I Matter Too, don’t I? by Hannah Nicholls

My arms are chained; weak from the solid iron bars fastened around my wrists. There’s an ice cold breeze that hits my face and comes from the window that’s been left wide open by one of my guards, and I can smell stale blood and urine.

I wake abruptly, jolting up, “It’s just a dream,” I sigh, but as I close my eyes again and lay my head back down, I remember that it’s not just a dream, and my hands are always bound by the very shackles that staple me to this bed.

“How are you feeling Terry?” a kind voice asks as I open my eyes again. I turn my head to see a soft faced young woman at the end of my bed.

“I’m okay,” I reply.

“Come away Jenny!” I hear a callous voice hiss, and I see a pair of piercing green eyes glance around the curtain, and Jenny leaves, looking back briefly to flash a beautiful set of pearl-white teeth.

The next morning I wake suddenly from my sleep, my vision clearer now, and my curiosity follows my gaze around the room. Four crisp white walls enclose me, with bars painted white around the bed reinforcing my captivity. My eyes scan the room, searching for something, anything familiar; they are met by a nurse, whose glistening blonde bobbed hair rests perfectly on her shoulders; her gentle blue eyes are sweet and engaging as she smiles reassuringly in the doorway, this must be the young woman from yesterday I think to myself.

“Hurry Jenny,” barks a voice, and I turn to see those sharp green eyes again, this time attached to a severe, unsmiling face. “We won’t be spending long in here,” she continued, motioning towards me, as if I was nothing, nobody.

“Terry, my name is Jenny, and this is Sandra,” Jenny flashes Sandra a look, suggesting annoyance. “We’re going to give you a bed bath now if that’s alright?” She rests her hand lightly on mine.

“That’s fine.” I reply, “thank you.” I glance over at Sandra, feeling her eyes scorching the side of my face. I know she detests me, I can see it in her stance, her posture, stiff and uneasy, I make her uncomfortable. I am a prisoner; why wouldn’t she be, I’m a ruthless, cold-hearted murderer. But she doesn’t know me, my story, just like Jenny doesn’t, but Jenny treats me with kindness; she looks at me with understanding, as though I’m an ordinary person, a patient not a convict.

While they bed bathe me, Sandra doesn’t include me in any of the conversations with Jenny. She talks across me, and when Jenny addresses me, Sandra interrupts while giving me a scowl, sighing with disgust under her breath. I lie in silence, exposed, until I look at Jenny, and her eyes put me at ease.

Once finished, Sandra, not waiting for Jenny, briskly leaves the room in silence, but Jenny stays behind a moment, staring into my aching eyes and whispers, “Pay no attention to Sandra. If ever you need someone to talk to, or even to listen to you, don’t hesitate to ask me. Now remember tomorrow you’re going back to theatre, so you should get some rest.”

The next day comes around quickly, and brought with it two strangers, one a young timid looking girl, the other an apprehensive middle aged man. They vaguely introduce themselves, and recite what they call their theatre checklist. As soon as this is done, they whisk me off into the chilly corridors to theatre. Not that they communicate this to me, they spend most of the time ignoring me, deep in conversation with each other, and occasionally involving themselves in general chit chat with my guards.

As I lie there, I long for Jenny to be here, to see her beaming smile, so she can support me, letting me know everything will be alright, and not to worry about anyone, or anything else. But she isn’t here, I am alone with my nightmares.
As we continue down all the lengthy corridors, we pass hundreds of people; nurses, doctors, patients, visitors and all of them take one look at the cuffs chaining me to my bed and instantly give me a wide berth. They stare and whisper to one another. I’m so ashamed; I try to immerse myself into my bed sheets, but the short chains won’t allow it. We pass wall after wall, door after door, and somehow this supposed place of care, seems more and more like a prison.
When we finally get to theatre, I am not greeted by smiles or friendly faces but with the same approach as on the ward, by mumbles and reserved nods. I don’t remember anything after that, until I wake feeling fuzzy back on the ward. My bed-watchers are sitting drinking coffee, chatting over me, two on each side of my bed. Just as I begin to sit up, Jenny walks in with Sandra trailing behind with a foul look.

“Hello Terry, how’re you feeling?” says Jenny, not waiting for my response.

Sandra says, “Let’s get on with this, I’ve got plenty of things I need to be getting on with.”

“Terry,” Jenny continues ignoring Sandra, “is it okay if we try getting you up for the toilet?”

I reply, “yes.” And with Jenny on my left, and Sandra reluctantly supporting my right side, with my chains dragging behind me, I’m led to the toilet and back again.

“Would it be okay if we changed your position now,” Sandra sighs, and as my face reddens with embarrassment, Jenny kindly asks her to step out of the room for a moment. I watch the door close, and listen out for heightened voices, but hear nothing.

Sandra enters the room and puts herself into my eye-line, holding my gaze for a moment. I see her disgust is replaced with shame. “I’m sorry Terry, if I hurt your feelings.” She hesitates, “Is it okay if we reposition you now?”

I contemplate for a moment, but reply “yes,” and she looks relieved.

They roll me gently between them, Sandra includes me in her conversations, occasionally stopping to explain what she is doing. When they are done, I sit comfortably. Sandra leaves the room flashing me one last apologetic smile. I catch Jenny’s eye, and feeling myself beginning to sob, I squeeze her hand and hold her gaze, just for a moment, and whisper, “Thank you.”