The world is alive, humming and vibrating like a hive of angry yellow jackets. Every fibre of my self, from thickened toe nail to strand of silvery hair, is awake and intent, grasping at the senses the way I grasp my walking stick. In a chokehold. It is all I have to go by.
I whirl around all too quickly, though of course I don’t expect to see her. The speed of movement knocks me off balance; a small, smooth hand reaches out to steady me, then another. Small, but much stronger than mine. They’re holding the droopy shoulders of my crew neck sweater; the one Jane bought me on her honeymoon in Bermuda. I can tell that’s the one - my favourite - because of the ribbing around the collar, all bumpy between my fingers, and the raised appliqué of a little bird on the chest. I know it’s warm outside - late summer - but I like my sweater.
“No Gran, it’s me,” Karen cooed again. “Doctor Martin is ready to see you.” Her voice was a steaming mug of cocoa; it warmed my insides and washed away the cold.
I squeezed my cheeks up into a smile, gazing in what I thought to be her direction, though sounds can often be deceiving. Karen’s hands smooth down the folds of my sweater - she doesn’t want me to lose her touch - and then she has reached my hands and enfolded them in hers. She has always been thoughtful, always my anchor to the world beyond the darkness.
Soon, she’s pulling me gently, and I follow willingly. The hum of patients’ voices gradually dissipates as more and more steps widen the space between us and the waiting room. The only sounds are of Karen’s flip flops squelching against her feet and of my loafers shuffling along the carpeted hallway. There is another set of footsteps ahead; a nurse I assume. Suddenly, Karen comes to a halt, dropping one of my hands to reach for my shoulder again so that I know to stop too.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” a younger voice intones, which confirms that there is indeed a nurse here with us. “Your grandmother is going to have to see Doctor Martin alone, so that he can examine the contusion impartially.”
“Would it not be a good idea for me to be there?” I can only hear the concern in Karen’s voice. “You know, to mediate the conversation?”
“She’s blind,” the nurse says in the same matter-of-fact tone that Jane always uses. “Not mute.” I am pleased to see her standing up for me, but I don’t like the way she speaks to my granddaughter. I am not sure who to defend, so I resort to upholding my mute state.
Karen pets my sleeve in consolation. “I’ll be right here Gran, just the other side of the door.”
“My walking stick.”
Its familiar grip is slid into my hand as the nurse reaches out for the small of my back, encouraging me along. I don’t rely on her, but on my walking stick. A door creaks open and I step into the next room, alone.