Roberta Cornwall, lettrice
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di Roberta Cornwall
There were a few things Jenny could not stand. Among these, she hated hospitals, and elevators. She found the smell of hospitals’ cleaning supplies revolting, the staff cold, and the white of the walls so white, she could barely look at them.
Elevators, for Jenny, were instruments of torture. Standing there, inside that little space, people around coughing, staring at the floor, and when she was feeling particularly unlucky, those people would attempt to make small talk: “The weather has been really crazy this summer”, “yes, that is true. I didn’t know whether to wear sandals, or put on my boots, most of the days!”…and then, the laughter, and back to staring at the floor.
That day, Jenny had to face the combination of two of the things she detested the most: she had an appointment at the hospital, and the doctor’s office was located on the 11th floor.
One can imagine how poor Jenny must have felt when she woke up (not that she had slept the night before), she got ready, and off she went.
Right at the entrance of the hospital, she saw a nurse walking toward her and, as Jenny cringed (Jenny referred to nurses as sadists, as she thought they took great pleasure in poking her arms with needles to draw blood for check-ups), the nurse suddenly was stopped by the delivery man.
The smell was driving her crazy already; the whiteness of the walls was making her eyes hurt, and she could not wait to get out of there. “This smell is making me want to puke my guts out!” thought Jenny, glaring at another nurse. The smell, a mixture of disinfectants and people’s odors, was the most disgusting thing her nose was ever in contact with. She thought hospitals smelled like death: a clean death, a perfumed death, but it still was death.
And there she was, in front of the other thing she dreaded: pushing the elevator button, she felt a jolt to her finger. She was standing alone in front of the door, and she hoped, prayed that she was going to be alone for the whole ride.
She was, evidently, wrong. A couple with three small children approached the same elevator. A person with two “get well” balloons, another person in a wheelchair soon joined.
“Good morning, did you notice the weather this summer?” said the man in the wheelchair to the couple, who was staring at the floor, “Yeah…yeas it was weird…” a voice came from behind the balloons. The woman emanated a scent Jenny could not identify, but was enough for her to decide she was going to take the stairs on her way down.
At the end of her visit Jenny felt relieved and walked towards the door with the sign “Stairs down”. She went down from the 11th to 10th, from the 10th to the 9th…and so forth, until the stairs led her to a room she did not recognize.
“I must have gone too far, this must be the basement”. She noticed the bright “exit” sign to the right and thought “If I go this way, I will be able to find my exit”. She walked along the corridor, deserted, smelly, and white. No one seemed to be there, the steps she heard were her own heels ticking on the linoleum floor. She followed another “exit” sign, to the right. It was getting cold, it was, if possible, getting whiter, more deserted, the heels made even more noise to her ears.
“Was that a voice?” Jenny’s heart pounded, as a noise came from behind one of the doors. She was now almost running. She was seeing “exit” signs everywhere, left, right, straight ahead. She didn’t know what door to open; she didn’t know what door would bring her out of that awful place. Or, at least, which one would have brought her back to the stairs.
She found herself standing in front of a big door. The sign “exit” flashed in front of her face. She pushed. The door closed behind her. It was the morgue. There was the smell of death, there was the coldness of death, there were white sheets covering dead bodies.
She tried to open the door to get out “OF HERE!” (cried Jenny), but the door seemed stuck.
What she saw when she turned her head facing the room were a body on the slab covered by the sheet, with one foot sticking out, and instruments to perform autopsies.
“How strange-thought Jenny-that foot looks just like mine”. The toenails were perfectly painted in dark red, her favorite color.
Jenny was staring with great attention at the foot, trying to read the name on the tag hanging on the big toe, that she didn’t notice the man in white, with a small saw on his hand.
The last thing she ever heard was the sound of the instruments performing an autopsy on her body.