|Story One, Part 2:
Sveta Rychkova, a Russian nurse
“Good evening, Mr. Sveta Rychkov!” It was her sister’s joke ever since the authorities had printed it incorrectly on her identification card. Sveta had tried in vain to explain that she was a woman and, therefore, her Russian surname should be ‘Rychkova’, but she gave up after months of bureaucracy. Margarita had called her during her nightshift asking her how she was because she had been worrying about the headaches for which Sveta was always taking tablets. Margarita had noticed during one of her weekend visits and had started asking questions, but Sveta changed the subject quickly and asked about their mother’s health.
Their mother was back in hospital, which was paid for by Sveta. Her mother didn’t scream anymore and she was so obese that she couldn’t move, so all she did was watch television. Sveta had often considered bringing the rest of her family to join her but something inside her stopped her from asking. She supported them all instead, even though her younger sister had a part-time job as a babysitter, but it was nowhere near enough.
She had forgotten the man in the brown suit. She hadn’t even noticed if he gotten off the bus before her. She hung up her coat in the café and waited for her order to be brought to her table. Many of the tables were empty, since everybody was coming in for take-out coffee, which was a phenomenon that she couldn’t understand. Morning coffee had to be strong and you should sit down to enjoy it. People here don’t appreciate good coffee. What does a Russian know about coffee when they all drink tea? She knew that it should not be enjoyed from a small plastic cup in a rush to work.
Her large mug of coffee had been placed on the table, but she was absorbed in the events out in the harbour. Many of the morning boats were returning from their early start and the fishermen were preparing to head home. What was home to her? A single bed and an old closet from the flea market, a small kitchen table with three chairs and a desk that she had positioned in front of her only window. She unsure about the flowery curtains with big yellow and red flowers, but she wanted to send the money to her sister rather than buy home furnishings.
The aroma of the coffee brought her mind back to the table in the café, she had to start saving and break Margarita out of the daily life prison of Leningrad, but despite her feelings towards her mother she could leave her alone in Russia. Life was so complicated. She felt her fingers shaking while trying to warm them against the mug of hot coffee.
She checked her watch, it read twenty to nine. The supermarkets would open in twenty minutes, but she only needed ten minutes to reach the little Russian shop near the tramline. She craved some fresh tomatoes and a jar of Monouri Feta, and maybe a packet of her favourite dark chocolates as a breakfast treat. Her attention was caught by a young Chinese or Indonesian girl that had sat at a table in the far corner. She wished she had the ability to distinguish between the nationalities but they all looked the same. However, this girl was quietly crying as she poured her tea.
Sveta felt uncomfortable when faced with other’s emotions, which was one of the other reasons she worked the nightshift. She never had to deal with visitors crying or family grieving, when a patient died during the night the next shift had to phone the next of kin and inform them of the bad news. Her job was to package them down to the morgue and prepare the room for the next patient.
She never felt any emotion when she discovered another elderly patient had died during the night; it was part of the job. A death gave her slightly less to do during that night, with fewer bedpans, fewer tablets and one less person ringing the buzzer. She hated the doctors the most due to the amount of extra work they heaped on nurses through prescribing conflicting tablets, through either inability or disinterest.
On her ward, the doctors would prescribe all these pills without caring what would happen later at night. Sveta discovered that one PM in combination with a TN for their heart meant that the patient would not control their bladder. They needed to be in the toilet every two hours, so it was difficult for them to fall asleep and tiring for her.
One night a male patient was being overly abusive, he shouted and screamed at her, “I know, little tart. Your father fucks all the prostitutes in Afghanistan and you fucked all the boys at school. I know because I’ve been watching you! Go and bring my pills now, I have a headache. You fucking bitch, don’t move from there, I haven’t finished with you.” Sveta decided not administer the second pill that night, which put the elderly man to sleep that night and in the morgue by the end of the month.
Sveta’s workload dramatically reduced, so she continued to skip the second pill and began to hide the evidence. After nearly being caught out by the director, she began to take the tablets home and soon decided to try a couple to calm her down following an emotional phone call with her sister about their mother. Sveta could not believe how she had gone so far and refused to believe that she was in control of her actions.
Another ‘sweet’, as she had started to call them, was washed down with the last drop of her coffee and she got up to leave feeling the immediate effects rush through her body. As Sveta walked passed the window of the café she saw that the young Asian girl was watching her walk passed, whether it was the soothing effect of the recently taken pill but Sveta looked back and marvelled at the beauty of her sad Asian eyes.
The rain was beating down now, but the high from the tablet made the weather seem insignificant. She knew a shortcut through the mall to the little Russian shop and found she had instinctively taken shelter there. The electric feeling of connection with the Asian girl was beginning to fade and she could not allow that to happen so soon, so she took her fourth pill in as many hours.
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