The relative’s room

It’s the early hours of the morning. The walls of this room are cold and clinical, like the paint has been dulled, and worn by the amount of sadness it’s been witness to over the years.

This is the relative’s room. Every hospital has one. A small, quiet box room shut off from the world. It’s the place you go when your family member is seriously unwell and close to death.

This is the space where hours turn into minutes, the place where time no longer exists as it did.

There is a large grey clock on the wall, like the ones you get in school classrooms. It ticks slowly and never seems to stop. Or maybe it does when you leave, but you’ll never know. Tick, tick, tick.

And yet, it’s eerily quiet, like the world has stopped turning for a moment, and the life you know has been put on pause.

This is how the characters in a book must feel when you shut the pages to put it down; lost, confused, without purpose.

There is nothing on the walls of this room but cracks, stains and peeling paint. Forget Dulux’s Timeless, for this is a shade of grief.

There is a chair in this room. It’s a small chair, and yet it feels so big when you sit in it.

In this chair you shrink to half your size, like a child in their grandparent’s armchair.

Why does it feel like you’re in a doll’s house?

Is the room shrinking? Because every time you look up, the room gets smaller, and smaller.

The walls are closing in, and the shiny vinyl floor is getting further away from your feet.

Maybe if you just concentrate on a button on your clothes, and then look up again, you’ll see this was all just a bad dream.

If you pretend it’s not happening, maybe it won’t be. It worked when you were a child, so why wouldn’t it work this time?

In the corner of the room there’s a wheelchair with the words ‘departure lounge’ on the back. The irony of such words is lost in that moment.

A doctor without a face walks in to say it might be ok. But then what feels like days later, more doctors walk in to say it won’t be ok.

The ground is really falling now, like the moment the lift drops to the bottom floor in an action film. But it can’t be stopped like they do in the movies.

Everything is in slow motion, like the moment you go flying over the handlebars of your new bike as a child, seeing yourself about to hit the curb as your arms go out to soften the blow.

Grief is the same type of pain that you feel when you’ve been winded, a tightness in your chest that sends you into panic. It’s a karate chop to the gut.

It feels like you’re watching a playback of your own life, like an out of body experience where you’re seeing yourself from a distance.

That noise isn’t you, it can’t be. It doesn’t sound like you, but someone in this room is wailing.

This is the room where everything changes, where you leave a part of yourself etched on the walls, where every single brick holds a memory.

It has seen so much, this small, tired room.

There is nothing outside of these four walls.

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