Tuesday, September 9, 2008
IN THE COLD
This is trite, I think, to think of death here where I lie on a raised bed in a curtained off corner of an emergency room. And it is cold. My life’s love is here too, not as a patient but as my life’s love and she is freezing. She is three feet from me, on a metal chair, resting her head on a metal table. For some reason, a nurse explains without explanation, they intentionally keep the place at 60 degrees. Outside it was more like 90. We keep ordering up blankets, which in hospital fashion are more like sheets posing as blankets. At home we never go to bed except on the warmest of mid-summer nights without a sort of ceremony in which I place extra blankets, real blankets, on her side of our bed – our real bed, which bears no relation to these raised hospital beds. The doctor, a youngish woman, appears and pokes around and she hurts me, or anyway stirs up the pain, and I cannot stifle my moans, though I don’t want it known that there is pain. And I am in a timeless place, harsh lights, far away from the world.
But maybe not so far, for there are little dramas. A youngish olive-skinned woman, nicely rounded in places where the doctor is all angles, also makes sounds of pain, and then cheerful chatter, in the next curtained off area. I can see her in a gap in the curtains. There is a young man with a half beard sitting at the end of her bed, another emergency room patient who has just met her. She is telling him that, though she looks young, she has three children. “And I am going to get married,” she says. She is trying to sound convinced. “I am going to get married. I know I am.”
The young man hails each nurse that goes by and the doctor too. He has all these debts, he says, credit cards and delinquent mortgage payments, and now he has hurt himself and they are telling him he must take a break from his work, which is construction. He tries to get the nurses and the doctor to say it is not so bad as it seems.
Now a short, and by God again pretty, and also bouncy Latin-looking girl appears with a wheel chair. She has a bright smile and is wearing some sort of crisp hospital uniform. She tells me it is time to go to radiology.
The moment I am in the wheel chair we set off at great speed through miles of corridors for my X-ray. This is a race and a game. When we come back, the same way, at top speed, my life’s love says I look like I am having fun, and also that I look just like my late dog Claude, a Bassett hound terrier, who made everything exciting. She says I should be wearing goggles.
Much later it is time for another dash, this time to the CAT-scan place, again pushed by the pretty girl at high speed. And there is something comforting about being surrounded by attractive women – and something sad about it too – an overtone of last times. Or am I being silly?
The pretty girl does everything in radiology, arranging the patient, taking the pictures. It is comforting. I am feeling weak now, for I have not eaten for a day, and my head aches, and there is the pain still, if not so bad as it was, and most of all I feel intensely weary and sad – not sure where the sadness is coming from but clearly sad. And hazy too.
As I lie on this CAT-scan thing that will slide me into the CAT-scan tunnel I feel her hands beneath my head. Then I realize that these are my hands.
I read this piece in a group where I read every week. We read for reaction, not for passive aggressive MFA style criticism. One member who likes the piece says it it is so true that people stay consistent, that even heading into death this particular narrator still notices good looking women!