Lissen, I’m just the hospital cleaner. I'm just someone who mop the floor, disinfect the sink, move down the corridor wiping the wall. Don't ask me for answers. How dare you ask me for answers.
I mean, look at you. You old, old, old. Man, you had more than enough life. You got people coming to see you, family around you, a fine granddaughter you call little Maggie. What you got to fear? Sure, your fruit is all rotting now, but you were ripe in your time. So what give you the right, while I’m just here to do my job, clearing yellow-snot tissues off your bedside table, what right you got to grab my arm and say, "Tell me there's a heaven."
Let me tell you something about my life. My life involve choosing between sixty and a hundred watt bulbs when I changing a light. My life involve mixing that nose-burning bleach two to one with water and mopping up the floor. My life involve going home to an empty house because my wife, the beautiful and kind Mrs. Roberts, she die in a car accident last year. You know she was only going to the shop to buy some matches for myself to smoke a cigarette and a mango for herself to eat. Some matches and a mango. Our lives would have carried on just fine without such things. It happened on the eight of July. That date is more important to me now than any birthdays, saint days, Christmas, Easter, or any other day that will ever come to be. Ask me if there’s a heaven, will you.
"What about my family," you say. "I'll miss my family so much."
I say, "You lucky. Plenty of people around you giving you warm and tender love."
"How can I be lucky when I'm going to die?"
After my Mrs Roberts die the rain it move steadily across my life. There weren't no thunderstorms. There weren't no patches of sunlight breaking through. Just grey and grey and grey. You know what I do in the evenings? I clutch her old teddy bear. We never had no children, my oranges being seedless, so they say, so we gave this silly old teddy bear called Soda all our love. It were our child. And it bring me a comfort because I know that Soda he never going anywhere. You know I look forward to my shift ending so I can go home and hold that silly old bear. I go home and I hug it and I smell it because it smell still of my wife. Or maybe it don't. Maybe it's just my imagination. But that don't matter because when I hold it I smell her.
"Can you get me a glass of water," you say. Then you shake your head and say, "No, wait, a cup of tea. No, that won't do. I don't know what I want. I want to hold my wife again. I want to fall in love again. I want to paint the spare bedroom while we're waiting for our daughter to be born. I want..."
And you fall silent. Your old face is tired and worn out. There's no colour there, just grey. Just grey and grey and grey.
What I want is to be walking hand in hand down Diamant beach with my wife like we did on our honeymoon. I want the moment when we turned around and saw the sun setting and these rays coming out of it like it was on a postcard, and it was as if the sun was the face of God himself and he were smiling down at us. I want how we went back to our beach hut and made love. And if I could have that for just one second then I think I would be happy for the rest of my life.
"Don't you worry," I say. "There a heaven. And you be waiting for all your family to join you there." And just for a moment there some colour in your cheeks, and you smile and say thank you and close your eyes.
BIO: After leaving
MOTIVATION: I was in hospital visiting a friend and saw this cleaner moving slowly, sadly through the ward. I wanted to tell what I thought his story would be.
Photo by: Michael Lorenzo