The soldier gently laid the boy on the grey PVC-covered couch. It was cold and unwelcoming, spurning everyone’s touch. The boy’s clothes provided little protection and he winced upon contact. The soldier rolled up his jacket and carefully placed it beneath the teenage boy’s head.
“What’s your name son?” he asked as he knelt beside the boy.
With a laboured breath the boy softly pronounced “Michael.”
“OK Michael, listen to me. The ambulance is on its way and your friend has gone for your parents. Hang in there.”
The heat from Michael’s body began to melt the cold exterior of the couch, providing him with a gentle embrace. He adjusted himself to fully engage with this newfound warmth. Slowly looking around the room he could see the drab grey painted walls adorned with safety notices, chalk boards and pin boards. There were two wooden desks with trays failing to contain the paperwork that overflowed onto the desks. At the front of the office stood a wooden counter which appeared to be propped up by two soldiers staring at a distraught man standing on the other side. A rude calendar showing more than just the month of October hung from the counter facing into the office so it was hidden from visitors. The guardroom was not very inviting to guests.
Michael lay in silence, trying to preserve his energy until he could go home. It was the journey he was making on his bicycle until it was unceremoniously stopped. The evenings were drawing in but Michael didn’t believe that was an excuse for him not to be seen.
That lucid moment caused the fear to surge through his body. “I want to go home now,” he shouted, but his body was unwilling to give that thought voice. His chest began to well up; a tear broke from his eye and ran down his cheek. “I want my mum,” he cried but there was no one to hear his thoughts.
He was all alone. The only comfort he had was from the couch that provided him with the sympathy and attention he craved.
The pain sliced through his body. It lay waiting in the darkness and pounced with little compassion. He felt himself burrow deeper into the couch, falling further into its embrace. He was taken back to when he sat on the park bench next to Stephanie. She was his first girlfriend, his only girlfriend. As he nervously leant in, to sneak his first kiss, Stephanie placed her arms around his shoulders pulling him closer. She had no intention of this being a fleeting moment.
The ambulance crew had arrived and were attending to him. Michael was oblivious. His energy followed his body temperature and slowly dripped into the couch. His soul became restless as it started to prepare itself for a different journey.
Another pain shot through his body. He was with his brother on Christmas morning. The floor was besieged by discarded wrapping paper. His parents basked in their children’s delight. Michael opened his final present slowly. Could it be? His face lit up as his eyes caressed the sunburst coloured body of the guitar. He wore a smile larger than his face and gave his parents his biggest cuddle. “I love you,” he said as he squeezed with all his might.
The couch abandoned its hold. There was nothing more for it to take. The coldness had returned.
Michael’s dad burst through the door. The silence drained all hope from his face. He stood and stared at the couch.
Michael had left.