Esther keeps yelling ‘where’s my teeth’? I’ve never seen her with teeth. Alan, the only man here, sits in a catatonic trance. I wonder if he’s been like that all his life. One of the carers told me he’s been married three times and outlived all his wives. Not sure she’s supposed to divulge that juicy titbit.
I try not to watch the television in the corner. The best programmes come on after we’re sent to bed. To be fair we’d all be fast asleep in the armchairs long before the programme had ended and no one thinks or asks for it to be recorded.
Huge Lorries thunder past and I plan my escape. I’ll roll out of the window onto the roof of the kitchen below. Then I’ll leap on to the top of the next passing lorry and cling on until it arrives in the exotic place named on its side, like Doncaster. My plan always makes me smile.
‘What’s making you smile girl friend?’ asks Yvette in her sing-song voice. I laugh. “You just don’t want to know’. She laughs with me.
I sit watching the traffic, in Gertie’s chair, named after me. I hate routine. I have a photo taken of me holding Boris Johnson by the arm when he was Mayor of London. People say it must have been exciting to have met him and I smile knowingly. I don’t tell them he’s made of wax.
I remember the times I wanted to escape. Live alone. Now I live in this old people’s ghetto. Fat chance of me ever being alone. Care workers forever asking me if I’m okay. Of course I’m not. I want to go to restaurants, feel a man’s touch, and write a bestseller. Words coming into my mind, colliding with each other, I need a notebook to write them down, capture them before they escape into the void that was once my memory.
I think about the times we travelled abroad. In Mexico when we got upgraded and called to the front of the queue and on our luggage big labels saying load last, off first. The time we went on The London Eye, just the two of us in the pod with the waiter serving the champagne, cold. I felt the eyes of the others on us as we fast tracked past them. Dancing in the Azures, sunbathing in Spain, painting in Portugal, I loved those times.
Eyes watering, I fumble for my handbag under the chair. It’s brown leather, mock crocodile. I finger the strap and snap the clasp open. Deep inside I find a paper hanky, it smells of face powder. Its years since I’ve smelt that fragrance. Bending over me is a face I haven’t seen for decades.
“Hi Gertie, how you doing?”
I smile into his deep blue eyes, sliding down the chair; I feel the floor rise up to meet me.