I come here every day. The nurses smile, they say, hey there, Miz Taylor. I tell them to call me Blanche. My daddy gave me that name. I always thought it sounded old-fashioned, like ‘Edna” or “Louise.”
I never liked it. I never liked the name “Blanche”. But even if I did, what difference would it make.
I come here to see Raymond, I always bring him a milkshake. Raymond loves milkshakes. Poor Raymond. Lying there, day after day. So helpless.
And poor me; I don’t enjoy seeing him like this. I come here, and every day I try to look my best. I’ve kept my figure over the years. I can still turn heads. Maizie, that big Irish woman at the salon, she does my hair twice a week. She does my nails. Appearance, I think, matters.
I watch them here, watching me. I know the doctors watch me. I’m old enough to be their mother, some of them. But I’m slim, with a small waist, and I have ample breasts; they look at me, I know, especially the young ones.
I know the nurses watch me. I know they watch me feed him. They appreciate how tender I am with Raymond. I joke with them and tease; what’s big and red and has one eye, I whisper it in their ear. They laugh, and they say, oh Miz Blanche! Oh my, you are a caution.
I come here every day. Sometimes I make a batch of cherry fudge, and bring it to the nurses. I walk through the big glass doors, in my yellow dress with my hair fixed just so.
They say, what’d you bring us today, Miz Blanche? Some more of that good cherry fudge? They buzz around me like white bees and they say, Miz Blanche, if I’m ever sick, I hope somebody takes care of me like you do Mr. Raymond. I smile. I feed him with a spoon. I place it oh-so gently between his purple lips.
I bring his milkshake in a thermos, and I bring a spoon from home. I know those doctors watch me. Men have always looked at me, ever since I can remember.
Poor Raymond. So big with it now, and the smell. The smell is worse than a barnyard. I feed him, and I look at my hands, I look at how pretty they are. I watch my hands put the spoon to his lips and I say, open up, sugar.
It ravages, it turns the skin to mush. Makes the skin like wet tissue paper. It eats him cell by cell. I put the spoon to his lips, milkshake dribbles down his chin, I say, a little more now, sugar, and it eats its way through him. Makes his bowels explode, makes his face yellow and bloated, Raymond can barely see, and I say, little more now, sugar, you need to keep up your strength.
I come here every day. I walk through the door and the nurses say, I hope you brought some more of that cherry fudge, Miz Blanche. I walk in, with my hair just so; appearances do matter.
Poor Raymond. And poor me, too. I don’t enjoy seeing him this way.
Even if I did. What difference would it make.