The buzzer for the nurse has been ringing for the past few minutes. The orchestra of beeps and buzzes are crescendoing. It’s burning into every crevice of my skin.
I’m sitting outside my classroom, waiting for my tutorial to start, and I hear a sound so familiar in the distance. Short, spaced, monotonous frequencies that seem to grow louder and closer. It takes me back to a room I often find myself in.
My palms are sweaty. The leather underneath is not helping. Breathing unsteady. Fluorescent lights uncomforting.
I’ve been in this chair multiple times, different loved ones across the bed, different situations. Yet the same sounds always seem to haunt me, despite their familiarity.
Squeaky shoes against repeatedly polished floors lead me to this corner of the room. A room which, without fail, withholds curtains drawn, segregating six, sometimes twelve, beds and leather chairs. Each cubicle is ornamented by machines and wires with their own unique tones and tunes emitted sporadically throughout the day.
The sun streams through the windows, trying to embrace the dull curtained space, whilst migratory birds distantly sing their songs. It feels almost comedic in contrast. I hear the cart being rolled down the ward, bringing me back to the bed in front of me. Is it another round of fluids, or soft unseasoned vegetables for lunch?
The first round of fluids are here.
They have their own sounds too. A beep for when the drip is in place. A beep for when the syringe is attached to the patient. A beep for when there is a blocking in the pipes. And an incessant beep for when all the fluids have been sucked into the decaying body. The same tones and processes for the transfusion.
It takes a while for a nurse to come by and turn off the machine. In the meantime, its pitch, spacing, and pattern are etched into me. Its rhythm memorised, its tempo retained. A symphony of knells spin and swirl within my consciousness.
I hear the cart being rolled down the ward, bringing me back to the bed in front of me. Is it another round of pressure checks, or tender flavourless chicken for dinner?
It’s the fifth check for blood pressure today.
A click from the clip in one thumb, and the sound of velcro ripping across the arm. Another beep sounds at the machine’s end. Dry pleasantries are exchanged between us and the nurses. The wheels rattle and squeak away, after getting stuck between the falling bedsheets.
The laugh track from the hanging TV monitor from the next bed over resonates down the whole ward. Someone is snoring, another is playing snippets of recycled whatsapp videos. The buzzer for the nurse has been ringing for the past few minutes. The orchestra of beeps and buzzes are crescendoing. It’s burning into every crevice of my skin.
I hear a group of footsteps towards the ward, bringing me back to the bed in front of me. Is it another round of news from the medics, or gifts of homemade seasoned meals?
The doctors are here. I can’t seem to make out their sentences properly when they’re in front of me. I ask to leave and the curtain drawn behind me scrapes my ears. I can hear them clearly from the other side of the fabric.
I don’t hear the hand-holding. I don’t hear the tears. I don’t hear the “I love you”’s.
I can only hear the same ceaseless chimes of the ward.
Only a minute has passed since the first beep was heard outside the classroom, but I lived an entire life in that time. Different familiar sounds are hidden and tucked away into the everyday. Sounds that always make me return to the visitor’s chair imprinted into my mind.