The case of Delphine Desrosiers

A little creative writing about a geriatric Parisian woman tackling the initial stages of Dementia…


Monsieur Germain had a certain peculiarity about him. Aside from his gawking stare and twitchy smile, he would rarely look people in the eyes; preferring to stare fixedly instead at the unfortunate patient’s forehead as if entranced by their hairline- gradually receding in this case…

‘Madame Desrosiers’, stuttered Monsieur Germain (Germain being the doctor), ‘I am wary about your condition and feel that it would be potentially hazardous to discharge you as of today. Your leg still requires regular attention and I’m just not sure, frankly, that you are quite capable of caring for yourself.’

Delphine sat up-right in her hospital bed, amused at what her doctor (with terribly beastly eyes) had to say. In a great show of nonchalance, Madame Desrosiers huffed and puffed, whipping off her reading glasses in preparation for some serious, adult talk.

‘Hein, it was a foolish trip, nothing more. Monsieur Kosma is coming round next week to re-paint the steps. It was a trip. We all trip over from time to time’, said Delphine, imploringly.

Monsieur Germain, with his glasses hanging on the tip of his nose, let loose a rather pathetic giggle.

‘Hm. Yes’, he proceeded, wiping his glistening brow on his sleeve, ‘but the young heal quicker than the old. And unfortunately as is the case for you, Madame Desrosiers, deeper wounds need more comprehensive care. It would be unjust of me to send you home in the state you are’, he declared with authority.

Delphine let show quite possibly the most disgusted look of all time. The type of sneer-y eye-roll that would be better suited to Ebenezer Scrooge.

‘Monsieur Germain, I absolutely refuse to stay here’, said our unlikely heroine with much a gusto. ‘I am grateful for your help, but I cannot and will not rest here among the bedridden. I am fine. Quite fine caring for myself.’

Delphine hadn’t made a show of herself since the unfortunate day her eldest brother ‘compassionately’ released her pet rat into the wild. Whilst she hadn’t quite reached the stage of kicking and screaming, she was certainly pushing the limits, barking at all passing nurses, ordering them to release her before she called the police.

‘Am I incontinent? NO. Can I remember my birthdate… regrettably YES I CAN. Do I need assistance changing a bandage? Absolutely bloody not!’

With a slightly more nervous laugh this time, our bespectacled doctor looked around in embarrassment. Camille, a patient with Dementia was snorting violently with laughter. So much so, that nurse Capucine had to step in to stop her from choking on her ox-tail soup…

Twenty minutes later, Delphine it seemed had given up the ghost. She lay asleep on her bed, drained from her venomous anger. Her flaxen hair was tied in a loose velvet bow- she looked younger when she was sleeping; as if the wrath of time would momentarily cease when the elderly slept.

Doctor Ousmane Germain had pattered off to his office, leaving the ward alight instead with the buzzing of nurses who hurried from one patient to another. This particular ward was home to the geriatric people of Paris; those who had accidently nipped off the top of their thumb whilst pruning the clematis, bashed their noses blue on a low beam desperately searching for their glasses, or, as is true for our Delphine here, tripped over the courtyard steps amid a heated conversation concerning the local bins…

Perhaps you are intrigued by what exactly happened with the bins that day?

Delphine had just come back from her weekly trip to the local market in the 11th arrondissement (around the corner from where she lives), to discover that Madame Jacob from the floor below (and it was clearly her for only she delights in making vast quantities of peach jam), had selfishly unloaded the ‘general waste’ bin to make room for the remnants of her failed batch of jam. The bin was lined with a thick, sticky liquid that was seeping from all corners of the bin bag. The rubbish was quite literally drowning in the stuff. At this point, Delphine, now pink with fury, put down her shopping and marched to the third floor and knocked incessantly on Madame Jacob’s front door. In an animated debate between the two women (both in their 80’s), neither was willing to back down. Delphine eventually managed to persuade Béatrice to witness the jammy predicament for herself, tripping over the courtyard steps in her state of spiteful anticipation.

There was a lot of blood and child-like hysteria. Delphine was wheeled off to hospital with the help of her neighbour Monsieur Fremont, and it was Monsieur Ousmane Germain who was then burdened with the task of treating Madame Desrosiers and her now less than pretty wounded leg.

‘Madame Desrosiers…? Delphine…? It’s Madame Fremont, Eglantine.’

‘Eglantine! Mon dieu… thank goodness you’ve come to save me. They’ve had me tied down for weeks. I haven’t eaten for days, and they say another German attack is imminent!’

‘Goodness, glad to know the drugs work I suppose’, muttered Eglantine, looking pitifully at her friend.

After a sudden wave of realisation, Delphine shook off her mask of confusion and began her well-practised, ‘I’m perfectly fine’ mantra:

‘It’s such a ghastly place here. Anyone would think I’d been sent to a loony bin. Jean-Jacques there forgot how to tie his shoelaces’, she whispered rather loudly, nodding to a gentleman who appeared to have muddled his left foot with his right. ‘And, poor old Joséphine asked me only yesterday whether I was expecting a child anytime soon. Honestly, this place is no good for me. I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again, I’m much better off in my own home.’

Eglantine, with her grey, marbled hair, looked searchingly into the eyes of her closest friend. A plan had hatched on the tip of her tongue.

‘And home you shall be, Delphine. I… have a plan.’

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