TE21 Serbian Moments

Kristina Dimitrova

The Smile

for the first time, I saw them for the rubbish they were. That made me see them as valuable too. There was a pyramid of cardboard boxes of different sizes in the corner. There was a knitted, flower-pattern scarf with tassels on the back of the armchair. I picked it up and smelled it.

He took the scarf from my hands, folded it and put it on a different chair, away fromme. After ten years of quiet, we were back at it again. I had not come for this. But a whole week after the funeral - why had I come at all? “And made mother’s life at least five years shorter? Apologies for the inconvenience!” Now I knew I wouldn’t shut up until he’d heard all of it. “Do you have any idea how this money is made? You run from floor to floor, take blood-pressure, turn over the bedridden, theirwounds have to be cleaned once every three hours, fill in their records. The ones who wee themselves you put two nappies on at night - there is a way, you make a hole in the top one and that’s it. I live in shit. I work together with Filipinos, Albanians, Serbians, Egyptians, Romanians. By the staff in old people’s homes, you can tell which countries need money. I rush, turn the old people over from one side to the other, I help them to take a few steps, to reach the canteen on their own. Many are fat. Do you know what it’s like to prop up an immobilised fat person? Some of them lash out. There is this Neville, and when he doesn’t like something, he swings with his crutch. He tried to play this trick on me too but I told him, ‘Listen Neville, I know what you are used to but you can’t do this with me. If you try and hit me one more time, you’ll see what happens tonight. Watch it!’ But not everyone is like Neville, no. There is Judy, very thin, very kind. She has advanced dementia, she remembers some things, she doesn’t remember others, sometimes she even forgets her name but she keeps asking, ‘When are they coming to see me?’ I tell her, ‘They’ll come Judy, of course they will. Real soon.’ She looks at me like

“How was the flight?”

This was the dumbest question my brother could have asked. If I had landed, it must have been OK. “You could have waited a week with the funeral. I came as soon as I could.”

“It was impossible. We had to keep her in a fridge.”

I looked at him to see to what extent he believed this was the main reason. He did. And he still felt awkward. “Look, I couldn’t just leave her like that. If she were alive, she wouldn’t have liked it. I am used to caring for her.”

“I also cared! I never forgot the two of you.”

“I know what you are implying. You haven’t changed one bit. You are trying to make yourself look more concerned than you were. You could have not sent us money. We would have managed somehow.”



Made with FlippingBook PDF to HTML5