In The Eye Of The Beholder
Mr Hunt’s in again, shouting, he frightens the life out of me sometimes. You wouldn’t think he’s a policeman, he’s more like my Uncle John as works down the docks. All loud and rough and pushing people about.
He’s all right really, though, Mr Hunt I mean, I think it’s just his way, but he still makes me jump when he starts on for no reason. You can hear him all the way out to main doors when he really gets going.
“Sammy!” he goes. “Sammy, for God’s sake, just wake up!” Then you have to be a bit quick because if you don’t get in there quick and sort him out, apparently he starts hitting things and trying to move poor Mr Tyler. Molly Stevens caught him once, he told her if the daft ponce wasn’t getting better here he’d take him home and he could get better there.
Lucky she’s a strong lass, Molly. Irish. She stood right in front of him - I’d have been too scared - and she really gave him what for. She told him to his face that he’d kill the poor man if he did that, what with the lung and the morphine, and the NGT his only way of getting nourishment. And d’you know, she said he went white, really, really, white, and sat down like she’d punched him in the gut. Sounds daft, but she thought he was going to cry. She didn’t know what to do, I mean he’s such a hard man, you can hardly pat him on the shoulder and say, “There, there, don’t you worry, it’ll be all right.”
Well, it came out all right in the end, Molly got him a cup of tea and explained it all to him while he calmed down a bit. Turns out Mr Tyler is his deputy or something, best he’s ever had, apparently. She said he let something slip though, when he was all upset – him and Mr Tyler, they live together! Well, not like that, I said, surely, that would be, well, if they were queer or something.
And Molly, she just looks at me and says, “Well, what did you think? It’s obvious they are, you’ve only got to look at him. The way he looks at Sam” – she calls him Sam, I was always taught to call the patients by their proper names – “you can see he’s not just being a good boss.”
Well, you can’t argue with that, catch any boss I’ve ever known sitting by my bedside worrying about me. But even so, queer? He doesn’t look the type, all big and strong and sweaty like that.
I mean, I always thought poofs were, well, poofy. Fancy clothes, ever so clean, walk a bit like that. James at the hairdressers where my mum works, he’s queer, and he talks all funny and he wears eye-liner, so you can tell. But Mr Hunt, he looks quite normal. And he’s such a manly man, you know, larger than life and twice as tough, and he makes you feel safe. I reckon you’d never have to worry if you had a man like that. I wouldn’t mind, if I was older.
I’ll be a bit sad when they go, to be honest.
* * *
I’ve just had to reprimand Nurse Stevens again. I don’t care what anyone says, these Irish girls have no sense of propriety. It’s coming from such a backward country; I know it’s not her fault, but if she wants to stay on my ward she’ll have to buck up her ideas a bit.
Only this morning I found her sitting – sitting! - in Mr Tyler’s room, talking to that disgusting man. Had the cheek to tell me it’s good for Mr Tyler to have Mr Hunt there. The nerve of the girl; the man needs peace and quiet, not that dreadful man sitting there talking at him all the time.
He’s queer, you know, Mr Hunt. Oh, yes, I overheard Mr Bloomfield’s Registrar telling Nurse Stevens, although how he would know I’m sure I’ve no idea. Apparently Mr Tyler is his, his, well, I don’t like to think about it. It can’t be right, can it, I mean, two men, it’s just not natural. If God had meant men to do that sort of thing he’d have – well, it’s just disgusting.
If it was up to me I wouldn’t let him in at all. "Family only" at the bedside was the rule when I was training, but Mr Bloomfield said he wasn’t doing any harm and it might get Mr Tyler off our hands a bit quicker.
Not doing any harm? Stinking out my ward with his cigarettes and his BO? Distracting my nurses with his shouting and banging about? And I don’t think he ever goes home for a wash. He comes shambling in here at the end of visiting hours, upsetting my nurses with his swearing. He spends all night in Mr Tyler’s room – it’s nothing short of perverted, the man’s in a coma for goodness’ sake - and then he comes out and says he’s got to check nobody’s stolen his city overnight, and off he goes.
And half the time he’s back again by lunchtime; you’d think he’d have better things to do – he could go and catch some criminals for a start - but apparently they can get along without him once in a while. I told him so could I, him and his chips, but he didn’t take the hint.
No harm indeed, I don’t know what the world is coming to. I’ll be glad when we can get Mr Tyler out of here so I can get my ward nice and clean again, like it should be.
* * *
I’ll be pleased when he goes, to be honest with you. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no trouble, and he is quite an interesting case, but it’s his boss that’s the problem. I always know, the moment we come into the Ward. There’s a special feeling in the air when he’s here, like electricity. All the way down the Ward, answering the questions, looking the part, I can hear him. All the way back up the Ward, saying my lines, smiling my smile for the customers, I can smell him. And when we finally reach Mr Tyler’s room and arrange ourselves impressively around the bed, I can practically feel him.
Most days he doesn’t look up, doesn’t acknowledge us in any way. He’s used to us, and we’re used to him. Mr Bloomfield used to tell him off for getting in the way, but now he says you might as well get annoyed with a rock. Good looking rock, is all I’ve got to say. Craggy sort of face, just how I like them; sensitive mouth, not that you’d think so to hear him sometimes.
Probably sounds like I think about him quite a bit. Well, I do, as it happens. Of course, when he first came in to see Sam, Mr Tyler, that is, he wasn’t much to look at – bloodshot eyes, greasy hair; crumpled shirt with sweat marks all over it. And the smell! I don’t think he’d changed his clothes for a week. He still had the mark about him though, the man’s a born leader. I wouldn’t have said no, even then.
And now, well, in some ways he’s recovering along with Sam. His eyes are clear and hopeful now, but still tired of course. His hair is clean most of the time; those grabbable gold strands sweep back very sexily, thank you. Even his shirts have been getting less rank day by day and nowadays he’s often got a clean one on when he comes in.
There was even a day when he came in wearing an ironed shirt, a gorgeous green one. That was the day Sister had told him his lovely boy might be waking up. All right, so it wasn’t her fault it didn’t happen but she didn’t have to laugh when she told the whole canteen about it. I saw the look on his face when Mr Bloomfield put him right, and I could have smacked that cow into next week.
I didn’t say anything though; might have given myself away. But if he was mine I’d look after him properly, because I don’t think Sam’s ever going to be strong enough again. Makes you wonder though, what people see in each other.
I mean, you’d never think those two were a pair. At first they were more like an injured sparrow and a hunting beast – hark at me, coming over all poetic, he does rather have that effect on me - but now things are more equal. The broken little creature is gradually getting stronger, and the watching lion – OK, I’ll stop now, but he is magnificent - is getting weaker. Not a lot, but I can see it.
It’s a debilitating business, looking after a loved one, and Mr Sexy-Beast Hunt is putting everything he’s got into it. I spoke to him once, told him he should look after himself more, keep himself strong for when Sam is well enough to be discharged. But he only gave me a funny look and said he’d manage, thank you.
He hasn’t seen me watching him, of course, I’m not entirely stupid. And if he’s heard me fumbling my answers to questions a retarded first-year could do in his sleep, well he hasn’t said so.
But Mr Bloomfield has, so taking it all together, it’ll be a good thing when Sam goes home.
I’ll miss his boss though. Best part of my day.
* * *