He relies on a nebuliser to breathe. He grips the clear mask against his stubbly face. His hands shake. He looks older than his sixty years. Decades of depravity, smoking and drinking have wrecked his lungs and liver. No hope of repair, no getting better. The nurses will continue feeding him medication, supplying him with oxygen and plumping up his pillows but his chances of survival are decreasing every day.
On today’s visit he has no teeth in. His mouth is small and shrivelled inwards into a gapping “O” shape. I have no idea why he has no teeth in and I have no interest in finding out. I pretend I don’t notice, a slaver drips down his chin. He has a copy of the Radio Times in front of him on a table. He is circling the programmes he wishes to watch that week. There is no chance he will watch any of them on the small, buzzing hospital television in the corner of the communal ward. He is aware of this but continues anyway. He hardly acknowledges my presence, he glances upwards not directly at me but slightly to my left and then back to the TV guide.
'I brought you the cheese biscuits you asked for.'
'Not got ma teef in,' he slurs, spitting slightly onto the forever pregnant Holly Willoughby’s inflated stomach.
'You can have them later, I’ll put them in your drawer.'
'Hot in here isn’t it?' Sweat pouring out of every possible area on my body, make-up melting down my face and into my cleavage.
'It's freezing,' he mutters.
We sit in silence. I watch him. He continues circling with the biro.
His chest sounds like there may be a small dying bird trapped inside, whistling wheezes ring out in repeated breathes. He presses his buzzer next to me without saying a word.
'Come on, come on,' he says through a breathless whisper.
A minute goes by before Margaret, the staff nurse, patiently appears at his side.
'Hiya Joe, what can I get you? Bottle of champers? Caviar? Foot massage?'
'Ooh lovely.' A laugh that quickly turns into a splutter. 'Need...ma...mask...short...o...breath.' Still never really looking at me, grinning like a demented dog with his tongue slightly protruding on a hot day.
Margaret fits his mask round his mouth and makes sure the elasticated straps are comfortably placed above his ears. The oxygen kicks into action; the machine makes a loud whirling noise.
'Fanks,' he says, through exaggerated breaths. Looking up at Margaret as if hoping for a pat on the head or a 'good boy'.
He looks up at me for a second before he continues with the circling. For a second I think I see fear in his eyes.
I remember, when I was a child, he was a very creative man; an artist, and a very talented one at that. He never sold his work. He enjoyed the tranquillity of the art and would often spend months on one piece. His parents saw it as a useless hobby and encouraged him to get a real job, one for a man. He encouraged me to draw and paint as a child and I cherished the time we spent together at his drawing board.
When I was twelve his emphysema took over his body from the inside out. At first he just became breathless. He would have to stop two or three times during our Saturday shopping trip to catch his breath. Then a coughing fit would end up in a full blown asthma attack and finally the hospital visits became more frequent until he eventually became house bound.
In the early stages of his illness he became more and more irritable and less and less patient with everything; especially me. Forever the rebellious teen, he refused to stop smoking or drinking. He would pay for taxis to take him to his local pub several times a week where he would sit, chain smoke, drink double vodkas and lemonade, and fill his lungs with air from his inhaler. The specialists begged him to change his lifestyle - as did I - but he was adamant he would enjoy himself for as long as humanly possible.
'Hmm?' he says, without looking up.
'Have you thought any more about what you want to do with your house?'
'Right, well can you have a wee think about it? The council need to know.'
'I’ll try,' he says, sounding like a cheeky old bastard.
'You know you won’t be going back there now.'
He doesn’t answer.
'Blade Runner is on tonight.'
Gylla Fiona Stafford is a Falkirk-born writer currently working on her debut novel. She remains in Falkirk with her husband musician and film maker, Adam Stafford, and their young daughter. Gylla has always had a love of creative writing and is an avid reader. The majority of her stories are loosely based on her life growing up in the Falkirk area.
Find out more on her blog, tweet her at @donotresus, or keep in touch via email.