Waiting for exits

Ten pm. Polls will shut and we’ll get our first indications from the exit surveys. All we can do now is wait for the exits.

He was lying on a trolley in a corridor. He thought he’d heard someone, white coat, furrowed brow, say that he was stable. That this would do for now. Would have to do for now. Each time the door at the end of the corridor swung open he could see rows of beds and curtained off partitions and people reading notes. We’ll get him in when there’s space. He thought someone had said that too. The needle had made him drowsy. When someone leaves we’ll get him in. Wait for an exit.

She was reading a letter. It said she had to leave. She didn’t really understand how this could be the case. Why she should leave her home for the last twenty years. They’d talked about rubber stamping their stay, back in the early days. Talked about applying for passports and settling things. Not just for them but for the kids. Back then it had cost too much, struggling to set up with jobs in a new country, and then, over time, it just hadn’t seemed necessary. They didn’t need a piece of paper to tell them that this was home. Did they ? The letter in her hands gave a date. Wait for an exit.

It had been good when he’d first started. The energy he’d had in front of the class had been infectious. He’d fired them up with a passion for Blake and Austen and Orwell, got them through the stodgy bits of the curriculum, and they’d returned his fire with fire of their own. He’d watched them grow and challenge and learn to think. He couldn’t put his finger on when it changed. It just seemed like something got lost in the slow grind of exams and marking and assessment and interference and cuts and buying books for the class to cover the shortfalls. The curriculum got stuck in the 1900s and the kids glazed over. They didn’t return fire and his own burned down. Another term and he was done. More money abroad teaching the language he loved to people that didn’t speak it as natives. Wait for an exit.

On the ward everyone was kind. She thought they all seemed so busy, all of the time, but kind. She didn’t really know why she was still here but didn’t complain. For a few weeks she’d had a lovely lady in the bed next to her and they’d gotten on famously. She’d gone now. They didn’t say what happened and she didn’t remember everything quite so clearly these days. She knew she should be somewhere else. Not her own home anymore, heavens no. That would not do. They’d told her about a lovely place that would be suitable but there was just no space and so she’d have to wait here for now. Sometimes she worried about the people that seemed really sick but they told her not to bother herself. Soon. We’ll get you settled soon. Wait for an exit.

It was exciting. Start up again in another city, another country. There’d been a lot of disappointment when the notification about the relocation had been confirmed but quite a few were going to make the move. Maybe London was getting too busy anyway. Financial centres move, money’s all electronic these days, it doesn’t need to be governed by geography. Might just as well work out of Hamburg. Aufregend. Warten Sie auf eine Ausfahrt.

It was devastating. What are we supposed to do ? Start up again in another city, another country ? When they’d said the plant was moving to France nobody had seen it coming. There had been promises. Even after the referendum. Deals were done. It was all secured. All the town had was the plant and the call centre. Someone from the call centre had dropped a leaflet through the door already. Flexible hours that suit you. Zero commitment. Give us a call. He’d dialled the number and a disembodied, artificial voice had asked him to select from the following options. Press six if you’re interested in careers with us. He’d hung up. Wait for the redundancy from the plant. Wait for an exit.

It was a week before they found her. One of the neighbours had gotten worried. It wasn’t unusual to go a couple of days without seeing her but a week was unusual; everyone knew that if her condition flared up she’d be in bed for a bit. They found her next to a letter from the DWP setting out the results of her disability assessment and a bottle of pills. The letter started I regret to inform you. The bottle was empty. An exit.

Ten pm. Polls will shut. Wait for the exits.



One thought on “Waiting for exits

  1. Anne

    Incredible! I am not qualified to judge, but as a reader I find your writing exciting, interesting, thought provoking, sometimes too intellectual for me, but most of the time just great. Long may it continue. I look forward to reading your first novel.


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