This is another piece I wrote for school. We were learning about fragmented essays and how to tell a story in a format other than “Once upon a time…” I wrote this with the idea of a recipe.
It is extremely hard to refrain from making further comment or excuse. So I’m just going to say here it is, and sit on my hands.
When the Hospital Calls
1.) Wake up. Try to take in what the doctor is saying. Don’t ask questions yet: you might not need to. When the doctor is done, ask questions. Make him repeat the story a couple times in the process. Ask things he cannot answer.
2.) Start to call your boyfriend, Joe, but don’t complete the dial. Remember, the doctor just said they’re prepping him for emergency brain surgery. Hang up and call your mother instead: she’ll know what to do. Sob into the phone. Try to be clear, but talk much louder than you intend. Let go of your emotion: it’s too heavy for you to hold on to.
3.) Go about your day. There’s nothing else you can do. Falling into your everyday routine will bring you a sense of normalcy, which is what you desperately need right now.
4.) When his 80-year-old mother calls to tell you what happened, try to act surprised. She needs to feel in control. She will not be happy if she knows Joe had the hospital call you.
a.) If you do tell her that the hospital called, take the focus off of yourself by asking her how she is doing, and if there’s anything you can do for her. Treat her like a grieving widow.
b.) If you fail to do this, prepare for her wrath. Starting today, throughout Joe’s fragile recovery, and until her last days on Earth, you will be enemy #1.
5.) When the hospital calls again, go visit Joe. It might be 3am, after your shift at work, but that’s okay: neurological ICU is open for visitors 24/7. The scent of rubbing alcohol and floor cleaner will pass into the elevator as you exit. Despite the scurry of nurses and the beeping of unseen machines, the entire floor will be eerily quiet. Joe will still be under heavy sedation. He will look very, very bad. Half of his head will be shaved, and a huge incision from the top of his head to the top of his ear will be stapled shut. His eyes will be swollen. His skin will be sallow. There will be monitors the size of pencil erasers screwed into his neck on either side, like Frankenstein’s monster. Tubes and cords will form a spider web over him. It’s okay to be afraid, and cry. The nurse knows how to comfort traumatized visitors.
6.) Call the hospital yourself on the days you can’t visit. When Joe’s mother calls to update you, do not…I repeat DO NOT…tell her you already know. You want her to know that you’re doing your best, I understand, but trust me on this one. Don’t tell her you visit. Don’t tell her you call. Just like before, let her tell you. Ask her again if she needs anything.
a.) If she knows that you visit and call, she will cut you off. She will tell the hospital that no one is allowed access to Joe without her. No visitors. No phone calls. You will be devastated.
b.) If this happens, tell Joe’s best friend, Erick, as soon as you can. Erick will visit Joe himself. When the hospital denies him, he’ll stand in front of the elevator for an hour. When that old woman emerges with her church friends, Erick will cuss her out in front of them. You’ll have access to Joe immediately. Call the hospital: the staff will be happy to hear from you again.
7.) Joe’s mind will not be right. The surgery affected his memory. It will be disturbing, but stay strong. Bring him balloons and cards and pictures. Point them out when he wakes up. Tell him about Erick’s first visit, because you know he doesn’t remember. Tell him how he took two shaky breaths, and then tried to hand the oxygen mask to Erick like a joint: puff-puff-give! Tell him how Erick was too traumatized to get the joke.
a.) Joe will fall asleep. Wait for him to wake up. When he does, he will have forgotten you were there. It’s okay to repeat the conversation you just had: why waste a perfectly good conversation, right? In ten years, his favorite story will be about how you had the same conversation six times in one visit.