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Jessie

 

Jessie has been drifting in and out of consciousness for a week. She is talking to herself, asking and answering her own questions and reassuring herself with two voices, one firm and the other more hesitant. She is apparently unaware of the comings and goings of nurses and other care staff.

I was born, yes… I remember it… very rough people they were up by the castle… do you know Splash? I can’t go back until I get another hat… I’ve not settled down here. Did I try everything? It can’t be much longer to wait now. Maybe I’m not here?

She’s stitching it away now. 

I’m a Scot… do you recognise the accent? I don’t want to lose it.

Of course you don’t. 

You know, I think I’m from a big family but I can’t remember… it’s so long ago. I’ll not buy a new hat until she tells me… I’d look a dowdy old thing in my grey hat. Do you know Mary? My sister… and the other Mary’s my sister when she was a younger girl… no brothers… or four brothers… a couple of hats… and a dog. My brother lives up in Stornoway… and works with ice and stuff… and the other three bring in the boats. I splashed past a little on the wind. I wanted to come to London… I was seeing life at last… it was very dull in Glasgow, I’d had enough… especially when the men started… every time you’d walk past them they’d try to give you a kiss… I think they did it with the other girls, not just me. I said to him, I’ll tell your wife when she comes back… That’s okay, he said… It’ll give her more reason to kiss me. We even saw the German balloons… we used that going back and forward to America... that’s where we met Mrs Kane… the multi millionaire… she was a very mean woman… she would say to Daddy, Have you got another woman here? They were here just last week… my Daddy and Mrs Kane. She’s thrown him out… only been married a couple of months. My father was an official box-maker.

Oh yes, that’s right… you’ve brought back my memory, back to him. 

But he didn’t want me. He said, Sling her out. He said, She’s only a pest. 

Is that what he said about you? 

Yes… definitely… he said I was only a pest… and I had to go home to Daddy… to my other Daddy… the one that was working with me in the House of Commons. I’m trying to remember… Did you ever hear of a house called Splash? I’m trying to get back there. I have high hopes. I lost my way on the path. I was sure I lived there… but I’m not still there now, am I? 

No, the house must have been demolished.

Oh really? Now I’ve got nowhere to go, is that it? 

Yes… nowhere for you now.

Dear God…  how dreadful… where now? I thought I was still in Glasgow.

No, you’re not still in Glasgow.

Dear God, I don’t know where I am. Was there ever a person called Mrs Kane? I thought she was in America… it could be true… I’ve forgotten all about it.

She wasn’t a very nice person. 

Is that right? She was a millionaire, is that what you’re saying? I went to her on the balloon but I came back on a boat… now I remember that… I remember that, but I don’t know where I am now. Now perhaps you can tell me, was there ever a bird called a raven? I’m only guessing… is it true they clip their wings so they can’t fly away? So they won’t lose them? I can hardly remember… was I ever in a balloon? I remember being up there with the Spitfires... is that what they call them?

Oh yes… they were very high up… they went very high up… they escaped any other harm.

Are you making enquiries?

No, I’m just a fellow on a hat. 

Do you mean I’m wearing a hat?

No, no… you’re not wearing a hat… don’t worry… it’ll come back. 

Am I in hospital? 

I don’t think so. 

Have I been cheeky? 

Oh yes. 

Well that’s all she needs, isn’t it? 

Try to go to sleep. 

I don’t want to go to sleep… I want to be with you…

Was that you? 

It must be me speaking. 

Why does she want to speak to you all the time? 

She thinks I’m smashing. 

Does she? 

Oh yes… I know you’re very good… and quite handsome… but she’s making a fuss. 

Tell her to go home and stay with her mother, now he’s gone.

No, she doesn’t want that… she doesn’t want her mother, she only wants her husband to come back to her. 

Who are you?

Well, I’m with Jessie.

Are you my boy come back? 

I’m you’re boy and Jessie’s my girl… I’ve loved her all my life. 

I know you have… but don’t tell them that… or they’ll say to me why don’t you get married?

I said we would if we could just go back home and stay in a little house of our own… isn’t that right, Jessie? We’ve lived with each other all these years. 

Have you? 

Oh yes, all these years... Emmy?

Yes. 

They’re here now. It’s the policeman’s knocker. 

I’ll see to that. If the policeman knocks at your door it’s because he wants to tell you it’s time you did get married. Are you with somebody? 

No… me? With anyone? No… I’m quite faithful to my fellow. 

Faithful to Daddy?

No, no, no… I can’t remember his name… but I’m quite faithful to him.

Be at peace.

I’m always at peace while you’re around.

My Daddy said that little fellow wants to marry Jessie but she doesn’t want to marry anyone.

But I do! I do!

Perhaps there’s still time. 

Let’s try.

God bless you Jessie Day.

That’s the little girl I want to come back and say to me, how are you? I’ll say I’m not very well. 

Aren’t you? What’s wrong with you? 

I’m with my Daddy now… I’ve gone sailing on the boats with Daddy. 

No, no, no… I don’t know what’s wrong with any of you but I can tell you now… you’re not very well. 

Aren’t I? 

No, because all you do now is want to go home… or sit on the stairs. 

Oh I don’t mind sitting on the stairs… I don’t mind that at all… I could talk to people then.

Leave all that and come with me. 

If I could only talk to my little fellow.

And who’s your little fellow? 

He was young Bill… but they tell me he’s quite grown up now. 

Of course I am. What about you? 

No, I’m not so high… I’m not high in the hat. But I’ve got to have another hat… just to keep them quiet. 

Is that so? 

God bless them all then. 

She’s very possessive isn’t she? 

Oh God yes! She won’t let me go… she says to me… I want to talk to you every minute… Why Jessie? Why do you want to talk to me? 

I like to know you’re still there. 

I was too young to get married… Daddy said. Okay, so I’m too young… how long must I wait? 

Not long now Jessie. 

Daddy said I could marry the man in moon. He said find me the man who wants to marry my little girl… isn’t that right Daddy?

No… Oh I don’t know… where’s my Jessie? Are you here Jessie? Are you still there? 

She gave me a start. There’s so much talking going about… I don’t know whether it includes me. I’m just an old hat… a nice dark navy blue hat… you could put it on your head and it just fitted nicely. Barry said this is the hat for me but she still belongs to her Daddy.

Are you still here anywhere, Jessie? I don’t see you.

I’m still here said Jessie… I’d like to go back to Cockburn and sit on the stairs… so I can say hello to people. I can’t see the people properly because it’s a little bit dark today. My father’s hat was navy blue… it hurts me now Daddy… please God, it hurts me now… lie still, he said… I just don’t know where I am, said Jessie. 

In London. 

Am I in London? I didn’t know I was as far down as that… far down and far back… are there other people here?

Yes that’s right. 

I didn’t realise there was anyone left. 

No, there’s nobody left. You’re quite alone so lie and sit Jessie…

I can see Emmy! I just said hello to her… she’s a very nice person… Hello Emmy.

Hello Jessie. Can you lie still for me? 

I’m doing my best. 

Please may God be good to you, Jessie Day. 

Oh you’re very kind. God be with you. 

Okey-dokey. Are you still Jessie? 

Yes, I’m Jessie Day. 

You’re still my girl then Jessie Day? 

Yes… I’m still your girl… nobody else knows me. 

I’m not so sure about that. When you get back into the House of Commons they’ll want you to take another… another man, another hat… and hold it… hold onto it. 

Did you say that I can go to sleep now? 

Don’t dare go to sleep Jessie… don’t dare…

I can lie here… but I can’t sleep or I’ll die. Is that what you’re saying? I’ll put my head back… can I do that? I’m so fed up… fed up with my old body.

Now don’t be daft, said Daddy… lie still… I’ll fetch you the other man… he’ll bring you another hat.

No, no I don’t want it… I just want to sit on the stair… I’ve got long red hair. 

Sid said do you need another hat?

Sid, are you there? ... Barry, are you there? ……… No. 

Jessie must have another hat to cover her shaming red hair. 

Oh Barry… a little boy… has he grown up now? Is he older? He must be at least 21. 

Lie back dear Jessie. 

We made fun together. 

Lie back. 

We made jokes together. 

Jessie, are you still here?

Oh, I can’t remember… Daddy said he wants to get rid of me… he says I don’t want these bloody children, he said… I know they’re mine but I don’t want them… so goodbye to Daddy. 

You’re a pest Jessie Day. 

Oh dear God he threw me out.

Oh don’t cry Jessie… don’t cry. 

I can’t help it. 

Oh but you’re very brave. 

Oh but to slide… to slide and have another hat. 

You don’t need a hat with your nice long hair… very dark red. 

I thank you very much for telling me… Daddy, is it true you went back to America to live there? Visit me… when I have another… another hat…

No, says Daddy... Just lie back… we haven’t any time left to stay. Lie still in the house of hat.

 

(Jessie died three days later.)