what do you mean, norway?

a man in a rainbow tutu and purple feathers
stops with a gaggle of parakeet dancers
to wave me through to the parking lot
how has it come to this?
how have I ordered my life
that I should be visiting patients during carnival?
working not twerking
hauling out of the car
not a hooped skirt or headdress of fire
but a rucksack of medical equipment
and a medium narrow zimmer frame
I wear the frame over my shoulders
to free my hands for the rest
and it strikes me I could totally
turn my back on the building
and join the parade
and the award for best costume
goes to NHS man in the steampunk cloak
I don’t though
I make my carnival-of-real-life way
to the main entrance, where a resident holds the door for me
shaking her head as I struggle inside
‘Careful!’ she says
I waddle across the lobby to the lift
and when it arrives, reverse into it
like a sad, unwieldy creature retreating into its burrow
just as the doors are about to close
an elderly man comes in the main door
he’s as laden down as me
with two large shopping bags
and a hat like an upturned fruit basket
‘hold the lift!’ he shouts
(ironic; I’m holding everything else)
still – I manage to free a hand to press
the button, and the man
rolls towards me at a snail’s pace
where the snail has been retired more years than he worked
We surely can’t both fit in the lift
but I can’t think how to explain that to him
without sounding cruel
maybe I should come out of the lift and let him go ahead
but by this time he’s with me
packing himself into the space
with the confidence of someone
perfectly adapted for this exact thing
‘Thank you,’ he puffs. ‘Tenth, please’
I dislocate my shoulder getting that for him.
‘Thanking you.’
We both breathe the lift-baked air, and wait.
Whether the lift is always this slow
or whether it’s making a point
I don’t know. But the doors are an age to slide shut
and I can’t reach round the man to do that thing
I normally do, which is frantically tap the close button a few times
The man looks at me and smiles sadly
‘Hot, isn’t it?’ he says.
So hot!
‘Hottest day yet.’
‘I bet.’
‘Too hot.’
‘Phew!’
The lift doors close. After a teasing pause
(no doubt whilst the donkeys on the roof
rouse themselves sufficiently
to start pushing the wheel round)
the thing drops, shakes
then starts the slow drag upwards
‘In fact, I’ve decided it’s too hot for me,’ says the man
‘I’ve decided to go back home.’
‘Oh? Where?’
And I see him for the first time
The white hair spilling from the hat
those eyes blue as glacial chips,
that scar on his cheek
I see a longship
run aground for the last time
in the ASDA car park at the marina
police line / do not cross
dragon prow smashed through the lobby
snarling at the scattering of scratch cards on the kiosk floor
‘Yes – it’s finally got the better of me’ he sighs
‘It’s high time I went home’
‘I can understand’
‘It’s called air conditioning!’
We both laugh
‘Do you need air-conditioning in Norway?’
‘Norway? What do you mean, Norway?’
‘Is it Norway?’
‘No! I live on the tenth!’
The lift crashes to a stop.
The doors grind open.
He struggles out to Valhalla

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