“I am not going to the time out zone, and you can’t make me!”
It takes just one look to confirm that there is something inherently wrong with my querulous stand. Judging by the way that Nurse Steiner has just crossed his tattooed arms in front of his barrelled chest, I am going to the time out zone. He can make me.
“Roderick, now, please!”
“Just you wait until my Ruthie hears about this. She won’t stand for it, you know. You will be in such deep trouble when she gets you.”
If my last stand was all wrong, this one isn’t. Even I can see the way his faces bleaches just a little. My remark hits the bull’s eye and I can’t help but smirk!
“And as for you, Melville Jackson,” I turn to a diminutive man, sitting in a red chair, surrounded by a harem of busy nurses, mopping up a trail of deep red blood trailing from his left nostril, “You had better be out of my chair when I get back!”
The time out room used to be the smoker’s room at Merrylands Care Home before the government policy of no smoking inside a government building came into force. It isn’t a room as such, just an area sectioned off from the communal living room with glass panels. It hasn’t operated as the smoker’s room for a year now, but the smell of smoke is painted on the walls in a musky nicotine yellow, and imbued in the wrinkled plastic of the armchairs.
I don’t so much sit in one of the chairs as collapse into it. I can still see the bustle of nurses tending to Melville.
“What about me, eh?” I know they can’t hear me but I say it anyway. The time out room is soundproof. “I could be having a heart attack, me, but where are you, eh?” I put a grey liver spotted hand in the approximate position of where I think my heart is. I have long forgotten what a normal heartbeat is supposed to be.
Ruthie? I can’t believe I threatened them with Ruthie. How stealthily our roles had swapped. There was a time when I stood arms folded in the front door way, a solid support for Ruthie to lean on when the neighbourhood kids were throwing insults like confetti at a wedding. Now she fights my battles.
That stupid red chair, Melville is sitting in, whether they like it or not, is my chair. This is not some playground tussle over a toy. Ruthie campaigned to get me that chair. I was there when she threw the leaflet on the table at the progress meeting. That chair is made to measure, with special support for my posture. It’s not your bog standard lounge type of chair. It’s made to measure for me, not Melville.
The glass partition door slides open with a complaining wheeze. It’s Nurse Steiner, carrying a single sheet of pale green paper festooned with questions and boxes to tick. Many of the questions have been answered in writing that slopes in neat uniform strokes a little to left. Brief sentences sketch out the altercation between Melville and me. It isn’t the first battle over the red chair. Like an unstable volcano it errupts every so often, but this is the first time it’s got physical. First blood to me, apparently.
“You are right, Roderick,” says Steiner, “Ruthie is not going to like this. She is not going to like that you waded in there, with your fists and struck a fellow resident twenty years older than you are! Think about that, Roderick. You hit a defenceless ninety five year old man. You know that this is not Mellville’s fault. He doesn’t choose where he sits. He doesn’t make those kinds of decisions.”
I steel myself for the rest of the “Melville’s got dementia” speech. Melville apparently sits in the seat he is put in, fixes his gaze on a spot outside the window and drools. There’s no connection for him in the real world, and he doesn’t have an ally like my Ruthie. This is supposed to make me feel bad about hitting him.
Behind Nurse Stiener’s back, through the glass panel, I watch Melville, sitting in my red chair, shift his gaze towards me. He grins displaying a mouth devoid of teeth, waggles his head from side to side, and carefully stabs two fingers in the air above him.
So Melville’s got dementia?
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