The shade from the London plane trees does a good job of extracting the sting of the sun. Now winter is over they are full of foliage and their leaves infuse the light in this space with a green tinge. My wooden bench is comfortable enough – in fact I could quite easily doze off here. The breeze ruffles the leaves of the ivy hedge that encircles me. In the middle of the circle, is a labyrinth marked out in dark red line. It’s a game for children from the hospital, whose premise is a trick; a way of leading you down a false path. Part of the labyrinth is in shade, which makes it harder to determine the boundaries; the false paths from the true.
I lean back and close my eyes. I rub the backs of my eyelids gently. The phosphenes I perceive take the shape of rippling ivy leaves, shimmering bronzegold on my retina.
A child’s voice makes me open my eyes. A small girl is standing at the edge of the labyrinth, her right hand gripping at something, nothing. She steps timidly onto one of the paths, takes a few steps and edges backward. She watches the moving shadows for a minute and walks forward again a few more paces until she comes to a dead-end. She concentrates. Then she speaks. But there is no-one else here, besides me on my bench.
She backs out. Takes a different path and murmurs some more. She giggles. She is more confident and starts to skip. When she reaches the centre – for that is the goal of this labyrinth – she high fives the air and gives a little cry of joy.
Her parents come into sight. He is dishevelled and peers at her with dull eyes; she is paled-lipped, red-eyed. They grip each other’s hands like they are sliding down the bank of a river in flood. They stand stock-still, as though posing for a portrait – as if I am the painter!
The girl runs to them.
I decide to leave that space. Just behind the parents is a bronze statue of a small boy and girl playing a game – they might even be playing on a labyrinth. Through the boy’s arms someone has placed a bunch of gold daffodils.