The neatly dressed, mint-smelling teen behind the desk handed me the ‘Yellow Pages’ volume directory as a bored expression played on her face. She muttered, “hand it back at the end of the evening,” as though she never really believed the actions in which she was employed. Her jaw chewed gum as if that were her only joy in life; working the desk was not something she had bargained on.
Five minutes later, and the neon tome was spread across my bed. I was scanning down the columns of synoptic ‘L’s, jerking my hand back, my heart thrumming whenever I spotted the words ‘London Hospital’. Soon, I was surrounded by a swarm of ‘London District Hospital’ phone numbers and titles of the heads of departments or their secretaries, especially those associated with maternity and paediatric wards. With a computer- connection rates variable, hence why I was wary of using it frequently- given in my room, I easily Googled the hospitals, being specific with the post-codes I had salvaged out of the Yellow Pages, and investigated what their websites said about them.
I was on my fourth hospital, frustrated but not close to tears (I knew full well that it might be a while before I was successful), when I came to fruition almost so suddenly that I had to double-take. Bored, scanning through three tacky websites, with clouded pictures of glum nurses in those stereotypical garb, and stories of saviour doctors, I saw nothing that was any glimmer of reality, or relevant to me. There were scrawled addresses that pointed to districts, cockney places and Soho houses; I didn’t think that my birth mother would have chosen places like that to have a baby...even though I had no idea what my mother would be like. It was that which was holding the information from me. My problems left me worried, but the thrill of adventure tied me back, spilling through my soul.
The forth link stood out even in the Google list. In fact, I was close to kicking myself that I had not chosen this place first. The slick website was a hospital itself: clean, white walls, clear font, readable, dotted with helpful signs pointing me through every part of the website. There was no picture of the hospital itself, but a number of photographs of the head of staff, along with a contact number, more direct than that in the Yellow Pages. I squealed on the inside.
“I might as well.”
Noting down the addresses of a couple of other interesting-looking hospitals in centralLondon, I packed up my rucksack, money, maps, phone. The bedside clock reminded me that it was 10pm. I’d have to wait for tomorrow to arrive before I myself set out.
The morning dawned and so did I. Promptly. My bed had been comfortable, but this was not the place I had grown up in; it would take me more than a little time to get used to it. I rushed to my outer curtains and flung them open, feeling renewed with fresh energy. I’d always thought that the rising sun in the countryside was a grand sight, but to see her head come into view behind a horizon of buildings, the amber glow appearing from nowhere- so it seemed- was a sight most majestic, and triumphant too. As I watched the world come into focus, streetlamps being replaced by the warmth of natural light, I felt the aurora fill me too.
The city awoke with a cry; one moment there was the faintest of sounds, the next minute the streets erupted with their city-sounds, police-cars and pedestrians just as equally part of the ruckus.
As I wandered down for the breakfast I had ordered on booking the room, having dressed quickly in the same outfit I had arrived in, I whistled to myself. On passing the crystallised glass of the corridor window, I squinted across at the growing shadows that poured themselves down from buildings like the Admiral. Already, men and women were hurrying in and out of them, full-steam ahead with the day. I shifted my rucksack from one shoulder to the other, as if the information about my chosen hospital, written in my own hand, would burn a hole through the fabric. It didn’t, of course, but the shifting still remained, even whilst I was eating my breakfast, pushing the rucksack to and fro with my feet.
Once I was done, I headed directly out. I had that rucksack, and it had everything I would need for the day. The gum-chewing girl behind the desk gave me a half-hearted glare for leaving the neon directory in my room, but otherwise said nothing. I rolled my eyes and hurried onwards into the warm weather. It didn’t matter because the day was smiling at me.