Whilst waiting for the number six on a miserable wet morning in Woking I almost lost my head – literally. I was distracted, the bus’s wing mirror and my head collided and I came off the worse.
I awoke in a private hospital room with some kind of contraption around my head. A male nurse entered and shone a torch into my eyes. He asked me some questions, told me I had a skull fracture and that I must remain to undergo tests and observation.
“Any family Mister Smith?”
“No.” None that were speaking to me anyway.
“Next of kin?”. I gave my mother’s details hesitantly.
“Now, you’ve had a head trauma, so you need rest.”
I supposed I should contact someone but I couldn’t think of anyone who would miss me.
I slipped into a deep, dreamless sleep.
I awoke to see a nurse, perhaps thirty, with olive skin, high cheekbones and chestnut brown hair. Her wide eyes were browner still.
“Hello Meester Smeeth, my name is Teresa. How are you feeling?”
“Like something the cat dragged in.”
She laughed as if I’d told the world’s funniest joke. I felt incredibly uplifted.
“At home we say ‘gato’. Have you cats?”
“I had one but he got run over. Please call me Mike.”
“Oh, lo siento mucho.”
“I’m over it now,” I lied. “Do you have one?”
“Oh sí, three!”
Surmising her nationality I tried to remember some of the lingo from the time I spent working in Spain.
“¿Cuáles son tus gatos llamados?”
“They are called Gustavo, Rolando and Linda – Oh, you know Spanish!”
“Un poco.” I said modestly.
Suddenly a large woman entered. She had a blue tunic, grey moustache and piercing bloodshot eyes. I noticed Olga on her badge.
“Nurse Aviles, kindly proceed with your duties!”
“Yes, sister.” Teresa winked at me and they both exited.
In the mornings Teresa would shave me, telling stories about Seville and her little dog Coco. She’d hold a mirror up, laughing and say, “You are very ‘ansome, Mike!” I’d look at my crooked nose and jutting, now-smooth chin, trying to avoid the scaffolding around my skull. I didn’t think I looked at all “ansome” but I wasn’t complaining; she brightened up my life beyond belief.
One morning I was happily anticipating seeing Teresa when in came…Olga.
“Good morning Mr. Smith.”
“She’s been transferred to another hospital.”
“I don’t know.”
“Was it something to do with me?”
“Good Lord, of course not!” Olga looked shocked.
I felt sick with disappointment and her last comment was like a kick in the guts.
The following weeks were grim and all I had to look forward to was going back to a job I hated.
The final day came, I bid goodbye to the mainly-wonderful staff and it felt great to walk freely in fresh air again. I passed the haematology out-patients department and suddenly heard “Mike, Mike!”
Startled, I saw Teresa rushing towards me.
“I thought you’d been transferred!”
“No, they wanted to stop me seeing you.” Her cheeks were wet but she looked adorable.
“I missed you so much.” I’d never spoken truer words.
Our eyes met and it was as if she stared into my soul, seeing me as I really was before life had temporarily defeated me – strong, honest and loving. Suddenly my life had meaning again.
We embraced each other right there and I stood, holding her, inhaling her gentle perfume. I felt her arms grip more tightly and I hugged her harder, knowing that I never wanted to ever let her go…