Thursday, April 15, 2021

In the Footsteps of the Paediatrician by Liz Berg

 They’re outside, howling. Every now and then there is a lull and I hope they have given up and gone. A brick, an egg, shit powers through my cracked window and it all starts again.

“Witch! Killer! Plague carrier!” 

These come at me like bullets. None of them are true. They know that. They like to harass me. They want me to leave. To walk out that door. To deliver myself into their hungry hands. Their fingers are itching to rip and tear. Their feet are dancing forward to kick. 

The police have told me they can’t protect me on the street so the only choice I have is to stay here. They don’t allow delivery vans near the street. Now neighbours who had sympathised with me, curse me. They are waiting for me to go. They wish I would leave of my own accord. They tell me this in phone-calls.

The local shop used to drop milk, eggs and bread first thing in the morning, hoping to beat the protesters. They stopped when their shop was targeted. Someone leaves me a bag on the back door every so often at night. I won’t eat from those bags. For all I know they contain poisoned goods. They’ll try any way to get rid of me.

I don’t know why I stay here. I have nowhere else to go. This is my home. I work here. I worked here. No one accepts my work anymore. I am a pariah, an outcast, shunned in my own community.

All these years, I kept my mouth shut when they spoke to me. I watched their faces as they spoke, worrying about their thoughts. If I opined, I was ready to retract almost as soon as the words left my mouth. Nothing I say changes their minds. They are entrenched in their opinions. 

They blame me for the virus. They blame me for their hatred. They want me dead to assuage an ill from a far-off country. One that means nothing to them. The ill is not their cause. They don’t even understand the cause. It is just a stick to beat me with. One they have grabbed with both hands gladly. I am in their eyes an interloper, even though I was born here. But I remain defiantly different. Quietly defiantly different. I don’t flaunt myself. 

I’m the quiet neighbour. I was the quiet neighbour where they thought I would be loud and pushy. I want peace and quiet. It seems that will only come with a grave attached. Perhaps I should go out and give myself up to them, to their baying voices, to their taloned fingers, their steel toe-capped boots.

When they rampage through, they will see nothing to reproach me with. No hoovering to antagonise those hovering, I brush and scrub the carpets, the cupboards, the ceilings. I spend hours in the bath, under the water, drowning out the jeers, the rhythmic catcalls. 

I open the door and exit head high.

© Liz Berg

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