A tall, thin red-bricked building with a bay window almost obscured on the left by a vigorous growth of wisteria. A decorative fan-light above the front door, lion-head knocker, mosaic tiles, antique boot scraper – everything perfectly in keeping with the rest of the Edwardian terrace.
A mournful, moon-faced man in a dark suit and tie is staring at us through the window.
I wave as I climb out of the cab.
He pulls back.
Cynthia opens the door when we knock. Behind her, a care worker is standing half-way up the stairs.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ says Cynthia. ‘What can I do?’
‘Shall we come in?’
‘I don’t want to go to the railway station.’
‘You don’t have to if you don’t want to.’
‘What’s to stop me?’
The care worker joins us in the hallway.
‘Cynthia called you from her room,’ he says. ‘She’s had these feeling before – haven’t you Cynth? – and we’ve discussed the things she can do to help herself through them. But of course we can’t stop her calling the ambulance.’
‘Shall we have a chat, Cynthia?’
She leads us into her room, and sits down on the unmade bed.
Despite the high ceiling,the air is thick with stale smoke. What light there is comes filtering through a hang of heavy yellow drapes. A radio plays thinly by the side of the bed. The wardrobe at the foot of the bed stands open, a line of empty hangers on the rail. Just to the side of it is a pile of boxes and suitcases, some still open and their contents spilling out.
‘We’re just in the process of moving,’ says the care worker, closing the door. ‘We’ll be in the new place this time tomorrow, won’t we, Cynth? That’s exciting.’
‘What’s to stop me going to the railway station?’ she says, her eyes drilled deep either side of her nose.
Just beside the bed there’s a piece of paper tacked to the wall – an action list.
Don’t lie on the bed smoking and listening to music all day it says. You don’t want those dark thoughts taking over. Keep busy! Go for a walk up town and treat yourself – a coffee, maybe, and something nice from the shops. Come back and have a lovely soak in the bath. You deserve it! And so on. Upbeat advice, bullet points, capitals, smileys, exclamation marks. Tidy your room. It’s amazing how good a thorough-going spring clean can make you feel!
‘I don’t know what to do,’ she says. ‘Will you take me to the hospital?’
‘Do you remember what the psychiatrist said, Cynth? She said she doesn’t want you going up there anymore’ says the care worker. ‘She said you’d be better off taking your medication and staying here. With all your comforts, and people to talk to. We’ve got lots to do, Cynth. We’re moving out tomorrow. There’s plenty to keep you busy.’
She hasn’t moved on the bed, staring at me, gripping the frame of it either side of her legs like she’s ready to spring up at any moment.
‘Your care worker’s right,’ I say. ‘I’m not sure what more they can do for you up at A&E. It’s so crowded. Not nearly as comfortable as your room here.’
‘But they’d keep an eye on me, though. They’d stop me going to the railway station. Wouldn’t they?’
‘They’d do their best, Cynthia. But they can’t sit with you all day.’
‘Who’s going to stop me, then?’
‘You’ve managed so far today, haven’t you? And that’s really good. You’ve managed to stop yourself going to the railway station, haven’t you?’
Perhaps it's a good job Cynthia didn't go to the railway station.What with strikes and the cost of a ticket these days.Enough to depress anyone.
It's interesting how these thoughts can become so obsessive, isn't it? Almost like self-hypnosis - with a darker underside. We've been to Cynthia before, always with the same thing. The staff and other agencies do everything they can, but it's an uphill struggle - esp. for Cynthia, of course!
True what you say about the state of the railways, though Jack. Way too expensive to tempt me out of the car (much as I'd want to). :/
I can relate to Cynthia. Sometimes you just get tired of fighting your body and mind, and you just want someone else to take over worrying for you. "They'd be able to keep an eye on me" sounds just like how I'm feeling these days. "I'm done. Can someone else worry about keeping me safe, sane, and healthy?" Poor Cynthia. I hope she can break through her glass ceiling.
It's an interesting - and terrible - phenomenon, where your thoughts are so externalised you feel threatened by them in the same way you might feel threatened by an evil person wishing you harm. You'd think you'd just be able to say: I won't go to the station. But of course in Cynthia's case, it's not so easy.
I completely understand that desire to be taken care of (I so do!). But I find it hard to get into Cynthia's mindset, where a repetitive & compulsive thought takes on a malevolent power of its own. I just hope I never get hooked like that!
Thanks very much for the comment, Cass. I hope things are okay with you today. :) x
I was up at that railway station on the 5th - brief visit... I did think about you actually when I saw an ambo during my bus ride across town!
Hey Dave! Sorry about the bus ride. Engineering works?
Next time I see a bus I'll wave, just in case... :0)
I always look out for you when I'm over your way - not that I know what you actually look like!
And I couldn't help but see the similarity between Cynthia's obsession with the train station and her addiction to smoking. As a smoker, your subconscious is always thinking about when the next fag is coming from, much like Cynthia's station obsession.
I suppose there is a connection - those compulsive thoughts & actions. The more you think you shouldn't do something, the more power you invest in it, until it becomes irresistible.
BTW - I'm the sleepy looking one. (Will be today - can't believe it's only just gone five and I'm getting ready to go out :/ )
Hi again Spence...no engineering works...train ride into town and a bus ride towards the northern outskirts...sadly a family funeral.
Being positive, however, my daughter and I made acquaintance/reacquaintance with a cousin I hadn't seen in forty years, (a now-healed family rift inherited from my late mother), and her husband and daughter, who I'd never even met before...so a great deal of good came out of a sad event in the end..
It's great to heal those stupid family rifts. It's amazing how persistent they can be, despite the fact that often no-one can say exactly what it was that went wrong! I've got personal experience of this in my family, but then again I think most people can say the same.
Glad it went well, Dave. Cheers for the comment.
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