Girlfriend in a Coma
—fiction by David Hutt

I first met him outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital when I went for some air. He was stood on the steps smoking a cigarette and looking down. 

“What you here for?” he asked me, wanting to make a conversation when I wanted silence. 

“My girlfriend's in a coma,” I said. 

“Mine too,” the words fell out like the smoke that poured from his mouth. “Is yours going to make it?” 

“The doctors think so.” 

“Mine ain't.” 

I looked at him and then away. It wasn't quite sunset and the streets were cold, a wind was blowing up from the beach. On the hospital roof you could hear the dirge of seagulls and their imperfections at life. 

“Sometimes I feel like strangling her,” he opened his mouth. “Sometimes I want to whisper goodbye.” 

“Oh,” I said and hoped he would be leaving as he put his boot to the cigarette-butt and squeezed it into the pavement. He hadn't smoked it down to the filter and it exploded like a firework. 

“But I should be getting back.” He shook my hand and left me alone outside. 

A year later I was smoking outside the Eastbourne District General Hospital, when I saw the same man again. He came out of the doors and asked if I had a light. He lit a smoke and stood for a second beside me. 

“What you here for?” he asked. He hadn't recognised me, perhaps because I no longer had the paleness that inflicts the man who thinks his love might die. She didn't die and colour returned to my face. 

Em, my mother, she's unwell,” I said. 

“My girlfriend's in a coma,” he said and waited for me to pity him. 

“Do you want to strangle her?” I asked. 

He looked at me with the same shocked eyes that any man would respond to this question with. “You don't remember me, do you?” 


“Last year, you told me the same thing, in Brighton.” 

I remembered the seagulls and their dirges. 

“Oh, well you...” he started. 

“You must have bad luck.” 

“You see...” 

“Will she pull through this time?” 

Suddenly he was on the ground, his knees bent and his face on the pavement. I could hear him crying. Had I been too harsh? Maybe he did have a girlfriend who fell into another coma. 

“Sorry, mate,” I said. 

“She's not my girlfriend,” I heard him say through the sobbing. He gargled his words like metal mouthwash. “Will you come to see her?” 

“I don't understand” 

“Come and see her” 


“The woman in the coma.” 

         I went up the stairs with him and into a small room that was ill-lit. It was a plain room, a few possessions lay on the bedside cabinet, but there was nothing to suggest she had visitors. Perhaps she has been in a coma so long that she no longer knew how to die and her family had grown impatient. Maybe they had already mentally buried her and stopped returning to the cemetery to mourn. Maybe they had a photo of her all beautiful and alive on the mantelpiece next to the framed-poem her father read out at the mental funeral.

The man pulled a chair next to the bed, close so that he was pretty much under the sheets, and he took her arm and rubbed I like how you rub your hands on a cold morning. 

“I don't understand,” I said again, also not understanding why I had followed him into the room. 

“She is nobody's girlfriend,” he said. 

I stayed silent to let him explain. 

“Nobody has come to visit her for two months, only me.” 

I walked closer and saw her face, she looked like the kind of the girl who was constantly happy in life, who never knew how to frown, but now she was frowning and she looked sad. 

“So I have shown her love for the past month. I have loved her like someone should have.” 

“And the last girl?” I asked. 

“I strangled her,” he said with a reminiscent smile. 

“You killed her?” 

“Don't think it's a bad thing to do.” He rubbed her arm like a cat rubs up against its owner. “Imagine being in a coma and nobody wants to strangle you. Imagine knowing you're never going to wake up and nobody wants to end it. Imagine nobody wanting to remember you the way you were conscious.” 

“But you didn't know her when she was conscious.” 

“I know her name, I know where she was from. I know she was riding home from work one day when she knocked down by a car.” 

He picked up a photo-frame from the table and handed it to me. “She's beautiful there, isn't she?” 

I agreed she was. 

“So that's how she has to remain.” He stood and motioned his hand towards the door. “If you don't mind. I'm going to whisper my last goodbye.” 

As I left the room I turned and saw him leaning over her bed, talking in her ear, with affection and carefulness. 

I went back downstairs in an elevator and stepped outside to smoke another cigarette. The seagulls were still on the roof, but their din was different, they weren't dirging for themselves any longer. They were watching out over the beach and the sea and the great black night that had plunked itself down. I lit the cigarette and started to breath out great balls of white smoke into the night air.

David Hutt is a London-born writer and journalist. Last year he lived in Nicaragua and Cuba for one year, working as a journalist and contributing short-stories and poems to several literary magazines. He is currently living in Brighton. He writes about people on the move; hitchhikers, expats, tramps and travelers. He is currently working on a novel about the interconnected lives of expats in one Nicaraguan city, called 'Reminisces of a Chele'.