I’m not sure she knows me now.  Most of the time she sits pulling the hem of her dress across her bare knees, leaning forward and then lying down in her chair, picking at her sleeves, trying to undo her buttons; her face a sad mask of confusion.  She seems oblivious to the sounds around her, the shouts, snatches of songs, the moans.  ‘I don’t like it.’  ‘ They’re coming to get me, you know.’  ‘My mum will cook me supper when she gets in from work.’  All gone, lost in their own vanishing world.   Only a nurse passing across her field of vision brings a brief touch of animation; she reaches out, points and then with infinite resignation lets her hand fall back again. 

I try to gain her attention.  ‘Hello mum.  Nice to see you.’  There is no response, then like a beast in a field, she gradually turns her head and stares into my eyes, a look of slow reproach tinged with confusion as if she knows she knows me but can’t quite work it out.  It’s like her slow memory of me doesn’t quite fit.  She has gone to another place; a place that I had put her, a place where I can’t follow. 

 With infinite sadness, she moves her head across, leans her head into the gap between my shoulder and neck.  I stroke her hair, silky grey,  washed and combed that morning.  She pulls away, looks at me for longer  – mum was always good at the long looks.  I meet her gaze, hold it, will myself to energise the connection  –   but her battery is low, the circuits  slow, faltering, missing.  Then a glimmer in the hooded eyes, a recognition.  A flash of panic.  ‘Too much, too much.  She looks down, puts a hand up to her face as if to weep, but buries her nose in it instead,  as if hiding from an intolerable reality.   After a while, she looks up again, makes as if to speak.  Perhaps, even now, there will be a meaningful comment, something I can console myself with, when her body has gone and the formalities complete.  I put my ear to her lips. 

‘I want to go to the toilet.’

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