Short Reads

Ruth- the woman who glided as softly as a ghost

There was another woman I remember from Fitzmary 2 ward- her name was Ruth and she was as silent and mysterious as a gliding ghost.

She didn’t smoke, and didn’t seem to do very much out and about the ward or the hospital grounds. Nina and I would go out to classes and spend afternoons sitting outside the cafe on the single bench which was placed opposite and facing a grassy area with a few tree’s dotted about it. Sometimes we’d see Elanor skipping past us with her diffident eyes, or Christine coming from inside to find us.

We never saw Ruth outside, and I barely even saw her on the ward; I seemed instead to sense her presence like one does a light breeze when it blows in through an open window. She was tall and very thin, and had long black hair which was dead straight and hung down almost to the bottom of her back. It was streaked with some grey, and those slightly whispier strands used to hang distinct from the darker ones and glimmer in the light.

Her face was pale and long, and her eyes was always down-turned. She very rarely met my eye or acknowledged me or anyone else; she seemed always internal, and silent in some certain way which held her deep inside herself. Her manner was gentle and so very quiet, as thought she was concentrated on keeping her breathing subdued.

When she did look at me, for some mysterious and otherwise uncertain reason, her eyes were soft and serene; pale brown/grey and distant somewhere. Her whole demeanour was subtlety faded; as faint and ethereal as moon light. It was as if she quietly but certainly held everything back from prying eyes in a manner which best worked for herself and for her own peace of mind.

I was never sure if she actively worked to hold onto that peace of mind, and thus keep everything and everybody at a certain distance, or if it was just the way she already was. It was like she lived and existed entirely behind her own eyes; focusing inwards and following a line so deep inside of her it barely let her look up and away to follow anything else.

Whenever I happened to see her outside of her room her serenity always made me think of a gliding ghost. A character from Japanese fiction- white face, long black hair, down-turned eyes and a naturally subdued presence. She walked so silently that I could often miss her even when I was looking right in her direction; the kind of woman who could walk through a busy, crowded room, but leave absolutely no trace in anybodies memory afterwards.

I was always uncertain though, about that peace, and that serenity. I never saw her lose it, in fact I don’t think I ever saw her sad or angry or crying. It must have been within her. She smiled sometimes, faintly and palely, like whatever had touched her inside must have been so strong that just a trace of it made it’s way up and out and into the world. She must have caught my eyes once or twice in the year that I knew her, and in those moments I caught such a rare gentleness, and such a tiny, soft gaze.

I don’t think she was trapped inside, I think she had just retreated there, and then realised that the space and the calm was preferable to the violence and the force of the external world and other peoples presence and company. I don’t know if she was sad, or lonely, of if she merely accepted these things as small parts everything else.

I always wondered whether life had drained her somewhere back in her past and previous life, whether she had once been young and vivacious and full of life, but then someone, something, had hurt her and caused her to slowly fade and pale into the soft, smiling shadow she was when I knew her. Or, whether she had always been a ghost lady; whether she had always had the inward facing eyes of a mystic and the stillness of the shadow-world about her.

She radiated calm; and in Fitzmary 2 that was quite something to behold. I always paused to think when I saw her, and I always contemplated the poise of her straight back and black hair, the depth of her quiet and the faintness and slowness of her step. She was ghostly, but she was smiling oh so softly nonetheless; at peace with whatever it was which held her inside, like that was all the activity and the noise that she needed.

Her silence was her own, and it suited her; and perhaps it is the ghost in me which remembers the trailing, faint ghostliness of her. Perhaps it is the pale part in my own soul which remembers her smallest of smiles and recalls the way those silver wispy strands of her hair caught the light softly; as well as the firm yet gentle quiet she always left in her wake, like an echo.


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