I had a strange moment at the hotel a couple of nights ago.
One of our current guests is in a wheelchair, and the room is full of the apparatus to keep them alive – oxygen tanks, medication, batteries and chargers for the oxygen itself. This is not unusual or unique. Several guests – regular guests – are in the same situation and we prepare the room as best we can, we step around everything, we are very careful not to knock or touch anything and we open doors for them and smile as we do for any guest who is staying with us.
I saw this particular guest leaving the room for dinner with their partner. They greeted me, told me I was free to go in and tidy the room up if I wanted, that they’d be out for an hour or so. I did. Everything was going normally until I moved the bedsheets back to make it more accessible, and I spotted a very cuddled and very cherished teddy bear. I picked it up with the delicacy that I might pick up a kitten and studied it for a moment. It was small, off-white and slightly limp to the point of being almost malnourished, presumably from years of the inner stuffing compressing from being squeezed. The limbs were loosely threaded to the torso. Lastly, it had deep brown eyes and a little pink heart shaped nose. It killed me. Absolutely killed me. Aside from the genuine warmth I’d felt (and reciprocated) in greeting the couple, I was tired and grey and going through the motions of my duties on autopilot. And suddenly, my head was a whirlpool of warm paint and I couldn’t see and I couldn’t hear and I wasn’t sure if I was feeling happiness or sadness. Everything was… not colliding, but moving and spinning in a centrifugal waltz.
I put the bear back gently on the pillow and pulled the sheets up enough so it looked tucked in, with the little arms poking over the cotton. Then I left the room, went straight onto the empty and cold staff staircase and sat down to gather myself. It look longer than I thought.