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Angela McMurray

by Angela McMurray


Elsie stood up. She placed a pale hand on the peeling door frame, her gaze travelled over the treetops, settling on the peaceful suburban skyline. The sun felt artificially bright. The trees emitted white noise not ten metres from where she stood, looking out, beyond her latest home. Home. Aged care facility. Prison. It was all the same to Elsie. She knew this was not a home. A home is love. A home is freedom and respect and smiling. No, this was a prison for the rejected. Inhaling deeply, she recognised scents of eucalyptus and lavender, even pine, which was strange in this area of Virginia. Or was it Hampton?

It seemed years since the diagnosis had flung her into this wretched place. She was old, yes, but she remembered the day well. It was fixed in her mind like the vortex of a cyclone. She’d listened, not welcome in the conversation, as they spoke about her: the doctor and her daughter, Carol, spelling out her future like the formula for removing a sauce stain. She had sat in the stuffy doctor’s office and watched the curtains dance, horrified at how faded and dusty they looked. Why didn’t anyone attend to them? Dust them or wash or replace them?

Deposited in this lifeless dorm, Elsie felt like a student again: told what to eat, clothes chosen in advance, instructed where to sit and shit and sleep. She’d swallowed the rules and quietly began plotting her escape. Outwardly, she played the angel. Elsie told herself this was to stop the fuss but in reality, the drugs gave her no other option. A poker face was simply a side effect. In this place choice, along with privacy, had been scrubbed away, leaving the stench of ammonia and abandonment.

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