“Fuck off. The fuck you doing?” I roared, as I raised my fists. There were four of them around me. Two lads holding onto me, while two girls were cleaning me.
“Get the fuck away from me.” I screamed.
“Michael, love, I need to clean you. You’re dirty.” A young blonde girl said.
“Alice, hurry up, so we can get out of here.” One of the men holding me said. I tried to punch him and missed.
“Michael, I want to wash you too. Is that okay?”
I thought for a few seconds and nodded.
“Okay, love, can you take your shirt off?”
I pulled off my shirt and threw it on the floor, before grasping back onto the red armchair. Alice ran a wet towel over my chest. I growled and tried to hit her, but I was too slow. She towel-dried me, before letting me sit back on my bed. Two of the people left, leaving Alice and a beanpole of a lad whose name badge read David. David scooped up my ripped shirt and gave me a new one, while Alice combed my hair.
“Thanks for the help, Alice,” David said.
Alice smiled. “No worries. Everybody’s scared of Mick, but you don’t need to be. Just give him his time.”
“Still, I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“Ah, you’ll be fine, love. You’re going to have to be. I’m away next week, I won’t be here to help you.” Alice and David left.
I thought about what Alice said. Was everybody scared of me? Why? Why was I swearing at her and trying to hit her? I shouldn’t have been doing that. Should I? Was there something wrong with me?
I was woken up by two people talking outside of my room. They were saying how it was Sunday and how the week had gone by so quickly. I didn’t understand. Wasn’t it only Sunday yesterday? I rubbed my eyes, before looking out the window. It was cloudy. Was it morning? Afternoon? Evening?
I sat up and my head swum. It was like I was hungover, but I couldn’t remember drinking last night. I tried standing up but slipped back onto the bed. I shuffled over to the wall and leaning on that, I stood up and moved towards the noise.
In the doorway, stood the beanpole of a lad, David. He had thick black hair, a scraggly moustache and bumfluff. He looked like he was barely out of school. As he saw me, he swallowed before
“You alright today?” He said, extending his hand.
“The fuck you smiling at?” I roared, raising my fist at him. Wait, why did I say that? I didn’t mean to say that, “sorry.”
David shrugged. “I’m a big boy, I can handle the F word “
“Good lad.” I moved towards him but slipped and crashed down onto my
“What’s going on?” A blonde woman poked her head in. Her name badge read Maria. She looked to be in her 40s with a nice figure and good make-up, “Mick, love, why are you on the floor? Stay with him, David, I’ll get his wheelchair.
I frowned, as I heard her accent. Was she Russian? After a few minutes, she returned.
“Come on, mate, let’s get you up.”
“Get the fuck away from me.” I screamed, as David and Maria neared me.
“Swear all you like, I’m not scared of you.” David said.
I looked into his face. He was scared of me. I could see it in his eyes, but he was trying to put on a brave face. It was strange – usually everybody was too scared to get anywhere near me, but this young lad was crouching face-to-face with me.
“Mate, I can’t leave you on your arse, let’s get you up,
I nodded, and David and Maria lifted me into my wheelchair. Afterwards I was taken into a lounge. There was an old man and woman sitting on red armchairs and a TV playing one of those bloody property programmes.
“David, the old man called, “have you seen my Val anywhere?”
“She’s doing the shopping, Albert. She’ll be back soon. Right, Mick, let’s put you here, next to Betty. That alright with you, love?”
Betty smiled. “Course it is, darling. He’s a good boy he is.”
“Don’t call him a boy. He’s a man,” I roared, “he’s only a few years younger than I am.”
“If by a few, you mean 40, but thanks mate.” David mumbled.
“I was just saying he’s a good boy,” Betty protested.
“He’s my best mate. Don’t say nothing against him.”
“Aww, thanks Mick,” David blushed, “you’re just a big softie, aren’t you?”
“Shut the fuck up,” I yelled. Shit, why did I say that to him?
David rolled his eyes. “Let’s get you into the armchair, okay?”
I didn’t feel comfortable standing, so I reached over and grabbed the armrest, before I pulled myself into the seat. I looked up at David. “Good as gold. 10/10.”
“Great…right, I need to do my paperwork now.” David left the room.
I ran my fingernails up and down the back of the armchair. The seat was softer than the concrete ground and there wasn’t a cold breeze blowing around which was nice. I looked around. The man David had called Albert was asleep, while Betty was sitting with a sour face.
David and Maria returned to the lounge both carrying a stack of blue folders. David sat down, before approaching me, holding a razor.
“Can I give you a shave? You’re going to have birds nesting in your beard soon.”
“Fuck off.” I replied. God, why was I saying these things? David was a good lad. What was wrong with me?
David laughed and sat back down. “Fuck is your favourite word, isn’t it?
He started going through his folder before turning to me.
“What work do you do?” He asked.
“What work do I do? Delivery man. I deliver all over London.”
“Do you know where you are now?”
I frowned. Of course I knew where I was. “I’m at the urrr…I’m um, I’m on King’s Street. Yeah, King’s Street, that’s where I am.”
“King’s Street?” David repeated.
Maria leant over and began whispering, but I could still hear her.
“Mick was homeless before he came to the Willow Tree. He begged in King’s Street.”
“That explains a lot now.”
I considered Maria’s words. Had I been homeless before this? I tried thinking back, but my mind was an empty black space. But I could hear the coins jangling, smell those exhaust fumes, feel the rocks digging into me. How did I get there? How did I get here at the Willow Tree, whatever that was?
I looked up, as I saw David standing over me.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I found these in your room.”
He handed over some photos. The first was a little girl with pigtails.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s Jodie. That’s my fucking Jodie.” I looked through the other photos. There was me cutting Jodie’s birthday cake. Me pushing her on the swings, helping her ride her first bike. And then were there was a photo of me and her with a gorgeous brunette. She had freckles and the warmest pair of eyes that I had ever seen. What was her name? Why couldn’t I remember? Where were they now? Where was my Jodie? I growled, as I began crying, as my throat closed up. I screamed her name.
“Mick, I’m sorry, I should have asked first.”
“Fuck off,” I replied. I wasn’t sorry about saying it this time.
“God, I’ve really screwed this up, haven’t I?” David grimaced.
“Don’t worry about it. Take your break now. Mick will be okay.” Maria said.
I don’t know how long I was sitting there, I found it so difficult to keep track of time, but David had reappeared.
“I’m sorry about earlier. Are we okay?” He held out his hand.
I nodded, but I didn’t shake his hand.
“Good, because I need to change you now. Is that okay?”
I thought for a few seconds and nodded.
“Sorry, David, Mick is too aggressive for me. Use another man. Find Honey.”
David agreed and after a few moments returned with a wheelchair and who I assumed was Honey.
“Mick, this is Honey, he’ll be helping me, okay? Can you get into the wheelchair for us?”
I looked up at Honey. He was black and a giant of a man. His hair was in long, thick dreadlocks.
“Michael. Stand up please.” Honey said, with a Nigerian accent.
I nodded and twisted myself into the wheelchair. I was taken into my room and pushed against the back of the armchair. David told me to stand against it and I reached out, grabbed the back and pulled myself up.
“I’m going to take your trousers down.” David said.
“Do it then.”
David pulled my trousers down and ripped off my pad.
“Oi, what you doing?” I threw my fists around, narrowly missing David. Fuck this, I thought, and tried sitting down.
“Mick, hold onto the chair. You’ll fall.”
I felt Honey grab onto me. “David, I have him. Hurry up.”
“Mick, I need to clean you now, okay?”
I nodded and growled, as I felt something wet touch my arse. I tried hitting David again, but missed.
“Mick, you got shit in your arse. I need to clean you. Okay, good man, now the front, alright?”
I swore, as the wet wipe was moved over me.
“Honey, do the pad. I’ll hold him.”
David held onto me, while Honey put the pad in between my legs.
“Get on with it.” What was going on? Where was I? Why were these two men touching all my bits? I needed to escape, but David was still holding onto me. And then the sleeve of his t-shirt rolled up, exposing his shoulder, and I knew how I could get out of here. I charged forward and bit him. He yelled, as Honey finished with the pad and I was allowed back on the bed.
“What the fuck, Mick? I’m trying to help you and you fucking bite me?”
“David cool it, Mick’s scared. It’s part of the job.” Honey said.
“No, fuck that. That’s bollocks. I’m done here.”
“You need to go to hospital first. Get a tetanus shot.”
“Fine, but then I’m out of here. I shouldn’t be somewhere where being bitten is part of the fucking job.”
David stormed out with Honey in tow. I raised my hands to my mouth. Had I really bitten David? Why had I done that? David was just trying to help me and I bit him. What the fuck was wrong with me? I turned to the wall and scratched it up and down. I looked up at the call bell. Usually, I never used it, but today I pressed on it hard.
“Are you okay, love?” Maria asked.
“Is David okay?”
“He’s fine, love, he’s still at hospital.”
But was David okay? He said he was going to leave? Would he leave because I bit him? He was so nice to me. He was the only one here who wasn’t scared of me.
I pressed the call bell again.
“You okay, mate?” Honey asked.
“Is David alright?”
“He’s fine. He’s new here. He still has a lot to learn.”
“But he said he would leave?”
“Oh, he was just angry. Don’t sweat over it. It’s really impressive, you only have four teeth and you still manage to bite him.” Honey laughed and left.
And I stared back at the wall with my hand stroking my beard for hours upon hours or however long it was, I jumped, as somebody said my name.
“Mick, can I have a word?”
I turned around and saw it was David. He was still here. “Sorry.” I said.
“No, I should be the one apologising to you. What I said was unprofessional and unacceptable. You’re scared and confused, and I should have known better. I’m sorry, mate, it won’t happen again. Are we okay?” He held out his hand.
I smiled and I shook his hand.
For a year, I have been working as a Health Care Assistant within a care home, so this story is very much based on my own experiences. Mick is based on one of my residents who struggles with his dementia.
With this story, I wanted to portray the darker side of dementia, but also highlight that despite their dementia, these people are still people. They were people before their dementia and they’re still people now. We naturally define them by their dementia, and while this is difficult to avoid, we need to remember that they are still human beings who had lives of their own.
This is the second of my stories to be set in the fictional care home, The Willow Tree:
Read the first one below: