Am I in a dream?

On several occasions I have reflected that this bizarre world I find myself in is like a theatre – but am I a spectator or in the cast? I said this to Rosalyn, the physio assistant and she laughed and agreed, and said she often wondered if she was in a dream and would suddenly wake up.

The cast is constantly changing: various characters get better (well, enough to boot them out, or send them across the garden to the retirement home), others unfortunately disappear back to Ganges or another hospital for further treatment. I suspect this is what happened to the old woman opposite, who kept tearing off her arm bandages. Some remain only too audibly present, like 95-year-old Mme Héron, Gael (the poor handicapped woman) a man who has had a stroke which makes it hard for anyone to understand him, and a drug/alcohol befuddled younger woman.

New performers make their entrance. Deborah and I escaped down a quiet corridor on the ground floor this morning. From another corridor at the end we heard religious music (all around us on Sundays) and a woman singing along with the recording. Then we spotted the singer, a black woman, marching past – and back, and forth. EVentually she turned off her recorder and passed into our corridor and we got talking. She was a Camerounian who worked for a French boss (as housekeeper, I think) and when he retired to France came with him. At the last moment she discovered that her visa did not include her four-year-old son. Her friends advised her to go ahead and fight for his visa here. I couldnt make out whether she knew she would end up in hospital in Montpellier before she left the Cameroons. but she has had a (repeat) slipped disk operation and returns to Montpellier tomorrow to get the surgeon’s verdict. Her distress at being parted from her son was evident and heartbreaking. I’ll find out her name soon,as she has ended up in the room opposite me after having to share with a poor old blind woman who cried all night and just wants to die. Our new Camerounian friend muttered it makes you think of euthanasia.

Some people find more practical ways of escaping. We were sitting in the garden yesterday when we heard an aide menage rushing towards an elderly patient, complete with bandages,marching towards the exit to the hospital. “Non, non, Madame. Vous n’avez pas le droit de sortir”. That’s the second time we have witnessed a patient being rescued at the last moment.

Perhaps the worst fate I can imagine is to end up in the “deuxième” – the second floor. This is the ward upstairs, with combination lock entrance, for the very, very sick, dying or – I imagine- insane. Curious because sometimes people do come out. There is a batty 59-year-old who pushes his zimmer at great speed down to physio at coffee time in the morning, has his glasses of juice and coffee, and departs. He is seen occasionally in the afternoons, playing scrabble with Mme 114 (she who is constantly asking where is her room 114). We know he is 59 because a couple of days ago he suddenly broke his silence, and in a deep (mainly,to me, incomprehensible) voice recounted his life history. Unless I have got completely the wrong end of the stick, this included the fact that he is homosexual and it is difficult to find partners in hospital. I think I am right because Deborah saw the good Protestant woman lying on the treatment couch next to her raise her eyebrows to her hairline.

References to the deuxieme make me think of that awful scene in “All quiet on the Western Front” when the young men lying wounded in a French hospital are told the rumour that the bandages room at the end of the ward is in fact the dying room – and you don’t return.

On the positive side, today is yet another cloudless sunny day and I’m about to bully Deborah to go outside, which involves waiting for a young(ish) passerby to help push her wheelchair down the precipitous slope just outside the main doors. And I am sitting in a very comfortable armchair which the staff making my bed this morning suddenly thought I needed. Somebody is bringing in some dvds later in the week, so I plan to start watching movies.

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