I’ve been cleaning this nursing home for what seems like an eternity now, I have seen many things since I have been here, but I try to keep my eyes closed, it is better that way. I have a very lonely existence and just want to spend the rest of cursed life on this earth in seclusion, and this is the best way to do it, on the night shift away from every thing and everybody. I’m mad at the world; my life was nothing more than one heartbreak right after another until there came a point when I just decided I was over all of it.
Night after night I drift up and down these hallways and pretend that nothing is wrong, nothing more than a ghost that just wants to avoid everyone on this earth, just as everyone on this earth avoids me, I’m so lonely. The only reason anyone even knows I am here is every now and then I must visit to do my job, which is to clean. There is one certain nurse that came to work here several months ago, she has the prettiest eyes I have ever seen, she has a smile that gives me a feeling or warmth something I haven’t felt in a while, I haven’t got her to notice me but she is perfect in everyway. On breaks I will stand in the shadows out back and listen to her as she talks on the phone with her kids and tells them good night. I wish I could talk to her, if I could have a woman like that it would save me from this eternity to which I am condemned, but I cant for if I do I condemn her to eternity of pain, it is what I am damned to do.
The sad part of my job, when I have to go into the rooms of the young, the ones who suffer without any hope to hold onto, the ones who never got a chance to live life, who through accident or disease will never leave here alive. I try not to look them in the eyes, the doctors and nurses walking around here think that most of them are vegetables and that they are not conscious of their surroundings, but I know better. Every time I stand next to one of them they get goose bumps, and I can feel their emotion, that I why I am in and out as quickly as possible. This morning they brought in a new resident, a older female who was severely injured in an auto accident several days ago, she is in very bad shape, I assume she wont be with us long. I go into her room to mop, and by her bed is the nurse, I stand behind and do not make a sound I don’t want her to know that I am here, it could spook her. She turns to walk out, and I step back and bow my head as she passes, I cannot look her in the eye either.
As she leaves the room I watch and simply dream, I feel as though I am drawn to this woman. In any effect I have to go back to cleaning, I swing the mop a little too wide and strike the night stand beside the bed causing a picture to fall flat, I hate to make noise and let anyone know I am here. I look back toward the hallway, no one can see, so I reach over and lift the picture back to its original position. I look at the picture, an old black and white of sailor and his new bride. These two are the most perfect couple you have ever seen, pushed against each other as though they are the only two in the world.
“She became my wife that summer day” I jumped, I was startled! Across on the other side of the bed sat an old man, grey hair, wrinkled face, with the twinkle of blue in his eyes. “That was nineteen 57 before I left for Korea, isn’t she beautiful. She never thought I would come back alive, I’ve never left her side” I didn’t know what to say at first, I didn’t even realize that he was there. As I stepped around the foot of the bed as to get a better look at the woman, I noticed that the old man and she gazed into each others eyes with an intensity of love that I could only imagine having.
“What’s her name?” I asked. “Heaven” the old man simply replied. Before I got to close I decided to leave, I did not want to make eye contact with her, this is the rule. Once you make eye contact you have peered into the windows of the soul, and it will stir emotions even take them away a little, that person is conscious of mine being there. Before I exit the room the old man asks “will you be back soon?” I stop for a moment “why are you lonely” I replied, “No, I just want to take my Heaven and leave this place. And I can’t leave without her” I do not say a word just walk on out into the hallway, back to work.
That night as I sit on the steps out back and smoke my pipe I listen as the nurses on duty chat and laugh, they all have such wonderful souls; I pray I never have to talk to them for a long time. Then she appears the nurse with the pretty eyes, she walks up and begins chatting and laughing with the others. They speak of the aroma my pipe makes which falls upon their nostrils and leaves them enchanted, though they don’t recognize the smell which surrounds them. They speak of the new lady that has arrived and of her condition; they speak of her with a little sorrow in their voice, as though she has already left this world. That is why I feel so comfortable around these women, death is around them constantly and they can deal with it, they keep their hearts in the right place so it prepares them to deal with such things. And just as they do gods work by watching over those who cannot take care of themselves, so must I do my work and clean this place.
I arise and go back to work, up the steps and to the third floor. As I walk down the long white hallway, in front of me runs out a little white girl with blonde hair pulled into a bow, wearing a red dress. She is one of the happiest sprits I have ever seen, laughing and playing as she skips along the side of the wall. Suddenly she stops and peers into one of the rooms, and it comes to me, wait minute she is not suppose to be here, why is that little girl standing there? At this moment a pale expressionless face comes over the girl and her eyes become fixated onto the center of the room.
As I step to the doorway I look in and see a single bed with a small boy, no more than ten or eleven laying in the bed, struggling. I walk next the bed his eyes lock onto mine, at that moment fear overcomes him, and he knows death is near. He kicks his legs frantically and wrestles from side to side never once taking his eyes off me, something is wrong, the boy is trying to reach his call button but can’t, his arms are tangled up in his lines, it is not this boys time to die. I know if he passes before his time he will fall into a purgatory where no one wants to be, a place neither here nor there. What am I to do? I am not to interfere it is not my job, will I get into trouble? I look back to the doorway the little girl is standing watching with a sad expression, she knows also. I look back to the boy as his face begins to change indicating his passing. Then I do something that is not required of me, nor expected of me. I reach across the boy and push the button of which now he has one single finger extended fully attempting to reach lacking just an inch or two. Within seconds the room fills with medical staff, the boy lives, all is well. This little boy will recall this moment in his life, the moment of when he looked death in the eye and lived, he will carry this moment and do good things, he will become great in life because now he respects death. I drift back into the hallway, there are not many times that I can feel good about what I am or what I do, but this night I feel a sense of delight. The little girl is gone, and I go back to work.
Later while at the desk where the medical staff conjugates to discuss this place, and life, I listen in to a conversation between two of them. One speaks of an abusive boyfriend, of his drunken rages and the bruises she is forced to hide from his rants. She tells of his drug abuse and of his infidelity, isn’t love a bitch. I long for the day that I get to look men like this in the eye, times like that they must reflect on all they have done, their sins find them out. They fall to their knees and beg, on days like that vengeance doesn’t always belong to god.
Once again I find myself in the hallway of the second floor, I notice ahead of me the nurse with the pretty eyes approaching me from ahead. Every time I see her I come to realize all that I lost in this world. She doesn’t even know I am here; she is totally oblivious to my existence, even though I work beside here every day.
As we pass each other I reach out and touch her forearm, she suddenly stops, goose bumps run all over her. I never stop walking; I may have overstepped my boundary lines, but is something that I had to do, just to find out how her skin felt. It was warm and full of life, even though she found it a little eerie, I found it relaxing, it made me feel alive.
It is times such as this that I so dread it here, I think that there must be more. I know there is though, I do know that there is more to look forward to in life than simply dying. So many get caught up in the act of trying to get through life, and they lose sight of the pleasure of living life. Where they to know what I know every living human being would stop and take time to enjoy their time here, they would laugh, love, and breathe, so many forget to do that.
Once again I come upon the little angel, the small girl in the red dress. It is nights like this that I find it a pleasure to see her, she is so happy, she truly is a rose among thorn. She runs down the hallway in front of me, she skips from side to side. As I keep slowly wondering behind her she comes once again to the door of a room, then she raises here hand and points in, with a smile across her face. I ponder for a moment when I come to the door, I know this room, as I look in I see a portrait of love. The old man that I had spoken with earlier now standing as if he is in anticipation, holding the hand of his one true love.
I find myself next to the bed, “Is it her time?” the old man ask, I say nothing. As I look into her eyes I know it is her time, and she does also. I can see not a look of fear, but of fulfillment. This woman has lived her life and now with out a doubt to my mind I know that she is ready, she is ready to die. I look back to the old man as he stands, eyes tired “I have never left her side”, this is a moment of which he cannot see “you should wait outside” I say to him, he says nothing simply lays her motionless hand to her side and exits. I bring my attention back to her she looks in my eyes, life leaves her body, I reach up and push her eyes shut; now no noise remains except the sound of a flat line.
As nurses rush in from the beacon I simply stand back, to attempt to interfere is useless, she is gone, somewhere inside they know this is true, they must go through the motions. I walk to the hallway where stands the old man, he looks so happy, he knows her misery is over.
Color begins to fade in the man, what am seeing before me, I am not scared, just in disbelief. Out of the room with such grace appears a young beautiful woman, I immediately recognize her, she is the woman from the picture, but now in apparition form. She steps up to the old man, and kisses him fully on the lips. Wrinkles begin to leave the man, his hair turns a much darker color, and his body grows strong and now he appears as young man in the picture. At that moment it all made sense, I did not know their story before but now it comes to me as if I have re-encountered a distant memory. The old man was her husband, he never returned from the war, she never forgot her love, so he could never leave her.
After their embrace he turns to me “thank you, you have made me whole again” I am talking to a ghost, they both smile. As quickly as they came they fade out of sight, I understand his point, how could he go to heaven when his heaven was still on earth. I turn back to the little girl who stands looking up at me, she never speaks just smile, and then she to fades away. She to is a ghost, she never got to fulfill her destiny on earth now she is condemned to be the little angel who picks those who die.
I am in an un-movable position, in aw if you will, what do I say, I say nothing, it shows me how short life is, it shows how grateful one should be just to be living. Here she comes, the nurse with the beautiful eyes. She has a look of distress upon her face, she feels despair every time someone here passes, she has a good soul. I think I would like to speak to her this would be my moment that would release me from this place, it would free me from my internal prison. She steps directly in front of me our eyes lock; this is so seldom, for someone to look into my eyes. Her hair stands, goose bumps appear and she has a feeling of un-easiness come upon her as her skin begins to crawl. I want to speak but I cannot, I drop my head and begin to mop as a feeling of dread comes into me for not having the courage to have ever lived my life, and this is why I am condemn to this place.
I whistle while I work, but know one can hear. Who can I tell of what I know, no one, I am alone in this world. The little girl that I constantly see is the only one I ever have contact with. She comes just long enough to show me who has been chosen to go to the other side, and then I send them there. I hate my job, I am to clean this place, I am the death angel, cursed to walk this earth in death, because I never took the opportunity to live life while I was here. If only I would have allowed someone to have ever loved me I would not be stuck in this purgatory, but now it is too late, who ever love the idea of death?