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Janice

 

Janice is returning to her unit having helped push the breakfast trolley to the kitchen. She asks and then answers her own questions. She is 75 years old.

 

Carer. Where have you been?

Janice. Erm, I’ve been to the sea.

Carer. To the sea?

Janice. To see the people swimming.

Carer. Are you going back?

Janice. I don’t think I’m ever going back.

 

In Dominica I lived… I lived there, yeah… a big house he had… a house for me and Lydia and Madeleine and Jennifer… is that so, four sisters? I don’t have brothers… so no brothers… my father… my father they called him Dixon… Dixon is his name… Dixon… he was a coffin maker… my mother Britain… not Britannia… Britain… A carpenter… he was a carpenter… his business there… where he was I can’t remember… he’d always leave us and go, and where he went we don’t know… when he came back I happened to go to this room… to this room here… because of the manager… she told me to come here and be quiet… yeah… that’s why I’m here now… everybody was coming here… to this hospital… so I follow…

Why do I have to be in hospital?

It is funny… I think it’s funny… it’s true… it is not one hospital… there is more hospitals I go… they all tell me to go there… so I follow… I go there and I meet Saint… Saint… it’s not Saint Peter… Saint Peter they call him… its just Peter… I saw him walking… I come here… everybody is making trips… I know now… I know now… I come with my family… I remember... I forget… Why don’t I say? Why don’t I say? I forget. I forgot I forget.

I have a good memory… yes… a good memory… I remember… they say why don’t I answer… so why don’t I answer? That is true… my mother is telling me I’m rude… I’m very rude because I don’t answer… don’t tamper with the men… leave them alone… leave them alone until you find the one that is good for you… I forget now… he was quiet… and I talk to him… a white black man… he was very kind…

Why don’t you say his name? Say the name!

His name is Peter… Peter in the hospital… he follows me everywhere… he used to call me Mademoiselle…

Yeah? I can’t remember that?

I wanted to get married… I wanted a child… I don’t have no children… no, I have two… and a daughter… I have two daughters… Two sons... I forget... I don’t remember them… I don’t remember… I don’t remember how old I am… twenty… twenty five… twenty five… twenty five… it’s true… Peter talks to me… she talks to me… Peter upon this rock I will build my church…I don’t go… not to church… not much… not much… I go and I come… come here… I don’t think about where I come from anymore… it’s true. Dixon was my father… Britain… Britannia was my mother… a lady not black… half and half… she is not black like me… a half cast…

Tell him… Tell him

They were good people… good people… Grandmother… a white woman… Edna… she was mixed up. I came with my sisters… on a big ship.

Is this the good way?

Yes, it’s very good

I never get married…

Not true!

I never get married! I haven’t got… oh yes… I’ve got a son… Cordell Anthony… and the man looking after me in the hospital… a very good man… he never says no. 1938 I was born… February… not often… that is true… they ask me if I’m not going to the church… one of them… St Peter… he is a nice Saint and he talks to me… you meet him in this hospital here, you know… he is a good, good, good, good man… he’s good, you know… he is the Lord… he told me he’s a Saint. It might be my mother talking to me…

She’s dead.

When my boy was a baby I had him in my arms… I don’t know what happened… sometimes I go in and wash my face and I look in the mirror and I say, “What is that? What’s that!” An old and ugly woman… I’m 25… not 100… I’m supposed to remember it you know… it’s having the child inside, it makes you forget quick… troublesome, yeah… the child in the photograph… he makes me forget…

Exactly

He stops me…

She’s right

I notice I don’t know why any more… every time I go in the place to have a wash… inside the hospital… to have a wash… he’s there… he just sits there and he doesn’t talk and he’s Saint Peter… the others don’t see him… Can I tell you this? He doesn’t talk… he keeps very quiet… like somebody who is ashamed… ashamed that he goes there to the hospital… that’s what he’s saying in his mind… be ashamed to go there… I don’t remember what I was saying.

I saw a shark in Dominica…

Look at that… Look at that… Look at that… good… good… good

Did I tell you? The shark is dangerous in the sea… it comes right under the sea shore… it starts bubbling water through it’s mouth… the men catch the shark… a big shark… a big fish… I took something… it’s not a hammer you know… not a hammer… like a… two buttons on it… and I take it and hide it up my skirt… and I ran away.

Britannia rules the waves! She used to say it and laugh… she’s still there and I would like to go and see her now… they put me in the hospital and they don’t come for me… she’s a nice lady, you know… Lydia is the oldest sister… the youngest… me… me, you know. I count my blessings… I don’t count my blessings… 40… 60… 16 I am… 16… not any older… no more.  I’m 16… 16, you know… no older than 25. I was supposed to come to school here… it is a long, long time ago.

 

This is the song I sing at school…

Oh God of the world

We got his only son

Who died on Calvary

From sins to set us free

One day he’ll be coming back

What a glory that will be

Wonderful this world for me

 

All the weeks and weeks I am here I forget… I forget you know. I’m thinking about it, you know… so much the things I used to do in Dominica. I’m thinking about it now for me to know it.  That’s what it says… the gospel of the world… his son. I’m trying my best to make the better out of him. I dream a lot… I dream a lot about Dominica… I dream about the gospel of the world. My mind is going all the time… it tells me nothing… just what’s in my eyes and what I see. I saw a man walk past my window today… all along the road the trees became brown behind him… I don’t know how he did it. It seemed like he was winter. 

What is the name of my husband in Dominica?

Ty, Ty is his name

He is the one who tells me, let’s go… he says are you ready… I say I am ready to go… I never answer any more…

You have to be careful

He asked me to marry him.

I remember nothing at all about him.

The boy is his son. How will we manage now? How will we manage? I am happy… happy now but I might not be happy tomorrow… for a human being to go into a place like this one… you don’t feel right with it… with this one. Nothing is wrong with me but they will make it wrong… all the young ones… “Go and sit down, go and sit down, go and sit down.”

Tell him why… why don’t you tell him why?

How long ago… how long ago… do you know?

I never think about that… it’s a long bad business, that one

I’m trying to find out…. I forget it… I forgot I forget… it’s not just today that I’m here… now I remember… now I remember… now I remember. I know a song…

 

Oh God of the world

He gave his only son

Who died on Calvary

From sins to set us free

One day he’ll be coming back

What a glory that will be

Wonderful this world for me