Body Parts: A Question of Age

Without much noise at all, looking straight ahead with a glassy expression, the lady walked slowly through the white corridors with swinging doors just behind a green-gowned nurse towards an empty room.  Entering, it was filled with nothing except for a shiny-framed bed.

Without a word, simply following a silent gesture from the nurse, the lady lifted herself onto the side of the bed, her mottled feet hanging down so that her toenails were about two inches from the linoleum. As before, she looked straight ahead without any expression.

After an indeterminate length of time, the doctor came in with a clipboard and ballpoint pen and stopped in front of the lady, to take a look at her.  There were no records, no date or place of birth, nor current address, nor next of kin.  At a guess, she would have been in her mid-eighties though she had the frame and gait of a middle-aged woman and considerable strength remaining.

As a doctor, there was no real need for conversation (not that the lady appeared inclined to speak).  He was interested only in examining her and gathering some details, so he proceeded, almost as if he was looking at a plastic manikin.  The lady gazed right through him, her eyes a translucent, watery blue with the faintest touch of violet.

The doctor began with her face, placing his thumbs on her cheek bones and fingers around her jaw line so that he could move her skull, feel the weight of the head, and look from different angles.  He then brought her chin forwards and down so that he could look at her scalp, still a good head of hair, slightly wiry and wet.  Finally he gently placed his thumbs over her eyelids and pressed in, feeling the firmness of her eyeballs and the extent of movement within their sockets.

He then went to her arms and legs, feeling the weight of each limb and moving them around methodically in the joints.  They were heavy and cold but the skin was very soft.  He pressed into the muscles of her arms and slightly squeezed her legs, while also using his thumbs to rub against the skin, feeling its elasticity and watching it change colour with the release of pressure under his fingertips.

And so the examination continued in this way, silently, with just the occasional squeak of his shoes as he moved around.  With no information on her age, the doctor found himself becoming attuned to the body in front of him and how very much alive it still was, almost feral.

Opening the door to find the nurse, the sounds of the hospital flowed in and the doctor realised how engrossed he had been.  He looked down at his watch to get his bearings.  A couple of children ran past the door to the cafeteria.  The doctor disappeared and the lady remained on the side of the bed, white gown tucked under her thighs, waiting for the nurse to return to take her weight.


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