The words drift in clouds. As people come and go, their words spill into the room. I watch them clumping, coalescing and diverging through the space.

The quick nurse, impatient rat-nurse, the one who rattles: projects her words outwards in a sharp stream. She marches trolleys assaulting me with clatter – the light and the noise press into my body – I have no skin. She puts her face close and the too-loud words tumble around, landing on hard surfaces, bouncing off, forming brittle heaps, sinking heavy into the pillows and bed linen. I try to hold them, to catch a word at a time and put them together. But they are too many swarming, buzzing bees.

The other nurse, the slow one: her words liquid-trickle in a steady stream so I cannot distinguish one from another. The warm current seeps through my cloud-head and into my twisting fish-stomach, it runs across the floor and coats the monitor by my bed. With no skin, all the words pass through me. When the nurses get close we overlap; they don’t seem to notice their limbs merging with mine.

Every day the questions come.


Sometimes my bed is shaken by questions in squalls and tipped by their choppy seas. At other times the questions rain steadily like an autumn downpour turning everything brown and green and wet. The nurses send shifting, slippery torrents of talk directed at me, through me, past me.

The doctor’s questions are lumpen, leaden, thudding onto the floor like boxes of old books crowding the room with un-answers. He is blue. The colour radiates from him, bluing the room, turning me blue, cooling me until I feel my heart squelching blue into an expanding tangle of blood vessels.

He stops asking questions and appears less frequently. When he comes he makes short statements. His words do not move towards me, over me, through me, like the others. They are delivered in neat paper parcels to the end of my bed where they line up forming lists:


cerebrovascular – rehabilitation – cerebral haemorrhage – neuropathology – recovery


The paper-parcel words become bricks in a growing wall between my unbounded self and the doctor.

Sometimes a man comes in. He must visit regularly, but I never know when he will come or how long it is since he was last here. The man has a name and it is a name I know. I can’t find his name in my cloud-head – but I know it is there somewhere just beyond me, inside me, with all my other words.

My body is bigger and smaller than itself. It unsettles me. When the man arrives he climbs onto the bed with me. He is the only one who does this. He curls me into a ball. Chest on spine, he becomes a filter, a buffer.

The words scudding skyward, in schools streaming, in swarms buzzing, are pushed back towards the walls, escaping through the vent over the door and out the cracked-open window.

The man breathes soft into my neck and sucks the brightness and hardness out of the air.

He is my skin.