The doors sense your presence as you approach, and like a bride, the moment you step over that threshold, life becomes something different.
The air is cooler than it needs to be, so despite the sticky, liquid heat of the Queensland Summer, you have to remember to wear long pants and covered shoes, or you will be shivering by the end of the long, long day. The lighting is vivid, casting shadows on your face, highlighting the bags of concern that have grown, dark and haggard, under your eyes these last few days as you waited for this moment with fearful anticipation. Equal parts relief and dread.
At the check in they call your kid by name, but they place a band around her foot, tagging her for the duration, and although they still refer to her by the name you chose for her, they really know her as UR 54021. Those five digits storing all that they need to know. Her name is just a concession to convention.
As you walk the long corridor to your glaring, sterile habitation for the day, all sense of who you were out in that other world sloughs off you, and you become part of the machinery of intervention. The more completely you can exfoliate the remnants of your concerns and your individuality, the better you will fare on this day of immersion. Cleansing yourself of your self makes for a smooth transition into a day where all decisions will be made for you.
The people in white are also tagged and numbered, and they will direct your progression. Come here, move there, put your arm here, wait there, eat this, hold still, hold still hold still HOLD HER STILL, whilst they prick and insert this steel along the lines of her veins, filling her up with the liquid of life that you know she needs, and yet the last remnant of you that still recalls the outside you, resists and recoils from.
The day is long and long, and long after you have forgotten your own name, or the feel of the fresh brush of sunlight on your skin, you are released out into the bigness of the twilight sky and you can fill your alveoli with air that is moistened from sugarcane and life.
You breathe that warmed air in gulping mouthfuls, filling your cheeks like the guppy at the bottom of the fluorescent fish tank you have left behind. Fare you well little fish, and all of you big fish, stuck in your tank of surreal activity.
‘Til next time.
And you silently cross your fingers, hoping with futile desire that there won’t be a next time.
But you know better.