To an outsider, you are a fortress. Steely windows are spaced uniformly against your grey concrete walls.
I call to see if you are ready to allow me to enter.
“You will know when you are ready.”
Two more hesitant phone calls to your stern gatekeeper. Two more rejections. Then suddenly, I know.
“You need to let me come now.”
“We will see you at the door. Press the buzzer. We will know it is you.”
The journey to your gates is uncomfortable in the extreme. Between sharp intakes of breath, we pull in, we park, we unpack. We walk hesitantly to the first of your many doors. Large and made of cold dark glass, it sees us coming and slides open silently, allowing us safe passage.
As quickly as it opens, it shuts behind us, protecting us from the outside, but catapulting us into an unknown world.
You reveal corridors, dimly lit apart from where we tread. With each squeaky step on your antiseptic smelling floor, you illuminate us with bright lights that flicker on and off as people come and go.
We press your buzzer. You propel forward two women in clean, crisp uniforms. They know it is us.
We are led further down your corridors to your final door. This time warm red wood takes the place of cold glass.
We find ourselves in the most sparse of spaces, which despite appearances is the most comforting of sanctuaries; safe; secure; mine.
The source of the pale blue light you are bathed in is not clear. It could be the shiny paint, thickly applied to the wall, the outline of its bricks still visible. It could be the haze of the city skyline, a skyline that we can observe in its entirety through your panoramic windows. It could just be a blue tint to the harsh strip lighting that glows with a re-assuring buzz throughout our stay with you.
To the right of the window and opposite the door lies the bed. Its sheets feel stiff with starch. It looks both welcoming and impenetrable.
I pace around the small space like a tiger in a cage. I walk through an ever open entrance that is placed to the left of the window and opposite the bed. I find my own bathroom. An en suite would normally bring a smile of such joy. In this setting it is an ugly necessity. Its bright white fittings gleam in the light that filters through the small, high, window. It smells far too clean to be good for anyone.
I re-emerge from the bathroom, exploring you further in order to distract myself. There is a nondescript arm chair to my left. It is made of cheap wood and scratchy fabric. My husband sits there, trying to ‘belong’ in your most alien of surroundings.
An hour or so of walking and breathing and laughing and trembling passes when before long pain is rushing through my body in large unrelenting waves. Then, you draw my eye to an object – the cold metallic tank protruding rubber tubes and plastic makes its presence know. It clamps its hose to my face. I panic, and then I breath with huge languorous gulps. That smell of sweet relief will stay with me forever.
As the pain clears slightly, I look down to see my vibrant coloured clothes strewn over the acrid-pink rubber floor. I don’t recall getting undressed. Slightly high, I smirk at the thought of all you must have seen.
Soon, your edges begin to blur. Your walls move out of sight. I am standing alone, but I belong here. I stare down for what seems like an eternity, all I can see is the criss cross thread of a blanket that has appeared on the bed. The gas canister is taken away and I have only my determination and your itchy blanket to cling to.
In the final throws, it feels as if all of us inhabitants disappear and reappear in different parts of your space, with no awareness of how we get from a to b. I am standing. I am lying down. I am leaning forward. I am on my side. You throw my husband forward. He holds me firmly under my arms as I squat. I feel that sickly pink floor clammy and cool under my buttocks.
Then I am shouting.
Then I am swearing.
Then I am howling.
You muffle my noise in order to amplify a sharp ‘knock’. You open your door and you let Her in. A woman of such control and authority appears – not even you could have turned her away.
It’s going to be OK.
She opens your drawers, concealed at the end of the bed. Sharp metal glints. Rather than terror, relief floods through me.
There’s a prick, a cut, a push
And there’s a cry.
Skin on skin, grin on grin. You retreat, far far into the background. There is just me, and him, and my husband. Elated, joyous, at home in your surroundings.
Without anyone asking, you dim your lights, your small bed envelops my shattered body, hues of cool blue are replaced with a gentle golden-glow. The smell of your harsh cleanliness is now not even a memory. You bow down graciously and allow us all to be swathed in the scent of new born baby.
I wash. I sleep. We eat. We leave.
On our way out, I walk over to your red, wooden door. I touch you and I whisper a thank you. I don’t feel ready to start the next part of this journey, but your lights gently guide me away and towards the exit.
I emerge, back in the car park, blinking in the sunlight.
You push me out.
I feel like a newborn.
I wrote this as part of the WordPress Writing 101 challenge. Any comments gratefully received.