Monday, November 21, 2005


Okay, this is more or less what happened to me on my first night in the hospital. I've written it in monologue form cos that's always worked for me. And it's copyright, too! in case you're wondering.

(Enter scene: In a children’s hospital with purple walls and nurses rushing around after children. Parents pace round the ward with babies in their arms. Opposite the nurses’ station is a private room with a 17 year old attached to her drip.)

Harriet: I don’t like hospitals much, and I try to avoid them as much as I can. When I think of hospitals, squeaky white shoes and that vomit smell is all I can think of. But I guess I can’t avoid it for now, especially with what I’ve done.

I’ve been so silly, see. I’m very tired too – that’s my excuse for everything. I’m tired, that’s why I wasn’t listening – I’m tired, that’s why I’m skipping class to hang with my friends – I’m tired, that’s why I drank too much. I’m too tired to think right now, but that’s all I can do. The TV is some dreadful 50’s throwback and can’t even manage Coronation Street. Not that I watch Coronation Street mind – in fact I can’t stand the stupid show. But I’m craving for some normality. And a hug. Although I’m not going to tell that to anyone. I’ll let them figure it out. (Scratches arms through top?)

(Pause, Harriet looks out of the window.): It’s quite nice, isn’t it? When I visited my friend her room wasn’t as nice as this, although she did get to watch Bollywood films all day. And I’ve got my own bathroom, with an actual bath and a working shower. This was a great source of excitement for my family, you can guess. They must have been near twenty minutes talking about the decor of the room, the view from my window, the friendly nurses and my life-support (the digital radio) before they asked what actually happened. I told them that I’ve been having a lot of stomach pains later and that I didn’t think they were anything serious until I started vomiting blood last night. I told them I made my own way to the hospital (I don’t know why), I then told them I was wearing pyjama trousers because they cut up my other trousers for some reason – yeah, a panic-blind lie. My lies kinda spun out of control and all I was waiting for someone to do was to take my lies and come to a conclusion of their own. (Pause, plays nervously with her hands, camera moves in closer to Harriet’s face) My brother, aunt, two cousins and my brother’s girlfriend had all come to me to just...I just wanted them to leave them alone. I might had even told them the truth, if it got rid of that caring glare plastered on me as if I had some kind of duty to be honest when it just wasn’t expected of me anymore.

At this point nausea overtook me and I vomited for the third time in 18 hours. It was horribly embarrassing at first, with the care glare turning into a care cheer – go on, let it all out, Harriet, you can do it, and so on. My aunty was moving my head around to get my hair into a scrunchie and I was horribly reminded of only a few hours earlier when I had again vomited violently in down in the observation ward in front of this old couple who wouldn’t stop looking as if my discomfort was some assurance to them, but I was too weak to scowl, and just rolled over and cried instead (rolls eyes). But the nurses got rid of everybody apart from Aunty Layla, who started only one of the first of the score of inspirational speeches I was to listen to over the next few days. She kept scaring me by telling me that something was wrong and that our talk was confidential.

“You must always know that you can rely on me, Harriet. Whatever you have been going through you cannot go through alone…”

And suddenly everything in my mind goes blurry. My vision doesn’t change much. In fact it sharpens, and her skin starts to shine. Her lips get redder and the sound is turned down very slowly until I feel like I either have to scream to stop this happening or maybe this would finally be the end. Then she stops speaking as everyone returns to the room. They have to leave, and I’m grateful until my brother gives me a hug. This must have been, like, our third hug in all those years of domestic piss. I felt guilty for lying to them all as I watched the small crowd drift away and I was left alone again, just as I had always wanted it to be.

(End scene? Long pause anyway. The nurses scatter back and forth, the speed of the picture slowing and speeding up. Background music? Coldplay Trouble or Aqualung Strange and Beautiful. Harriet watches all of this, being very still. We return to her as the nurse checks her temperature and silently leaves the room.)

Harriet: Did you hear her nerve? “Oh, isn’t it interesting?” She said. I thought she was talking about something about books. I told the doctor I like them and it’s all they talk about to me now. I asked what she meant, and she said “Ain’t it interesting about the secrets we can keep from the people we live next to our whole lives? Makes you wonder, eh? And you’re such a good student, and you’re so polite and articulate and well-spoken, and you’ve obviously got a lot of people who care about you. Feel better, pet. You have so much to live for.”

I’m so pissed off. How dare she? How dare look into the mass of crazyness and confusion inside this shell and decide for her what it’s all supposedly about? Just deciding everything is going to be alright, just like that. Why does everyone keep calling me articulate? Why can’t everyone see I’m going to die? I can feel it. Its right round the corner. I’m so full of myself: there’s this voice choking, spluttering, inside of me. I know what it is, that frog in my throat, trying to pause that hideous, wondrous inevitable. It’ll finally bubble up to the surface to be reckoned with in my state of nauseous numbness: I’m going to die soon. I’m not afraid of death. What’s left to save me now? And I will burst out laughing and blow a hole in my head and that will be the life of Harriet Jones. (And then, and only then will I be able to rest, and sleep properly and put myself first. That’ll be interesting.) (Harriet then turns off the radio, and goes to sleep, turning her back away from the camera. The camera zooms out, the last twenty? Or so seconds of Aqualung’s Strange and Beautiful play out as we zoom out back into the busyness of the children’s ward.)

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