The town appeared unhurried and eerily quiet. My horizon shifted as soon as I crossed the city limits. A cold bleak greyness descending upon me; an invisible depression, which settled around my heart. Even though I had been away for 18 years, nothing had changed. The remote town I grew up in, which lay sprinkled across the leeward side of the imposing mountain still cowered in its shadow. The town, which even time had forgotten it seemed.
I never saw myself returning, not after I had left, not even for a brief visit. What the hell, was I doing back, again? I should have turned around, gone back to where I came from right then, back home, back to my life, back to where I felt free and alive. I had not even been back a nano second and already I felt morbid drained of all ambition, a feeling I could unequivocally admit, I had not missed the least bit. If it were not for the disturbing call I received from my little sister Nina in the early hours of the morning, I would never have put a foot in this place again.
Why did I ever agree or should I say, why did I ever let my parents, guilt me into saying I would look after her? I should have known it would come back to bite me in the end, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or so they say. If only I knew beforehand just how hellish my life was about to become, I would have stayed away. Nina was after all 18; perfectly capable of taking care of herself while our parents were away on their second honeymoon. She had neighbours and friends looking out for her if she ever needed anything; I also knew my parents and they would never have left without stocking the fridge or securing the house. She had all the luxuries I never had when I left home at 18. I was all alone in a strange city and I survived on my own, why could she not for a week?
As soon as the locking mechanism released and the automatic sliding glass doors of the hospital swished open I was greeted by the universal odour all hospitals had. I hated that smell; stale alcohol and carbolic soap, but then it wasn’t so much the smell itself, or the fact that it always managed to find its way into your clothes, hair, your skin even. The smell itself was not at all unpleasant; it was the memories or should I say the memories associated with the smell, which evoked suck a negative reaction.
The building seemed empty, almost as if no one was there; no voices, no trolleys, no beeping monitors none of the usual hospital sounds one would expect to hear, only thing I did hear though, was my own footstep echoing through the narrow stale grey hallway. The naked fluorescent tubes adding to the general dark and gloominess, as I walked between the rows of hard plastic chairs in the small waiting area.
I rounded the corner, my eyes falling to an arrangement of bright yellow sunflowers, which stood at the edge of the waist high front desk; sunflowers always were my favourite,
“Excuse me, nurse? Can you tell me in, which room my sister is?” I asked the only nurse I saw, my breath chasing my heart, for some reason. I hardly recognized the place. Sure, it still stood at the end of Barker Street, but when I left, it was barely two rooms, and the only medical professional for miles around was a 55-year-old medical rep; who at the best of times was doped-up on his own samples.
“Your sister is a patient here ma’am?”
“Oh, uhm yes … I … she is.” I lied; truth was I had no idea where Nina was or if she even was in trouble. For all I knew she was home sleeping off a drunken party she had the night before. I do not even know why I came to the hospital first. Guess instinct made me believe that Nina would come here if she was indeed hurt.
“And your sister’s name is?” She asked as I drifted off.
“Oh, sorry my head was… Vance, Nina Vance. She should have been brought in, early this morning sometime.”
“Was she admitted?”
“What? I-I’m not … I don’t … can you just check please? Nina Vance that’s V-A-N-C-E.”
“Yes ma’am I know, but,” I peered over the counter top watching as her perfectly manicured hands stopped typing, her expression turning from fake smile to irritation.
“But what? You work here right?”
“Yes I do ma’am, but I,”
“But you? But you what? What can be so difficult? You have the computer right in front of you. Just type in Nina Vance and,” She really was beginning to work on my last nerve. I did not have the time nor the inclination to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense. Maybe she was just being spiteful, kind of looked the type. If that was indeed the case, she was going to meet the wrong end of me.
“I’m afraid I’m not allowed to do that unless I see some form of identification.”
“ID? ARE YOU SERIOUS?” I roared when I saw her rolling her eyes, this was ridiculous, “Since when are family members required to show ID?”
“It’s hospital policy, ma’am,”
“Hospital policy? Screw hospital policy. I have been driving all God damn night to get back here to this-this one horse town; I am hungry, thirsty, tired, hot, over-caffeinated and running on the last bit of self-control I have.” I steadied myself; placing both hands on the counter, continuing to argue with the stupid little twit who could not even see that her own uniform was two sizes too small. God! If this was what healthcare went for around here… I was at a loss.
“We can’t allow you in unless we can verify that you are indeed who you say you are.” She whined chewing a little too hard on a piece of cherry flavoured bubblegum, which at that very moment I wished she would choke on. I was livid,
“Just a few moments ago you couldn’t tell me if my sister was a patient here and now I have to show you my ID, because you have to make sure I am the sister of the patient you couldn’t confirm was here. Am I correct?”
“Yes ma’am ... if you’d rather speak to my supervisor then you’ll have to wait in the waiting area like everyone else.” Her arrogance astounded me.
“Okay now I know you have the attention span of a gnat and that chewing that piece of gum is a challenge on its own, but I want you to listen to me, and listen to me good.” I forced the words through my clenched jaw keeping my hands occupied as I searched my bag for my driver’s license before I did something that would land me in jail.
“Sammy?” A vaguely familiar and not at all too welcome voice brought me to a standstill. It was almost painful to hear my name; like a sudden stabbing pain through the center of your cornea. No one had called me Sammy for ... actually there had only been one person who ever called me Sammy, and that coincidentally was also the last person I ever wanted to see again.