are people machines?

Adam Husain recalls being stuck in a somewhat loop










Oh my poor Grandad! He was like a lost lamb in that place. Confused, his brown eyes were wandering – past those shoving mothers, sliding their greedy hands into heaps of pyjamas and pillowcases; past those bloodied, omnipresent letters, ‘S A L E’ – so that, at last, they fell on a soft and lonely Christmas sock.


By then, his brain was a mouldy orange. Grandad was a goldfish soft toy, placidly following whichever current it was put into; like a lost dog he followed nurses, televisions – anyone who said to him: “Obey!” And indeed following was his greatest happiness, since at least then he didn’t feel those weighty questions which, when he lay still, would seep in from the edges, causing him to yell aloud: “Where am I?” “Who is she?” etc. For the moment, I was his entrusted shepherd. But now he had stopped, his cotton-wool mind held fast by this Christmas sock.


“I bet people will think there’s been hippos.”


“What, Grandad?”


He pivoted towards me like some great ship. His soft brown eyes – you could see – had caught something in the net: fast, murky, shifting about. The mouth opened. A syllable came forth.


“Ah –”


Then – like a body into a bath, his face relaxed. Whatever it was, it had already disappeared. And then – he had forgotten even that something was gone.




A wet film spread dangerously over his eyes. He had come out of the current; the fibres would start to unlace themselves; he would see the abyss beneath. I led him into a slow walk, like a frightened horse.


“This way, grandad.”


We padded around; those women like shards of glass still careening past, teeth bared, sometimes colliding, until they dived their hands into this or that pile of discounted clothes. You see, we had to wait until mum finished. My poor grandad, he fell into my wake. Look- now there was a pair of white jeans strewn across the floor! Now the strip lighting was flickering! Now a little boy was in an empty ‘BARGAIN BUCKET,’ his face a sheet of pig iron! Until, before I knew it, we had returned to our starting place. And again that sock had reeled him in. And once again – in exactly the same way – those terrible words, those fated, horrible words (Oh! My poor Grandad!):


“I bet people will think there’s been hippos.”

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