The room was bright. Yet, through the half-closed blind, the world outside was still black as night. I watched the nurse arranging my tray. A flash of red interrupted her busy fingers.
‘You wanted a ruby!’
The young woman paused, her empty smile becoming uncertainty. ‘Yes, that’s right! I brought your breakfast. Yesterday. Scrambled eggs. Like this.’ She checked her watch then hurried round to adjust the bed. I could feel myself becoming higher. ‘You wanted a little salt, remember?’
I reached for the salt pot, then pulled back my hand. ‘How much did I want?’
‘Just a little.’
I shook out a few grains. My fingers seemed strangely disobedient. I changed hands. That was better.
She handed me a spoon, watched me as a I ate, then stepped round to the edge of the bed and lifted a chart that was hanging there out of sight. She checked her watch again. Time was important. She nudged a china mug towards the front of the tray then fetched a small beaker from the side table. I watched it approach, removed the two yellow pills and swallowed them, each with a mouthful of tea. The tea was terrible, worse than yesterday. I remember yesterday’s less-terrible tea. But I knew I was in no position to complain about tea, so I drank it and put my empty mug back on the tray. I hoped I wasn’t making a face. The pills had left a bitter aftertaste that even the terrible tea couldn’t wash away.
She removed my tray then pulled a chair over and sat down beside me, her hands together in her lap. ‘Can you tell me anything about yesterday, Sarah?’ she said.
I knew this was a test, I knew I had to say something, so I tried to recall things before today, looked again at the red stone, surrounded by a circle of tiny, sparkling diamonds.
She turned the ring on her finger and smiled. ‘Anything else?’
I searched the room for inspiration. There was not much to see. Another chair, the side table, a lamp, a jug of water, a glass, a painting on the wall, a window.
‘I remember the sun.’
She smiled. ‘Yes, it was sunny yesterday. Anything else?’
Anything else? Yes, there was something else but I didn’t want to talk now. I wanted to concentrate. But my thoughts were giving way to the hum of the lights. To the distant laughter of a child. Ridiculing me. I felt myself becoming lower. A heavy door closed. Then footsteps. Two shadows alongside the nurse. One tall and wide. One short and thin. I tried to focus as the ruby-ringed fingers secured the sheet too tightly over my arms. I tried to listen as the same-as-before nurse spoke to the shadows, informed them of things beyond my hearing. As if only they were entitled to know. That today I remembered yesterday.