As a whirl of starched uniforms dance before her, the only still thing that Elise sees is her hand resting upon the arm of her wheelchair. It is an old hand. This is a place for old things. The sun shines an ineffectual yellow light onto the patio where there is a smattering of elderly debris soaking up the thin warmth as part of their afternoon respite.
Elise watches as the other residents talk nonsense to their dismayed relatives. Bent forward in earnest, worried wives and daughters cling to the fragile ghosts of meaning that haunt their conversations.
An unbidden memory of a child holding her finger climbs its way into her thoughts. She has forgotten much and names elude her but she knows this memory. It clamps her heart.
“Has anyone seen my son?” she asks nobody in particular, and nobody answers.
They drift away, the relatives, their faces creased with sad relief. And one by one the nurses help the residents back to their rooms.
She sighs quietly and watches the diminished sun defer to the inevitable night.
“Come on, mum, it’s time to get you back inside.” An alien voice emerges from the murk.
She feels someone take hold of her finger and hold it tight. An elusive fragment of what once was flickers and then dies.
“Has anyone seen my son?” she asks the shadow behind her.
She is answered by a quiet sob as someone once known wheels her back into the darkness.