Old Works (06-2012)
The white of this place always hurts. The floor is white, the ceiling, the doors. White-sheet-ghosts wander all along the corridor, looking really busy – but I know they really aren’t. I myself am dressed in white, which would be unusual if I weren’t here – a white that confuses non-white-dressed people, and spurs them to ask me questions I have no hope of ever being able to answer.
After the room 204 comes the room 206. I awkwardly followed the knowledge trail emanating from the figure in front of me, entered the room last and used my best mimetic skills to remain unnoticed against the white wall. I’m well aware of what I am: an intruder, harmless, but also useless. I’m constantly told to open my skull and filter this wisdom night and day like a tireless oyster; then maybe someday I will be able to make my presence relevant – but not yet. Now be quiet and listen. Speak when you’re spoken to. Touch when you’re asked to. Ask only clever questions, or even better, seem clever in silence.
The nurse had that kind of jolly energy I’ve only seen in middle-aged nurses who are always chatting and gossiping when the supervisor is not near. The doctor got closer to the bed and by reflex I looked blindly for the stethoscope that waited, coiled like an Amazonian viper, for a sign to attack. Caribbean blue – the only liberty I’m supposed to take here, secretly kept in the inner depths of the white left pocket of my coat.
Outside everything was calm. Fluorescent lighting acted as ritual flames around the metal bed where a whiter than white girl lay down. She was not older than me; her perfect skin hardly made a transition to her patient pyjamas. The only touch of colour on her face was a slightly purple trail under her deep-set eyes.
Then an attempted whine broke the harmonic low-voiced white, in a way I wouldn’t ever dare. The nurse laughed and took the intrepid bundle of pink blankets from some kind of cushioned trolley. Then looked at me and smiled.
-Do you have children?
The question hit me like a punch in my upper stomach. So I just wore my nervous smile and said the default answer.
-No! …Not yet… I suppose.
But she knew what I meant much before I did.
-Come here and hold it. Like this…very well. You have held one in your arms before, haven’t you?
-My little cousins. – that was true.
The tiny thing seemed to writhe so I took off it a piece of blanket. It was a multicolor human miniature:
It had a red, far out of proportion head
Beige belly, with a twisted grey cord tied, attached in the middle.
Purple hands with bluish fingers and thumbs.
Opaque black eyes. “It’s only a few hours old”, I thought. “It must be almost completely blind.”
But even so, its other senses had to be working properly because it noticed me. Its nose wings fluttered like a dying swallow. It turned its head to me and opened briefly its mouth.
“I know you don’t know how to smile yet, but that grin has almost made me doubt.”
Its eyes moved vaguely, scanning the blur I was. Then, probably, its inner machinery started to move and, at some point, a light had to illuminate such a mystery: “this” must be “mother.” Then, surely, it remembered how hungry it was and looked for food, sniffing like an inoffensive hound-dog, whose prey was me.
And I promise that I wanted to clear up all that misunderstanding. But how could I explain it to a newborn?
So I didn’t explain a thing. Just cradled it clumsy and sang mentally the first nursery rhyme I could remember. The one about the little bird singing in a pond. It didn’t seem to care about being cradled by a white-shielded wasteland. No, I’m not your mother. I’m no one’s mother. I’ve never had a child and thanks to that my existence flows downstream, unstoppable. I’ve never had a child…but I will have, maybe – as soon as life decides to loose this yoke of mine… Perhaps I never will.
Can’t you feel it, the breeze slipping through these shut windows, the sun leaking out of its February cage? Little bird that sings in the almond tree.
The nurse took it back without asking. I turned my head to the spectre on the bed: she held out her painfully slim arms to receive that restless piece of rainbow, while her lips seemed too tired for a genuine smile. Then she closed her eyes. She was definitely younger than me.
I went out of the room last. Somebody had tied some ballast to my ankles when I wasn’t paying attention. So I dragged my feet along the corridor, back to work. Back to life, back to time, back to universal inertia. Back to white.