Day Trip

Written by Jean Roberts 

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How long am I going to be here?

'How long am I going to be here?' I ask the young woman behind the desk. Can she hear me? I don’ think she’s listening to me. 'How long am I going to be here?'

'Barbara, but why don’t you go back into the waiting room, and someone will be with you soon.' the young woman behind the desk tells me.

How does she know my name? 'How do you know my name? Do I know you?'

She smiles at me, and tells me, again, that someone will be with me soon.

Her name is Cheryl. Her badge says "Cheryl". Cheryl looks like the girl who works in the Post Office. Do you work in the Post Office? 

Where’s my watch? Did I forget to put it on? I’m sure I put it on. Maybe they took it. That Cheryl looks a bit… dodgy. I give her my ‘I know you’re sort’ look, and she smiles at me, but I’m not taken in. Not for a minute.

Waiting around like this is such a waste of my time. I should be in… I’m supposed to be at… now. Oh what did I do with my watch? This waiting room could do with cheering up a bit, it’s very… well... grey. Pale grey walls, dark grey chairs. They don’t look very comfortable. Are they chairs? They look like chairs, but, they look… stuck together. And they’re screwed to the floor. Very odd, very odd indeed. Or even a bright picture on the wall. A nice landscape, or waves. Waves are nice. Waves can be so calming. Their sound can be so relaxing. I went to the seaside once. Not flowers though, flowers are depressing. They remind me of funerals. There were lots of flowers at father’s funeral. Which died.

I don’t know where I am exactly. That’s a nice garden down there. Very orderly, and not many flowers. Mother likes things to be ordered. A place for everything and everything in its place. That’s her motto. Even when I was a child, everything had to have a place.  

The door behind me slams shut and makes me jump.

‘Barbara, my name is Louis, would you like to sit down?’

‘Well it’s about time,’ I tell him, ‘do you know how long I’ve been here?’  

He smiles at me and asks if I want to sit down again. So I sit, and he sits, opposite me. On one of the grey chairs that are screwed to the floor. Those chairs are very odd. He looks young. He has nice eyes. Kind eyes. He has a green cardboard file thing with him, he opens it and starts looking at the papers in it, but when I try to look, he closes it.

‘Barbara, do you know where you are?'

He’s got a nice voice. I tell him I don’t know, and that I don’t know why I’m here either.

‘How are you feeling?'

'I’m very well.' I say, but he still hasn’t told me where I am or why I’m here. He looks at his papers again, then gives me a little smile before answering me.

‘Barbara, this is your home. This is where you live.’

I’m confused. He must have made a mistake. How can this be my home? I ask him.

But he tells me it is, and that today I went out without anyone knowing. He told me I went to visit my mother and I should have told someone I was planning on going outside, he said. I don’t remember, but when I ask if I can go again, maybe next week. He looks, well, almost sad.  Then in a very calm voice he says, ‘No Barbara, that won’t be possible.'