Alienating Eyes

“You’ve got alienating eyes,” says Jodie.

“I know,” I say.

“They’ve got a hint of metal shards in a tumble dryer.” She comes closer and makes an oblique hand gesture. “And a thimbleful of a Bolivian woman giving birth in a bombed-out hospital. They’re evil.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far…”

“Can you teach me how to be evil?” She cocks her head, flutters her eyelashes. “Can you?”

She suddenly walks off, not waiting for an answer – if truth be told, knowing her, she simply wasn’t interested in the answer. The question was all that mattered. It was the only thing that needed to be said.

“Time for your haircut, Mrs Bee.”

Mrs Bee struggles underneath an overly-tucked bed sheet.

“The war. The war,” says Mrs Bee. “I’m being deported.”

I lean into Mrs Bee’s face and blow air on it. This is intended to calm the patient down.

“The war,” gasps Mrs Bee.

“Which war? There’s been quite a few.”

“Razor lip, scalp, dye it blue. Why blue? It’s just what everyone else did, I don’t want to stand out, hold your hand correctly!”

I sing as I shave off all of Mrs Bee’s hair.

We returned from lunch break to find our own dead bodies lying slumped over our desks, blood streaming from our noses and mouths. “Not a word,” said the teacher. “Not a word to anyone about this.”

We were ordered to move the bodies into a closet. The teacher locked the door and said, “If anyone asks what is in that closet, you must say – sir, there is radiation in there, sir! Don’t go in! That is what you must say.”

I spend the rest of the afternoon thinking about what appeared to be my own dead body.

“Hold your hand correctly,” says Mrs Bee.

I ignore her.

“You’re not holding your hand correctly. Hold your hand correctly!”

“Mrs Bee, can you please – “

“Hold it correctly!”

I theatrically swat a vase off the table, and wait patiently as it finishes smashing into thousands of pieces.

Mrs Bee doesn’t say anything for the rest of the day.

I’m here again. We all kept up the pretence for so long that we came to believe the lie we repeated. Except for me. I couldn’t help wondering what happened to the bodies. I’m standing in front of the closet, years later. I’ve broken into the building. I have to find out.

I unlock the door with the key I stole. Then slowly I turn the handle. When it’s fully turned, I hold the handle where it is for a moment. Then I swing the door open.

Jodie is there, holding a urinating child.  “Bolivia,” she hisses.

I slam the door shut and scramble out of the window.

“The war,” says Mrs Bee. She says it very weakly.

I am on the phone. “Yes, I realise that. I… well, yeah. Yeah…”

“The war…”

“I’ll call you back. Yes. Ok. Bye.”

“The school, the school. Gas. I’m being deported. They’re choking and bleeding – “

“What’s the matter, Mrs Bee?”

She stares up at me, uncomprehending.

“No one ever found them…”