I walk around for a while but wind up getting bored fairly quickly. This place should have a little arcade or something. Like an airport. I walk into the men’s toilets. I don’t need to go or anything I just can’t think of anything else to do. I’m half expecting some sort of nastiness but the toilets are extremely clean. I’m almost disappointed. I start walking back to my ward. Why was Zed acting like such a bitch this morning? Maybe she’s not a morning person. I never actually asked her why she’s in the hospital. Wonder what makes your skin go pale? Loads of things I’d say. My grandmother’s skin was mad pale. Thyroid or something. What’s a thyroid anyway?
When I get to the ward the oldies are being old and the African woman is talking on her phone. Home sweet home. Zed’s still in bed except now she’s looking at the ceiling instead of the wall. I’m not sure if I should go over to her. She sees me and signals with her head.
“You in better form?”
“Not really. Sorry about earlier.”
“You want to talk or anything?”
“No. Your family bring you anything cool?”
“Thought you were asleep?”
“You were snoring though.”
“That’s just how I get back at mobile woman.”
“I woke up when they were coming in you spa.”
Zed smiles when she says it. That makes it not bitchy. She scratches her nose and that’s when I see them. Little scars on her forearm. They’re white and horizontal. It’s the vertical ones you bleed to death from. I think that’s how it works anyway. Zed must notice because she pulls the covers up over her arms.
“Besides ladies don’t snore!” she smiles again. It’s not a real smile though. The corners of her mouth give it away.
“You’re right ladies don’t snore.”
I think about adding “But you do!” In the end I don’t. I know Zed would laugh but it doesn’t feel right or something. There’s silence for a few seconds. I don’t know if it’s comfortable or awkward.
“My sister brought me some Father Ted episodes if you want to watch them?”
“Dunno. I’ve watched about three. There’s the one where Dougal has to drive the milk float. The one where everyone thinks Ted is a racist. What’s the other one again...oh yeah the one with Father Stone. There’s two more on the disk I think.”
“Yeah I’m up for it.”
“We have to share ear phones though.”
Zed grabs my head and turns it to one side. She looks at the side of my face and brushes my hair behind my ear.
“Yeah okay. You’re not too waxy. You should trim your hair man, it’s super long.”
I haven’t been to a hairdresser in a while. I’m afraid the Xanex will wear off while the barber has a scissors to my head. Zed immediately launches into a new sentence.
“Sorry. I don’t mean that you ‘should’ get a haircut just it would suit you better.”
“It’s grand. You’re right.”
“Stop being sorry. It’s fine.”
“No I don’t mean you’re bad looking or anything just a haircut would look better. And less bruises but you can’t really help that.”
I start laughing. Zed starts laughing as well. I walk over to my bed and grab the DVD player. When I get back I put the left ear phone in my ear and Zed puts the right in hers. We have to sit close together or the ear phones will come out. Zed moves her head to the left a few times and pulls the phone out of my ear. She thinks it’s funny. I guess I haven’t really noticed how Zed looks before. Her hair is jet black. There are little parts that have been braided or dread locked. Her lips seem thin but it just the paleness. With some colour they’d be pretty full. Her lashes are very long and very black. It’d be interesting to see what she looks like outside a hospital. She pulls the phone out of my ear one last time and then promises she won’t do it again. Her eyes seem like they’re completely black sometimes. When the light hits them you can see a dark brown-red ring. It’s kind of like a bottle of Coke or a pint of Smithwick’s or something.
The next episode of Father Ted is the one where Tommy Tiernan plays a suicidal priest. I’m laughing for a while before I notice Zed isn’t. I don’t want to say anything about the scars. We’ve only known each other for a day. That’s too early to get all personal right? Zed takes out my ear phone.
“You want to go outside for a bit? I’m getting bored man.”
It’s grey outside. It looks like it’s going to rain but Zed keeps walking further from the hospital. Eventually we stop near the morgue and sit against a fence. Zed puts a fag between her lips and strikes a match. It goes out as she brings it up. She half smiles.
“Hold it down right?”
She hands me the fag. I take a couple of drags and pass it back. Zed’s hair looks like it’s underwater. The wind is forcing it to go in every direction. I feel a bit uncomfortable but don’t know why. The sky looks like one giant cloud. The world is trapped in one massive bleak cloud. I feel tingles travel up my neck. My right hand twitches. The Xanax is wearing off.
“I’m going to go back inside Zed.”
“I’m just cold.”
“Okay man. Stall here until I finish the fag.”
“No I gotta go now Zed.”
She turns and looks at me. I don’t know how I look. Zed’s expression says “not very good”. I’m starting to breath heavy. It’s all coming at me now. I turn around and start walking towards the hospital. How am I going to get to the hospital? It’s ages away. It feels like there’s a cube swirling around in my stomach. My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth. I think I’m going to be sick.
It starts raining as I reach the sliding door. The toilets are near enough to the entrance. The door opens and I head into a cubicle. I don’t know if it’s sweat or rain on my forehead. I rest my back against the cistern. Someone has written “I’m dying, how are you?” on the back of the door. My breathing is starting to slow down but my hands are still shaking. I cough and feel something catch in the back of my throat. I manage to turn around and lift the lid before I get sick. Then I’m lying on the floor. One of my slippers is outside the cubicle.
When I get back upstairs the red haired doctor is doing the rounds. He asks me where I was. I fob him off with a lame excuse. He looks at my charts, listens to my heart beat and puts his hand on my forehead.
“We’ll keep you in tonight again Alex. Your heart’s a bit fast. Nothing irregular just precaution.”
He moves onto one of the oldies. I think about taking another couple of Xanax but I’m afraid the doctor will see me. The African woman is laughing loudly into her phone. The oldies all look miserable. Defeated or something. It doesn’t look right. This big African woman laughing around all these miserably wrinkled people. I close my eyes. I can’t look at this. I have no idea why. I keep thinking of Zed’s arms. Lined like a copy page. I want to cry or something. I want to get out of this ward. I feel the same as I did outside. As soon as the doctor leaves I drop some Xanax.
Zed walks through the door. Rain water is dripping from her hair and jacket. She walks over to her bed, takes off her jacket and picks up the DVD player. She brings it over to my bed, puts one of the phones in my ear and one in her own. She sits beside me and presses the power button. The smell of wet hair glides past my nose. The red haired doctor leaves the ward and Zed rolls up her sleeve. Our forearms touch. I get a better look at her scars. She moves one of the dread locked pieces of hair behind her ear, looks at the screen and smiles.
“This is where things get funny.”