Matron and Eve by Elizabeth Trew
At boarding school, aged nine, I was sent to the sick bay
for not taking my medicine. I kicked and screamed,
nearly knocked Matron’s glasses off
while I stood in line for our Syrup of Figs.
To keep girls like us regular and good.
“Bad girl!” said Matron, tucking me in to the iron bed.
Matron wore white. A stiff belt nipped her waist.
Silver scissors peeped from her pocket,
grey curls from her cap. She checked my fever,
left a handful of pills (which I hid) and a glass of water.
Alone all day I stared at the grey-white walls,
counted the squares on the whiteboard ceiling.
White mosquito nets hung above white beds.
I listened to a gardener singing in Shona,
listened to the cleaners calling each other.
Tropical light became tropical night.
Footsteps came and went. A girl struggled to breathe
from an asthma attack. Another girl had a bilious attack.
I heard matron check a girl with a murmuring heart,
heard a girl ask for sanitary pads.
“Your mother is here,” announced Matron one day.
My mother glided in, cast a loving eye towards her little one,
held out her soft, manicured hand to matron.
“How do you do. Please call me Eve. You must come to tea,”
“I’d love to see your home,” smiled Matron, turning red.
My mother came to visit next day, and the next.
I felt her lips on my cheek, sniffed her sweet perfume.
She asked matron to tea again, and again.
“Yes, Eve,” muttered matron under her breath.
Matron smelt of carbolic soap.
On her next visit my mother held out an apple.
“Present from the gardener. Isn’t it big?”
The apple was shiny red and ready to eat.
“What a treat! She can eat it for supper”,
That evening Matron came by to check my pulse
and give me pills, when a pill rolled out, and then another.
“What a disgrace!” she cried, seeing my hoard of pills
under the pillow. “No supper tonight, my girl,” she snapped,
taking the apple away.
I burrowed deep in the bed that night,
sobbed into my white cocoon.
I cried for my mother at home,
for the gardener, who could whistle for snakes,
for the sapele climbing tree and my red hen.
I never knew what became of my apple.
Perhaps Matron ate it or gave it to someone.
Perhaps it turned bad or withered away.
“Poor thing”, sighed Eve.
“What does she know of love,”