2 Jan

GIRL IN HOSPITAL BED photo: In the hospital InHospital_zps84603a7d.jpg

Linda lay in bed, eyes closed, steady breathing making her chest rise and fall ever so slightly, the room quiet as the grave, a nurse popping in every so often to check readings on the machine that was keeping her alive, and in a hard chair nearby Pippy watching her for anything that might mean consciousness.

Pippy was almost always there and had been for weeks, ever since she’d slipped into the coma. It wasn’t that he knew her, just that it had been him who’d knocked her down that dark November night, he who’d waited with her for medical help to arrive and he who’d taken it on himself to keep a weather eye on her.

He knew her as Linda, and that was because the name on her work pass said she was Linda. He knew very little else. The police, the nurses, the doctors, they knew little things – not much, that much was true, because she didn’t seem to have had much of a life … in her twenties, living on her own, no traceable relatives, no spouse, no boyfriend, just a bike that she rode to work, a work pass and not even any friends in the workplace. At least that’s what the others said. Nobody seemed to know her.

“She kept herself to herself,” was the general consensus.

“A true loner,” agreed some.

Pippy took her bike home when the police released it, said he felt responsible even though everyone said he wasn’t, she shouldn’t have ridden that bike with threadbare tyres and no lights on a frozen road like she had. No blame could be attached to him. Then he set about fixing it up for her. He replaced the tyres with brand new ones, fitted it with a pair of powerful lights, front and back, so that she would be seen if she ever used it again, and waited by her bedside when he could, and told her what he’d done.

“Try speaking to her, she might hear, she might understand, miracles can happen,” they’d said.

So he did. It felt a bit odd at first, talking to a woman who, to every appearance, was out cold.

“I’m Pippy,” he said. “It’s not my proper name but it’s what my friends call me. I’m really a Philip, but I don’t like that. I don’t feel like a Philip. I feel like a Pippy, and I’m happy that way.”

After a while it got less awkward. He got used to talking quietly to a woman who might never hear his voice. He came and went. He needed to go to work, of course, in the local Junior school where he taught embryonic louts how to be decent human beings and, in a way, succeeded. But after work and until quite late he sat in that chair next to Linda and, hesitantly at first, and then with more confidence, he spoke to her.

“If only you’d had lights that worked,” he said, trying to make it sound sympathetic rather than blame. “But I guess it was sod’s law that you didn’t. Never mind. They say there’s no real damage and no reason why you shouldn’t come round any day soon. And I’ve repaired your bike for you, made it quite safe, so you’ll be able to ride it again. So when you wake up you’ll not have much to worry you. Until then, if you don’t mind, I’ll come when I can and sit here and keep you company.”

She remained resolutely mute and still, but he was getting used to that. It didn’t matter. He had plenty of time, what with the school holidays and Christmas coming up. He was a bachelor and had no ties, now now that Irene had left him for a singer who had a solitary number one hit before dying predictably of an overdose when fame struck. Irene had wanted to come back to him, but he was having none of it. He supposed he’d never really loved her, not properly.

“Let me tell you about myself,” he continued, “then, when you wake up, you’ll know something about the man who’s been boring you all these weeks.

“I’m Pippy Mulgrove, and I thought I was in love, once, with a woman who left me for another. It upset me when she went, made me see that I wasn’t the God’s gift I’d thought myself to be. Since then I’ve been a solitary sort of guy. I don’t go out much. I suppose I watch too much television, and I enjoy the odd glass of whisky whilst I’m watching it…” And he carried on like that, eventually even describing the minutiae of his life. It made him see himself as how a stranger might see him, perhaps.

“I don’t do much besides work,” he told the sleeping girl, “I come here, of course … I guess that I’ve got to know you in a weird sort of way. After all, you are beautiful, you know, and even though I’ve never seen you smile I can imagine what it looks like … it’s a pity you haven’t got a husband at home, someone who cares, someone waiting for you, but they say you haven’t. We’re a lonely couple really, you and I, and it’s really quite sad. I think you’re lovely, you know…”

Describing his own life made him see how boring he was. How meaningless his existence. In reality he had precious little more to live for than did Linda, and at the moment it appeared that she had nothing. He knew that he’d have to change things a great deal or eventually enter the grave at the end of his own life, unmourned, unloved and ultimately concluding a pointless life.

“I’ll change,” he told her after a particularly upsetting bout of introspection. “I’ll find a wife some day. I know I will – I’m still young! And I’ll have kids! Maybe a football team of them! But before then I want to make sure that you’re all right. It can’t be easy lying there day after day, and my heart bleeds for you. So you can depend on me to turn up and let you know the silly things that go on in my life. Like did you know that when I was a boy I really wanted to be an engine driver? I did, you know! I know it’s a stereotype, every small boy’s dream, but it really was mine! And instead I end up being a teacher of other children who want to be engine drivers! Think of that! Silly, isn’t it?”

He was thinking just how silly it was when she opened her eyes. His own were closed with concentrated introversion, so he didn’t notice. He often sat like that, with his eyes shut, his mind blacked out for thought.

“Pippy,” she whispered as if she’d only dozed off moments earlier, “Pippy – yes … I will … if you’re asking, that is … I will marry you… I love you… ”

© Peter Rogerson 02.01.15


2 Responses to “THE GIRL IN A BED”

  1. pambrittain January 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    This is so sweet.

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