the longest hour

Joan is lying in bed, a beanie wrap-around cushion supporting her neck, her long white hair wild on her shoulders.
‘I’m quite alright as I am, thank you,’ she says fussing ineffectually at the sheets. ‘I don’t want anything.’

Joan is ninety-five, tiny, translucent, tethered to the world by her watch and her will and the pictures on the wall.

‘I had a twin brother,’ she says, not to me, I don’t think, particularly, or anyone else in the room I can see. ‘Flew with the RAF. Never came back.’
‘Sorry to hear that.’
She doesn’t react.

I’ve come to see how Joan is after her fall yesterday. The ambulance picked her up, although a mouse could’ve done it. I can’t imagine Joan falling – or at least, only as a dried leaf might fall, slowly, with a soundless settling to the forest floor.

‘I was an hour older,’ she says, closing her eyes, to bring it clearer to mind. Then adds: ‘It’s a little more than that now.’