Yellow lights flicker in their dusty overhead shells, like moths trapped in glass. Wheelchairs wait empty in the corridor. Each footstep disturbs an embedded urine stench.
We pass open doors of elderly- shiny eyes poking out from furrowed skin and folds of starchy sheets. Who knew hope was in a footstep? In the distance, a shrivelled voice of vocal chords strained and mouth parched. The kind of yelp pulled from the string of boots. Help, it said. Help. It tugs my heart one way but feet go another. Guilt leaves an unwelcome taste.
I sit in the corner of the room where my Granddad lives out his days. They are numbered. The wrinkled weight of his body rests in a bed he has not left for four weeks, and counting. Muscles, nerves, control have all left him and he waits, we wait, they wait.
His bed faces the window- a sky grey with seriousness, the lone magpie perched on a tree bare from seasons change, the window glass marred with fingerprints forgotten.
But Granddad sees nothing.
With a bib around his neck we feed him spoonfuls of mashed food, share sad broken laughs with our Benjamin Button, the irony of life in reverse. I grasp his hand, stroking the lines of history carved into skin like a well-read map. Briefly, his grip tightens. Blue eyes fix on mine, lip quivers. 'I'm ready but I'm scared.'
It's a pithy whisper but I hear him. My fingertips stroke his brow and I engulf his frame in blankets, as if warmth will keep his fears at bay. It's a small comfort but to whom?
As we leave, the lights continue their amber dance in dusty shells and I wonder. Though his limbs are feeble, his mind is strong. My Granddad, the moth trapped in a glass. If I could set him free, he would fly.