Finally, alone at last.

Hazy memories of the phone call. No good news is delivered at 2am. Revs pushed high in the freezing night, the flow of fuel nourishing the heart. Limiting the air supply. Country roads turn to B roads turn to A roads turn to motorways, the lanes taken up by the rumbling beasts of overnight haulage. The child seats rattle vacant in the back as the radio quietly progresses through the day’s events, none of which register.

A lone dog walker stops and watches the traffic journeying below from the vantage of a bridge and I wonder why he’s out so late. Or maybe it’s so early, I’ve lost track of the clock. It’s still pitch black. I quickly ponder the activities of the creatures behind the flickering window lights which scatter across the horizon and envy their normalcy. The figure and his animal flash above me and into history.

The sun registers on the skyline and the trees take on their daily infancy, sweeping tirelessly into the void of the distant morning mist.

‘It would be advisable if you could come immediately.’

Words said with such calm perspective each burying themselves as deep as poisoned darts. I wake no-one, a note on the fridge to call me. Not to worry. Tomorrow will bring its own worries. I glance at the mobile lying motionless on the passenger seat.

I absently finger the barely noticeable scar on my jaw, a point so obsessed over at one brief point in time. Decades ago probably. The bike toppled, the ground unforgiving. Lots of tears and ice cream. Two stitches, a Brave as a Lion sticker and back home, an incident scarcely perceivable in the infinite libretto of life. Childhood surrenders all to carers in times of confusion. The hugs bringing comfort, reassurance, closure. Later we just drift away.

Questioning the abruptness of the news, choking through the tightness of my throat.

‘We can never make firm predictions with this kind of thing. I’m sorry.’

The vast hospital buildings beckon me through the height restriction barriers, welcoming me with warnings of parking prices and the dire consequences of ignoring them. It is still calm here. The lengthy morning shadows battle with the amber glow gradually engulfing the world. I don’t think I have any change. I hope they take cards; they must take cards nowadays.

I park and turn off the engine. Silence. I am in a hurry but all I seem to be capable of is sitting. Guilt should be upon me, the visits not being frequent enough, always valid excuses for my absence. She said she understood. She probably did. Yet welling up inside me is nothing but emptiness, a void of sensation. The lack of guilt will give way to guilt of its own, misplaced guilt for a lack of it. A selfish guilt. Although guilt is rarely unselfish.

Eventually I make it to the entrance, the dazzling lights an unwelcome contrast to the warm glows of morning. It’s impossible to get a sense of time here, hospitals respect no hour. The receptionist is professional and cold and I follow her finger through corridors and past tracking pleading bloodshot eyes. Who they are pleading to, only they know.

The door stands open.

‘It would be advisable if you could come immediately.’

The bed lies empty. IV tubes hang lifelessly, machines dormant and noiseless. I brush the sheets away and lightly roll my fingers over the transient impressions in the mattress. All that is left here. I close my eyes and take a long deep breath, traces of a familiar perfume scratch my throat. I take it in, no time for tears, the porters waiting. Nothing allowed to linger. Unoccupied beds filled the moment the previous occupants’ needs are relinquished. I turn and leave, there’s nothing here now. Porters nod in tutored compassion as they pass with new linen.

The pastel corridors are still busy but lack orientation. Something has shifted, space disjointed and emotions cheated. A nurse babbles something to me but I don’t understand and ignore her, then she’s gone.

I wander through hallways and across windowed walkways amongst the uniformed and the stripped, the life givers and those in the throes of ruin. A nod here, a question, direction, all inconceivable and disregarded as I finally locate the exit. Breathless but only within, my exhalation regular. The path through the car park seems overwhelming and the coat I abruptly recall being left in the room is in reality warming my back. Car horns. Shouts. A fist shaken. I find my car, a different car than I came in, a misshapen car park from the one I initially arrived in, an altered world than I recognised only hours ago.

There’s no purpose starting the engine as the journeys destination is unknown. Turning the radio on, I crave for familiarity but all I hear is static. Where to go from here? Missed calls, unread text messages. The tears won’t come. More static. The guilt salivating for its meal.

Yet more static.

Finally, alone at last.