by Jilly Allison
This is my space, my bubble. I have been here six weeks cocooned in the plastic, hands come through in specially prepared places and give me sterilised food, my clothes come in cellophane wraps.
I can see people in white robes, masks on faces − my parents, nurses, doctors − they give me drugs through the ‘tap’ on the back of my skinny hand. I am skinny, I look at my ankles and wrists, like chicken bones, ‘not a pickin’ on them’ my granny said, I knew it was granny, she had a pink flower on top of her surgical hat.
I have a TV, a computer, a radio, but I can’t be bothered with them.
After a bone marrow transplant you have to be isolated, I am, today is my last day! I have a clean nightie with navy buttons, my hair is beginning to come through, a ‘crew cut’ my granddad said, it’s ginger, yuck!
Where are they all? Usually I can hear all the racket of the ward staff, but it’s silent. Gradually I begin to realise I am alone; no one to take care of me, give me the drugs.
I have a view from my window. The bubble covers it with a zip to open it and remove my sterile cocoon when I go, I can see out though. Three cooling towers on the edge of the Tees, a tin covered building to my left, the grey dullness of working life on the river.
There’s a balcony outside my window. There for when they use this room for patients without ‘special requirements’. There’s someone on it, I can see his frame, the shorts, the ‘hoodie’. How did a man in that outfit get on my balcony? I don’t know him. I don’t want to know him.
Radio chirrups in my ear, I use it to wake me up.
‘Middlesbrough is isolated today, a dark cloud envelops the area, the river to the south, Grangetown to the east, Thornaby and Stockton to the other perimeters. Experts believe it is a gas escaped from a fuel leak belonging to a chemical company, there are no known survivors. Any survivors contact 3489710.’
I have no phone.
I sit and figure it out: I am alive, just, that man out there is dead (I have taken a closer look, he has not moved at all in ten minutes). If I stay here I will die for sure, if I go outside I may die; the gas may have gone, if I stay here I will die because everyone here is dead.
I need to open my ’bubble’ and get out of here, there is no choice!
My nice clean, sterile dressing gown awaits me. Putting it on I slip my feet into slippers; the zipper moves easily, and I am free of my prison.
Still the man does not move. I touch him gently; his dust gathers at my feet as I choke on the gas and join him on the balcony.