Tuesday, September 24, 2013

25 September 1987, before dawn

It’s a large square room. The floors are industrial tile, polished, sealed, and impenetrable. The ceilings are garden-variety acoustic white. Long rows of florescent tubes illuminate everything down to the stark sterile corners. Walls, camouflaged with instruments from eye-level downward, are a washed-out pink. No windows here. There is an illusion of being down, of being under, of a substantial weight overhead.

A single, free-standing wall cuts the room in half. Like the walls making up the perimeter, it is divided into stations or ports. Each instrumented and tubed and supplied for any possible occurrence. Here are tools to shock and suck, sedate and restrain. Each station is efficiently designed for quick access from all sides.

Along one wall there are two sets of double doors, the kind that see you coming and open accordingly. One set, the one I entered by, leads to the elevators. The other leads down a corridor of doors and other hallways, a warren of operating theaters. The same wall accommodates a glass-enclosed cubicle for records and nurses and computers.

This is a twenty-four hour place. The sun never sets. Nothing reveals the passage of time except the large school clock over the exit door with its smoothly rotating second hand. The smell is disinfectant and medicinal and bleached cotton and body fluids. The air is chilled and motionless, a breath held. There are layers of sound here, separated with mild concentration: a low background hum of furnace or air conditioner, the faint metallic buzz of lights, the bleats and pings of monitors, the whoosh and inhale of ventilators, the soft friction of sheet against sheet, the visceral moans and sobs of the semiconscious patrons of this place.

Trevor is here. I was summoned from my vigil at the elevator banks to be with him. I waited there, examining the blue and green undersea mural of sea turtles and white-bellied sharks, until a quiet-voiced nurse stepped through the swing-out doors, assessed me, offered a hospital gown cover-up, and told me to follow her.

I wonder at the work of bandaging his head this way, rolls and rolls of gauze into a helmet. His eyes, his nose, his four-year-old mouth swollen, weeping blood. His life and its functions spiked green lines against the black background of the monitor. I perch here on a low stool; touch an open patch of skin above his right wrist. I stay out of the way. I don’t want him to wake up here. I don’t want him to see this place. I wish for him to sleep all this away. 


  1. Well chosen. I was watching for this all day yesterday and here it is...I found out after viewing all those wonderful comments on FB. Damn, you're good. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going...

    1. Thank you, thank you my friend. I owe much to you, your encouragement and friendship.

  2. Your descriptions are well written. I feel as if I am transported into the emotion of this moment of this, your experience. Well done.