The Wanderer

The doors to the elevator slowly open to a dim blue flickering light. The corridor stretches before the man, hard tiles on the floor reflecting the florescent lighting embedded in the discoloured ceiling tiles. The distant smell of bleach and cleaners wafts through the air.

He steps from the elevator, the soft tap of his shoes echoing quietly along the hallway. The walls are a neutral beige, punctuated at intervals with notice boards, filled with schedules, cards and notifications. A small desk sits to the side of the hallway with a nurse seated behind it, working on an old discoloured keyboard.

She looks up and notices the man, smiles.

"Mr. Edward's room please," the man says, opening his large overcoat to display the badge attached to his belt.

"314, fifth on the left. We found him an hour ago," the nurse responded, "I think he may be asleep."

The man nods, steps around the desk and makes his way down the hallway. Most of the doors are closed at this time of night, the occupants trying to fit in a bit of sleep between visits from the prodding nurses. Each door is adorned with a plastic holder, fitted with the chart of the person inside, brown manila folders encasing bits of white paper.

The nurses station is arrayed in the centre of the hallway, filled with high desks and stools. Two nurses talk in hushed tones, reading over a set of papers. They look up as the man passes, then back to their task.

The door is slightly ajar, a soft blue light spilling from the gap. The man looks back down the hall, grasps the door knob and pushes.

Room 314 is a private, single occupancy room, the sole bed positioned under the windows looking over the street below. On either side of the stretcher bed, a seat is neatly arranged. A wooden cupboard covers the wall on the left, worn and faded.

To the side of the bed a small rolling cart is pushed against the rails. A small Styrofoam cup sits on the cart, a curved straw poking through the lid.

In the bed, under a blue faded blanket an old man rests, mouth slightly open, the soft sound of sleeping breath pushing through his lips. His hair is white, thinning, well kept. Time has riven deep wrinkles into his face. A pole, mounted on rolling wheels, holds a single bag of fluid. A tube exits the bottom of the bag, running along the edge of the bed ending in an intravenous needle taped to the back of the old man's hand.

The younger man approaches, puts his left hand on the guard rail, reaches for the papers in the plastic holder at the end of the bed. He opens the thick folder, shuffles through the bundle of papers to the most recent entry.

"Patient was found in a state of distress, wandering and confused. EMS retrieved and transported as per medic-alert bracelet instructions."

The younger man drops the folder back in its place, sits in a chair facing the bed. He runs his fingers through his thick hair, elbows on his knees, leaning forward. Without looking up he mutters to himself.

"Hi Dad."