I. The Old Man
Grey, looming clouds are gathering in the sky and visiting hours are coming to an end. In the hospital park sits an old man alone with a book perch between his bony thighs. There are joggers, elderly couples and little kids running around. As if he has blended in with the background together as one, all of them are oblivious to the old man sitting on the bench.
Just like his family. Just like his friends. Just like everyone else.
The pages of his book turn as the wind gently blows against his skin. And although the world is a mess around him with shouting voices and sounds of feet hitting pavements, he has never felt more at peace than now.
The page is marked as page 23, a poem titled “old-age“:
He who sits in his cloak of thoughts
Have but his mind for company
And as the moon sets and then rises for another day
He too passes on in hope of a better beginning
As the first sign of rain begins to drop, the old man shuts his eyes. I’ll just sleep for awhile.
Back in the hospital ward, the doctor checks the attendance board. “Has patient 0257 checked in? His bed is empty.” The dispatched nurses finds him sitting on the same bench with the same book, his eyes still shut and fragile fingers cold to the touch.
The pages of the book are turned to page 24. It is a blank page.
II. The Old Lady In The Hospital
The first timely coincidence between the author and the old lady was in the hospital lift. An old, hunched man held the lift door as the author pushed her wheelchair-bound grandmother in. Clad in a security guard’s uniform, he seemed deep in thought when he gestured to the wheelchair and asked, “Your grandma?” The author smiled back in reply, “Yea.”
The second timely coincidence was on the seventh floor of the hospital building. The author was visiting her grandmother with her family, when the same old, hunched man who held the lift door for her walked in. It was 30 minutes to the end of visiting hours for the day. Clad in the same security guard uniform, he stopped at the side of a thin, drooling lady on the next bed. Careful not to wake her up, he grasped her hands in between his and planted a kiss on her forehead.
He came the next day, and the day after, and the day after that. Wearing the same security guard’s uniform. Walking in 30 minutes before visiting hours ended. That was the last the author ever saw of the thin, drooling lady and old, hunched man.
The next time the author visited her grandmother, the old lady’s bed was empty and made.
For my grandma and the old lady in the hospital, whose only companion was her husband.