The woman at the desk greeted me with the muted enthusiasm of a person working long hours.

“She’ll be so happy to see you. She doesn’t get many visitors.”

“I’ve been busy,” I said. “You know how it is.”

She stood. “Let me show you to her room.”

“No need. I think I can find it. D3036?”

She nodded, tapped the laminated map with her long fingernail. “It’s right here, at the end of D-wing. Two lefts and a right, then down the hall.”

I had been busy, but that wasn’t the reason. It was the smell of the place. It smelled, not like death exactly, but like waiting for death. It smelled like purgatory.

They had dressed her in a pink nightgown I remembered from before. She had always loved pink, even though it wasn’t the best color for her complexion. Whoever dressed her had also applied a rose-colored rouge to her unlined cheeks. It contrasted strangely with the respirator tubes.

Her eyes stared vacantly out the window. She did not seem to notice I was there. The machines that kept her alive made almost no noise all.

I sat next to the hospital bed in an armchair designed for maximum comfort, as though you might be there a while. On the table was one of those marble solitaire sets, untouched.


Sunday Photo Fiction


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  1. phylor

    You captured the essence of the place where people go to die. You are so right about the smell. I disliked the noises too. They sounded of death, of loneliness, of loss.
    This is an excellent window into a netherworld we all might one day enter.

  2. Priceless Joy

    I agree with Phylor. You certainly captured “nursing homes.” I loved the story but of course, it is sad. She is just waiting to die. I had to laugh just a little when you said the place was purgatory. There is a well known snow skiing resort 50 miles from where I live and it is named, Purgatory. Great skiing though.

  3. OnChi

    What a vivid and authentic portrait of visiting someone in a long-term-care facility. The muted enthusiasm of the person at the desk, and the smell of purgatory — so very true everywhere. It’s sad. Good job at painting such a realistic picture.

  4. Francesca Smith

    You have painted a realistic scene. It is a sad fact of life that many end up in places such as these. And often, trying to imagine those living there as a younger person can sometimes be an almost impossible task, for most appear to have have been bled dry. Although, there are obviously some that could be the opposite.
    Very well written.

Don't just stand there.