The first time I saw them put the belt on Mde. P, I was shocked…maybe even incensed. They were all sitting down to dinner, and one of the aide soignantes (I’m pretty sure the equivalent of LPN) looked at me apologetically. “When her husband’s not here, she won’t sit still.” Sure enough, even with the belt holding her to her chair, Mde. P tried to get up. Over the months I’ve been there, I’ve seen her so determined to get up, she literally walks with the chair attached to her, like a turtle with its shell weighing it down.
It’s the sickness. It makes them unable to stop moving. There’s this fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen called “The Red Shoes.” It’s about this girl, and for reasons I won’t go into here (don’t want to spoil it) her feet begin to dance, independent of her will. No matter what she does, she can’t stop dancing. Mde. P doesn’t remind me of her character, mind. It’s just that when I see her, or Mde. H, who moves large arm chairs across the building incessantly, so that we’re always finding an arm chair in the strangest places, or M. D, who shuffles about, walking circles around the corridor, not looking like he has a place to go, maybe because he realizes he doesn’t – I’m reminded of the story.