“Phoenix From The Flames”

Friday August 28th dawned. I had been awake all night, the majority of it spent with Angelika and some of our Angelryon family. Beacons in the rose hued light that filtered through cream coloured curtains, these few. I can think of no-one else I would rather spend these moments with. I was tired but I know I could not have slept had I shuffled up the staircases to my room.

The sun rose, leaving it’s image mirrored upon the estuary that afforded me with an awesome view from the front of my house. Seagulls squawking at each other heralded another day. The sounds of motorbikes and cars roaring past as the working class started their day only served to remind me that in a matter of a few short hours, I too would be on the road.

Butterflies were beginning to awaken within me. That dread and anxiousness that I get every time I have to make this journey into the unknown. The 15 minute drive that takes me from the safety of my abode on a hill to the manic and all to familiar hospital.

The stench of industrial cleaners, the groans and shouts of the fed up bed bound, rushing staff, bland food stewing away in some underground kitchen, gurneys parked in hallways as if intentionally left to form an obstacle course for the unseeing … this cursed prison of many that has the power to breath life or take it. This haven of health, dungeon of death that I despise going to.

At last, after an hour of standing under the steaming hot raindrops that blast from the nozzle of my shower and getting dressed in navy dockers and a shirt that was a gift from the Lady of my life, short-cropped hair raked with a comb, I depart. Book tossed upon the seat of my small chariot of a car I turn the key and lay my head back against the headrest closing my eyes in a silent prayer to the powers that be.

The drive lasts no time at all and since it is early, finding a place to park that is close enough to this dreary hulk of a building so that hiking boots are not required is a simple task. I lean against my car, smoking one last cigarette before I enter the halls of mutilation. Last inhaled breath holding the smoke of a lifetime, I casually grind the cigarette butt into the tarmac of this safety zone and move away from the car. Step by step I draw closer to the automatic doors that creak and whine as if mimicking sounds from wards that I still cannot hear and I am inside.

I glance at my watch and calculate how much time I have before I’m to present this addled body of mine on the ward. Time to waste, yet this place holds no chamber where I care to dally. Sighing, I make my way through throngs of empty wheelchairs, mazes of scattered chairs and lifeless piles of yesterdays newspapers to the elevators. It is only as I reach my hand out to press the green arrowed button that tellingly points upward that I realize my hand is trembling. Is this the quiver that I have come to know, that sneaks up on me when I least expect it, or is it the telltale sign of nervousness? Either way I quickly push the button and clasp my hands behind my back, lest anyone else notice.

I do not remember stepping onto the cell-like elevator nor do I remember the doors sliding closed to trap me inside. Blindly I press the numbered square that will deliver me to the correct floor and inhale a long, slow, breath. Before I can exhale it, the steel trap opens its jaws and releases me and I, needing no diagram of the rabbit warren that surrounds me amble down dimly lit corridors where clutches of nurses gossip about troublesome patients and bad pay.

Around the next corner my destination lies in wait like a lioness hiding within the tall grasses of the Serengeti. I present my appointment letter to the android-like woman sat behind the desk and wonder in a brief moment of pent up humour whether she is chained to it for the duration. She neither smiles nor looks up but slowly extends an arm, gnarled finger pointing towards the empty waiting room and growls, “You know the way by now.”

I take the papers from her bony hand and slowly walk around the corner into the waiting room, finding a chair by the window that overlooks garbage dumpsters of several colours depending on what is to be deposited within them and sit. The book I have brought with me opens of its own accord to the page I marked when last I read from it and I cast my eyes upon the words written there, blinking them into focus behind wire-rimmed spectacles. The wait begins.

I know the routine by heart, it is ingrained there after years of forcing myself to attend these appointments. Soon I will be greeted by a nurses assistant and asked to move myself to waiting room two. I’ve always thought this pointless, especially when I am the only one there at times, but I slip a long finger between pages and rise. Walking literally across the corridor, I sit in yet another familiar chair and let the novel fall open again. The silence of the television in the corner screams as images move behind a wall of black and white static.

Seconds pass, minutes too until finally my name is called and I am shown into a room as well-known as my bedroom. Medical trays lined with syringes and biopsy containers line the wall mingling with racks that hold pamphlets I have read time and time again. Dulled conversations take place in the next examination room, footsteps squeak past on linoleum floors and a soft tap on the door proclaims the arrival of my surgeon. I choke back the urge to call out “Ave” and push the book to one side as the saver of my life enters.

In he walks, this man that just over 8 years ago I entrusted with my life. Questions are asked by us both. Responses given which lead to more queries. He smiles. That smile I have learned to read. His blue eyes sparkle as he says “Well, I don’t want you darkening my door again.” His laughter rings, joining in with the bold bells that are clanging in my head and I sit stunned beyond words.

I know this does not mean I may never face this type of battle again. But at long last, this one is over and I, scars upon chest am the victor. I only wanted to let one person know. Yet she lay sleeping, snuggling with puppies and hopefully dreaming the sweetest of dreams. It would be hours before she would hear the words I so longed to share with her.

Emotions ran riot that day, though not once did I feel the negativity that anger brings. It took more than a few hours for it all to sink in. That no longer did I have to force myself to get into my car and drive to this modern yet bleak hospital and wait with baited breath to hear words spoken by a trusted surgeon and friend.

I am now well and truly a survivor. I have been blessed with a second chance to live and love. I am thankful that I have Angelika to share this with. She has given me strength, wisdom, wit and love. Through her I found my completeness. At long last I am happy.

note: “Phoenix From The Flames” performed by Robbie Williams. Written by Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams

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