I slowly breathe in. “Do you have apples? Fresh fruit?”
She smiles at me. I am astonished. I think I like this new nurse.
“I'll go look. I'll be back as soon as I can.”
I nod and wait. I'm glancing around the room at the other poor souls here, gulping down this crap. Ten minutes pass. I am starting to feel tense. Maybe she forgot about me. Maybe it was a trick. Maybe I should just wander back to my room. Then I see her. She's wearing a huge smile on her face and holding a peach in her hand. My mouth waters.
“This is from my lunch,” she whispers, “I picked it this morning.”
I think I must have found the little heaven in this place. She is the first refreshing thing that's happened to me in years. I thank her at least three times to be sure she knows how grateful I feel. She thanks me for eating. How odd.
Something pulls me from my slumber. I have no restraints. I smell the farmer's market, full of naturally sweet and earthy scents. I open my eyes to find that I am not at the farmer's market, I am in the very room I fell asleep in. This constant ache of a chamber. But I can still smell fruits. I turn over to the bedside table. A glorious basket of fresh fruit with a card sits there. I open the card.
'Just between us, I don't like the food either. ~AM'
Who the heck is that? Then I remember the nurse. I close my eyes and remember every detail of yesterday. The peach, her smile, her name tag. Nurse Monroe. I'm feeling hopeful that I will stay out of the dreams now that I have things to look forward to. Fresh fruit, and oh look at this, a wheel of cheese tucked down in there.
My eyes are bright. I can feel it. When the doctor comes in he mentions it. I tell him I like that new nurse I met. She was nice to me. He nods. I think he feels hopeful too.
No restraints again today. I have a little skip in my steps ambling toward the dining hall. She's been joining me at my table every day now for a week. We eat a little and talk a lot.
“The doctor told me we could do something special for you. It was my idea. After breakfast I'll show you.”
“You're not going to make me to knit potholders are you? Or do those stupid paint by number things?”
“Don't roll your eyes. Of course not. Trust me, you'll like this.”
“There's nothing to like here,” my sourness blunders out. Her face betrays my callousness. I feel dark and empty inside.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean that.”
“I understand. Don't worry about it.”
As we drop our garbage, she seems giddy. I'm wondering if this is something she will like more than me. That's my selfish side coming out again. Trusting is not in my nature anymore. I have made up my mind to like whatever it is at least for her sake. I can't lose the one friend I've made in decades over selfish pride. I smile and follow after her at my usual seventy-year-old pace.
We pass Nurse Sour. Her name tag reads Nurse Sorenson. I think she must have been born with a screwed up face. She once forced me to take some meds. I ended up in restraints the next day, but the shiner I gave her made me smile. I'm glad I can remember this. Now, I have a deal with the fern in my room. He saves me from her stupefying meds and I sneak him sugar packets.
Nurse Monroe opens the door to the back garden. It's pathetic really, a few white daisies, some annual pansies, but nothing of effort has been done here. I sigh. She turns and laughs.
“I thought you'd feel that way. It's not much huh?”
“That's an understatement honey.”
“Come,” she's coaxing me now. I follow her and she shows me a cart full of tools, gloves, and seeds. Packets and packets of wonderful seeds.
“I think you could make something better of this area, couldn't you?”
“You better believe it.”
“Now, if you need any heavy work done, let me know. I've got a good strong guy in maintenance who agreed to help out.”
“You thought of everything.”
“Have fun.” With that, she left, promising to check back in an hour. I could have spent the entire day there. She came to take me back after the hour. She said I had an appointment with the doctor. I forgot, of course.