She sits in her fading, light-brown, fake leather couch, with a crocheted purple throw over her legs. She’s looking out the window. Not that there’s much to see outside a nursing home. Just some fake grass and wilting pink and orange flowers in need of attention.

The room is small and warm. There’s a strange smell: a mixture of dust, talcum powder, and perhaps humanity.
“Would you like a cup of tea dear?” she smiles, motioning towards the tiny kitchen sink.
I turn my head in that direction. Apart from an old washer, a bottle of water and a jar of minties that look well past their expiry date, I can see no evidence of tea making materials.
“No thanks Emily. I’ve already had coffee”.
“Really, it’s no trouble”, she says, making a movement to extricate herself from the chair.
All of a sudden, the rug’s on the floor and she’s huffing and puffing towards her walker. She smiles reassuringly in my direction.
Pausing, she turns towards me, a quizzical look on her grey smiling face.
“How did you say I know you?”
“I come to visit you”.
“Yes yes… but how do I know you?”
“I’m with AVP”.
“Who dear?”
“I’m a volunteer”.
“Why do you do that?”
I carefully discard all the real reasons why I started volunteering. Because I feel like a selfish cow – always taking, never giving. Because I want to somehow make a difference. But that all sounds so contrived.
“Because I like to visit with people that don’t have many visitors” I say, with the most sincere smile I can muster.
She pauses, leaning against the kitchen wall.
“Well I don’t need that. I’ve got my family. I don’t need that at all”, she says, pointing to a photo of three young children.
“See. This is my son – John. No Timmy. Yes this is Jimmy….and his daughter…oh no wait that’s Alison. Yes she’s the sister…”. Her voice trails off.
“Do they pay you?” she asks.
“No”, I reply solemnly.
“Really?” she laughs. She seems genuinely surprised.
“Even my family – they don’t come unless they need money”.
I look past her towards the window. On the window-sill is an old, ceramic grey vase showcasing one of the pink and orange flowers from the garden.
Following my gaze she says “Jimmy brought me them. Last time he came to visit. He’s a good boy my Jimmy”.
“Now. That tea. Will you have tea?” she asks again.
“No. But thank you”.
She moves towards the sink again and I wonder how on Earth she’s going to produce tea from the handwasher and water bottle.

When I turn back she’s bending down and opening the cupboards beneath the sink. There before me is a red kettle, a jar of coffee, tea, and even biscuits. I recoil in surprise.
“You do have tea!”
“Well what did you think you ninny”, she smiles.


Michelle Le Marne


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Artist's Description

Vera had dementure.

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