening, preparing to aim and fire ( both of which she found difficult as senility sunk its mighty incisors into brain and dignity simultaneously ), Kirsty started to bat life-thoughts around in her head. Was hers a ‘life worth living’?…how on earth did she get to be here in life?…were all her dreams and ambitions for nothing?…would she soon come to see that this was all part of some perverse ‘great scheme of things’…? She felt that life was having one over on her, pulling a fast one, some sleight of hand that had taken her unawares. It certainly wasn’t fair. She was intelligent; she had a degree. She was a great communicator; people had told her so. She wasn’t afraid of hard work; she didn’t like it particularly, but it didn’t scare her. She was outgoing; she went out a fair bit, in fact! And yet, she remained, very tediously, unemployed, driven to voluntary work so as not to stagnate totally. Why, oh why, oh why…..? The question twirled around and around, itself becoming quite dizzy…until Kirsty was brought back to her senses by the unbelievable stench of Dora’s rather lively bowel movement, that most pungent of smelling-salts.

‘Alright, Dora? All done?’

Dora said nothing. She rarely did. She just gazed into oblivion with eyes that had died many years ago, waiting to be hauled to her feet and wiped clean. Kirsty obliged, glad that she was at least able to take a crap by herself.

Back on the ward, with Dora safely tucked-up in her own little world, it was time to become Queen of Empathy; as the drinks trolley began its eleven o’clock excursion, so that was the cue for ’Talking To Patients ( something the nursing staff hadn’t adequate numbers for any more ). Not that there were ever any conversations as such - just a succession of monologues, distinct yet overlapping like some bizarre crossed-line. Kirsty was rarely, if ever, Kirsty. To Maude she was ’Mother’, to Shirley she was her miscarried daughter from forty years ago. To Florence she was the wicked school-mistress from childhood who had been rather too liberal at dishing out corporal punishment. Though she found it best to play along to a certain extent, trying to be who they wanted her to be, she was always struck by the futility of it all; anything she said or did seemed to evaporate before it could so much as pierce their reality.

‘Don’t hit me! Please don’t hurt me. Please…don’t…hit…me…!’, Florence screamed in Kirsty‘s direction. Perfectly timed, as Maureen simultaneously threw up in her lap. The words ‘looks good on your CV’…’looks good on your CV’ whirred through her head, acting as a kind of comforter, holding her hand to carry her through. Which it did, but only just.

Three rousing renditions of Daisy Daisy and almost a dozen wolf-whistles later ( what is it with men and uniforms?! ), the flat which kirsty shared with her ( employed ) flatmate Nick greeted her coldly. The grey walls frowned at her and seemed to whisper ‘Loser’ - strange how even the décor can be disapproving when you‘re down on your luck. The answer-phone, at least, defied peer pressure and flashed ‘MESSAGE’ cheerfully, letting her know that someone cared. She hit the ‘play’ button with optimism. ‘Just mum…ringing to see how you are’, said a very nasal voice, not unlike passenger information announcements on public transport. The message ended and an almost apologetic ’BEEP, BEEP, BEEP’ let Kirsty know that that was it - only her mother was the slightest bit concerned about her, and unfortunately wasn’t offering a job of any description. She rang nearly every day, Kirsty’s mum, primarily to make sure that her ’child prodigy’ (school reports and mothers are often prone to exaggeration ) wasn’t becoming suicidal ( that being even more of a stigma than unemployment ). Though Maggie was a good woman, large of bosom and mouth , her mothering technique was a lethal mix of over-protection and disappointment - nobody could say a word against her precious daughter, except her of course! Kirsty knew that throughout the years to come, her mum would be there for every single cock-up or shortfall, waiting in the wings, booing and hissing, armed with a Goliath-size catapult. Deciding she could do without yet another scathing maternal review, Kirsty hit the delete button on the machine and retired to the bath. The bath whose bubbles would soothe her body and anaesthetise her mind. If only life was like a bath, she thought.

The following week, Kirsty made her way to the hospital as usual. The sun shone happily and she had something of a spring in her step. Okay, there was still no sign of paid employment, nor had she managed to totally get the previous week’s sick stain out of her volunteer uniform, but she was chirpy nonetheless. Life was good - not perfect, of course, but definitely pretty damn good all the same. What joys awaited her at St Mary’s today, she wondered. No doubt the usual bum-wiping, bed-bathing, 1950’s sing-songing, etc, but what extra special treats would the wizened old’uns have in store for her? Kirsty didn’t care - today she was ready for anything.

At it transpired, she wasn’t quite as ready as she’d thought - life pulled one of its special tricks out of the bag. She was met by the Ward Sister on her way in - a thick-set horsy-looking woman in her late thirties, not renowned for her bedside manner. To date, Kirsty had managed to stay out of her way pretty much, egged-on by some of the horror stories she’d heard from the nurses. Her disciplinary techniques were the stuff of urban legend!
’I need to see you in the Consulting Room Ms Forester. Now,’ she boomed.
The flutter of anxiety that rose within Kirsty was reminiscent of the tellings-off from high school years when she’d been very much on the mischievous side. Though the walk could only have lasted a few minutes, Kirsty trailing in nervous panic, the thoughts reeling through her mind felt as though they lasted hours. What had she done wrong? What had she done wrong? Maybe she’d mixed-up the dentures…oh God, an easy mistake to make but one she’d never live down. Perhaps she’d left one of the patients stranded on the toilet, forgotten about them…it really didn’t bear thinking about. Her mind was rewinding to the previous Tuesday, searching for evidence as to her crime, nothing was forthcoming. A situational throw-back to her teens, she fought the urge to whine, ‘But I haven’t done anything…‘. When they reached the room Kirsty was ushered to a seat and the door was firmly closed. Her heart was pumping somewhere in her mouth and her stomach churning for all it was worth.
‘Miss Lewie died yesterday,’ said the horsy features, slightly less harshly than was usual for them. Kirsty stared back at her, bemused.
‘Miss Lewie?’
‘Dora,’ she clarified. This was the first death since Kirsty had started on the ward and, though not unexpected on a geriatric ward, she found she was taken-aback, upset, and angry all at once. So much for the lovely sunny world’s-a-grand-place day!
‘Poor Dora,’ she half-whispered, ‘Thanks for letting me know…nice of you.’
The equine brow furrowed slightly, not accustomed to being described as ’nice’ , nor finding it gratifying.
’The reason I wanted to tell you away from the ward is that Dora asked me to give you this’.
She opened a door in her desk and retrieved a small brooch.
Handing it to Kirsty she reiterated, ’She wanted you to have this.’ Kirsty’s hand reached out to accept the filigree gold dragonfly, but her mind was desperately playing catch-up.
’There must be some mistake,’ she croaked.
’No mistake.’
’But Dora didn’t even know who I was…didn’t know who anyone was.’ Kirsty had always felt anonymous with Dora and Co., as though she was no more than the functions she performed or the fiction of their collective mind’s eye.
She looked at the brooch, taking in its burnished hue and fragility. ’It’s very beautiful.’
’Yes. Not worth anything I shouldn’t think, but nice all-the-same.’
‘I can’t believe it; she actually knew who I was, remembered me?’
Sister Privet nodded her head slightly and, for the first time that Kirsty had witnessed, smiled. ’Just when you think it’s all pointless, one of the ol’ dears does something like this,’ she said, ’makes it feel a bit better, I reckon.’
Kirsty tried to smile, holding the dragonfly in the palm of her hand, a tear sliding down her freckles. ’Yeah. It makes it feel a whole lot better,’ she whispered.