Lunch is in the Bag.

I know her name because her friend has announced it loudly when they arrived at the patient transport hatch. Beryl Pick. Beryl wants to go home and she isn’t sure why she can’t. She has seen the doctor and now she has been brought here and her friend, a loud, middle aged woman who never stops talking, won’t tell her why. She whispers anxiously. Her friend isn’t listening.
“Why do you want a taxi? Someone will come and get you. We just have to wait here”
Beryl’s delicate, still girlish, once pretty, face stares straight ahead, clouded by worry. Her lips move, barely, and just a whisper of a voice comes out. Her friend leans in close. It isn’t meant to be a threat but it looks like one.
“Why do you want a taxi?”
Over and over again the question comes at Beryl and she doesn’t have the energy to fight it off. Her lips continue to move silently. If they would just listen. She wants to go home. Why is nobody taking her? Her fingers grip onto the tiny pale blue cloth bag on her knee. It has LUNCH IS IN THE BAG printed on it in large white capital letters. A stale joke that is meant for livelier, sparkier people.
“You’ve to wait for the patient transport.”
“Put your leg over the other side of the wheelchair.”
Her friend is pointing at her left leg now. Beryl looks at it in surprise. It has crept over onto the other footpad and leaned against her right leg. It is comfortable. It is where it wants to be.
“Put it on the other side.”
Slowly, very slowly, she eases it over onto the left footpad of the wheelchair to please her friend.
“I’m going to leave you now- I’ve someone else who is actually in hospital who I need to visit.”
Beryl’s eyes show a tiny flicker of panic. Slyly her leg moves back onto the other footpad.
“I’ll turn you round the other way- so you can see when someone comes.”
Who would come? When?
Suddenly the wheelchair is moving and she finds herself facing the other way towards the young man behind the hatch at the patient transport window. He can’t hear properly. She had tried to tell him her name and he hadn’t heard. She whispers it again, just to herself, to make sure.
“Beryl Pick.”
“What are you saying your name for?”
Beryl is too tired to explain.
“You’ll see now when they come to get you. See all the people come and go. I’ll leave you now.”
She watches her friend bustle off and looks down at her little bag. Lunch. Yes, there is food in there. Very slowly she starts to try to find it. Her long, thin fingers search the small space and she brings out a tiny square of white bread wrapped in a tissue. The crusts have been cut off and it is white and clammy, with waxy pale cheese inside. She hunches over it and puts it to her lips. Gently, eyes looking out watchfully like a grazing rabbit, she nibbles a tiny piece from the end. Her mouth barely moves as she chews. It is impossible to tell whether she is enjoying it or not and there is nobody to ask her. When she has finished she holds out the tissue helplessly but there is nobody to take it from her. She retreats back into herself and returns it to the bag.
I move round to where she can see me.
“They’ll come and take you home soon.”
She looks at me and somewhere behind her eyes there is the beginning of a smile. The remnants of the person that she once was. Someone who had been pretty, funny and confident. Someone who had made their own choices. Someone who had been young. Her reply comes in a whisper.
“I hope so.”
The ambulance driver arrives, all quickness and efficiency, too quick for Beryl. It makes her panic.
“Are you Beryl Pick?”
Yes she is. Silently Beryl’s lips form her name. He looks at the small screen in his hand.
“Beryl Pick?”
Beryl looks at him anxiously. He waits.
“Is that your name love?”
Beryl’s whole self tries to show him without words that it really is her name.
“Can you say your name for me?”
Her lips move again. I can see that she is saying Beryl Pick but there is still no sound and he needs to hear it. He turns away to talk to the young man behind the hatch.
“Do you know this lady’s name?”
After some muffled conversation he comes back.
“Can you tell me your name?”
With a mighty effort Beryl manages to make her name just about audible and he is happy. I smile at her.
“You’ll be all right. He’s going to take you home.”
Her face is swept out of sight as the wheelchair turns.


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