There are four of us, strewn over our chairs like so much debris hung up on tree roots after the flood. It’s been a busy day, but unusually, we’re back in the office at the same time, all the admin and follow-ups completed, nothing else to do but sit and chat and think about going home. We’re exhausted; after a while the conversation dries.
‘I spy with my little eye…’ says Keisha.
‘Or drone,’ says Mel. ‘Gives it more scope.’
‘Okay then. I spy with my little drone… something beginning with…. S.’
‘A soaking,’ says Laurence. ‘I was standing outside the patient’s house, no shelter, no porch, not even a bush. And it started to rain. The patient was ages getting to the door, and then when they got there, they rattled the handle a few times, and they said I’ve just got to go and get the key. And went away again. By the time they let me in I was half drowned. You’d better take your shoes off she said. So I said I’d better take EVERYTHING off – but I heard myself as I said it, and she looked shocked, so I just said Joke and carried on. And then …. and then!… it turned out I wasn’t even needed. She’d seen someone the day before! I’d been double-booked!’
‘No,’ says Keisha.
‘Oh,’ says Laurence. ‘Suit yourself.’
‘Sandwich’ says Kerry. ‘Does anyone want my sandwich?’
‘Why? What’s wrong with it?’
‘It’s got avocado. I don’t like avocado, especially when it’s been sitting around.’
‘Who made your sandwich?’
‘I’ll have it’ says Laurence. ‘Thanks.’
‘Laurence, the human dustbin,’ says Vihaan.
‘It’s called survival,’ says Laurence, tucking in.
‘Saluki,’ says Barbara. ‘I met this gorgeous dog today. It was stunning. Absolutely beautiful. Like someone stuck a wig on a greyhound. It just followed me around with this sad expression, you know? Like it could see exactly what the problem was and how I was doing my best but really we all knew it wasn’t going to turn out well. It’s funny – I remember more about the dog than the patient. I could’ve sworn it showed me to the door when I was finished, shook my hand and said goodbye. So – Saluki.’
‘No,’ says Keisha. ‘Next.’
‘Syringe driver,’ says Anna. ‘I mean – how can you have a syringe driver, anticipatory meds, nurses coming in and out all the time, a hospital bed, everything, all the equipment, all the fuss and this and that – and still not know you’re dying? There’s a note on the system – very clear – do not talk about end of life issues with Mr Smith. And then what does he do? He goes and asks me, very directly. Why am I having all this stuff? So I just say to him, I say We-ell, Mr Smith… you’re really not very well. So they’ve given you this for the pain, this to make you feel more relaxed, this for your chest…. I think if you speak with your GP they might be able to tell you a little more. Okay darlink? I feel so bad doing it, but the note is very clear. Later on I speak with the district nurses and they say he does know he’s dying but he doesn’t like it to be acknowledged, you know? He doesn’t like it all out in the open, which make it more real for him. He freak out and can’t handle it. Which I can understand. It’s a freaky-scary situation, God knows. But I hate dodging the question like that. It’s not me at all. I prefer to be open about things. Especially scary things. But he’s not my patient, so…’ Anna shrugs, finishes her coffee in one gulp.
‘No,’ says Keisha.
‘Oh. Okay,’ says Anna. ‘Fuck you and your stupid drone.’
Keisha looks at Vihaan and raises her eyebrows.
‘I don’t know,’ he says, yawning, stretching, glancing across the desk. ‘Stapler?’
‘Yes!’ she says.
We all groan.
‘Shut up,’ she says. ‘It saw it during take-off, okay?’