Three spotlessly white steps lead up to the entrance of the Children's Cancer Center. How innocent words sound. Today dappling sunshine's making an unexpected appearance on the steps. A guest role. Not bright, cheery yellow sunbeams but mysteriously grey, convalescent sunshine. Struggling to recover from a bout of clouds.
There's always people milling around in the little green oasis that surrounds the white steps. Sometimes nurses, sometimes white-coated professionals. Doctors, lab technicians, gardeners, service men, sales men. Actually, more sales women than men. Maybe because women can be trusted to sell death machines in much softer voices. More appropriate, perhaps. Who knows these things? And then of course the patients and their assorted family members. Always a different group of patients. This part of the hospital has a lot of flux. From one reason or another. Mostly one reason, though.
One of the patients allowed out today is obviously a rebel. Disregarding any semblance of shelter, he sits in his wheelchair in the single patch of lawn with a hope of direct sunlight. Atleast he looks like a he. Sometimes it's hard to tell. All hair shaved away from the head. Because even one extra strand will obviously be too heavy a burden for what remains. Fragile skeleton that can be seen so clearly straining against the skin at the neck. Delicate features lifted up to the straggling sun rays. Even diluted sunlight shines right through the skin. Maybe that's why his knobbly wrist is tagged. In case the sun melts him completely away. The little tag atleast will be left behind. As evidence. The shapeless hospital gown flattens against a puff of wind. Macabre uniform.
He turns to his mum standing next to him and removes his oxygen mask to say something. They both smile. The mum lifts her right hand up again, rhythmically, almost automatically, rests the elbow in her left palm. Old school. Breathe in, breathe out. Puffs of smoke coiling into the air. She says something back to the kid, through the smoke. The kid nods in agreement, accepting her words as truth, cocooned in smoke and trust.
Maybe we all need a sign. A big, fat, smokin, fire-engine red 'No Stupidity' sign.