The surgeon had told you that you shouldn’t feel any different after the operation. Uncomfortable, yes, but you’re not sure what you are feeling. Elated? Strong. Youthful. Not how you’d expected but then you’d spent years feeling sub-human, on enough pills to be a walking Tic-Tac packet, so anything else would have been better. And this, whatever it is, is beyond that.
Someone remarks on your lack of visitors, of family. Not loudly but just enough for you to catch it.
Norman, next door, has so many relatives that they have your allocation of chairs, and the almost-constant chatter is enough company when you need it. Norman’s had a bypass, just like you, but he’s not taking it so well. Or rather, it:him.
You’re due to be discharged today, soon in fact, you’re dressed, bag packed, just waiting for the all-clear but you’re in no hurry and you listen in on the conversations around you, from both sides; Norman on your right and Elvis on your left. You know that’s not his real name, you’ve not caught that yet as he’s a new recruit to the Thompson Ward but all he hums is The King so you’ve pretended it’s him; with your eyes shut, curtain closed.
As the doctor approaches your bed, you smile, sit up straight and shake his hand when he offers it. He asks you how you’re doing and you say you’ve never felt better. You mean every word and you’re glad you don’t have to lie any more. You want to start over, go back to your bedsit and look forward. Stop dwelling on things you can’t change. So you sign the discharge papers and leave.
It’s a 10-minute walk, past the park and normally that’s all you’d do, go past, but today you want to stop, go in, go to the lake, watch the dogs chasing the geese, the children feeding the ducks. Watch your old life but without regret.
You have pocket change so you head for the café to see it all from behind the warmth of the glass. You’ll buy some chips, hot, salted, unketchuped. They’ll be washed down with a large mug of tea, sweet and strong like Dawn said you were. In the early days.
Today feels like an early day and you don’t mind that it’s cold. Not really. The freshness feels inviting, crisp, but you’ve skipped breakfast so you’d rather eat here than at home.
As you approach the large panoramic window you see that the café’s packed, but figure you can probably squeeze in somewhere. You’re not as big as you used to be.
As you head for the door, you see a young woman struggling with a pushchair. You lunge forward, grabbing the door handle and pull it open, waving her in with a dramatic, sweeping gesture.
“Thanks,” she says in a broad, local accent. “You’re all heart.”
You smile and let the door close after her. You watch her take the last seat and you head for the lake.
Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.
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