My name is Stanley Castle, which is the name I prefer, although the familiar, “We’re all friends now” people insist on calling me “Stan.” I am a man who relishes order and formalities and excessive familiarity unsettles me: it has always done so. I live at the Bramley Home for the Elderly ,by-line, “We Bring Compassion to Understanding” where the levels of absent-minded neglect, and even cruelty, remind me of my childhood. Life may indeed go full circle, and so, emotionally, I am back where I started as a burden too far for staff whose minds are on other things and who wish to be in other places. Thus it is that the cruellest among the nurses are baffled that I smile at their conduct, which brings back fond memories of my mother, a haughty, fastidious lady who aspired to an aristocratic heritage founded on some baseless rumour later laid to rest; as I shall be in due course.
I sit now, silent among a circle of feces, watching or staring at the television and discover the clock to be the most animated presence in the room. Sometimes there is a flurry of activity and some relative comes in to visit someone else and says something like “ How’s it going Gran?” as if all the residents are having fun, and have just finished a meal of oysters and champagne. No one comes to party here in the Waiting Room for Death but that truth remains unspoken ” We don’t want to cause too much emotion among these fading souls.” The lunch recently served under the title “Shepherd’s pie with peas” may have contained nutrients, but flavour had been exiled to make way for them.
Do I sound bitter? Who cares, bitterness is free, and I won’t last long enough to suffer the consequences of the emotion so I make a point of glaring at anyone lucky enough to have a visitor and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible. It has not made me friends, but it has given me the energy that anger brings, and that is something I will treasure until I cease to breath and they can fold me up and put me out of harm’s way until the disposal van removes me from their sight. It was not always so.