Every couple of hours a nurse would come in to check my vitals. I still had a fever but it was receding.
I had sent a text to my sister the day before letting her know I was driving myself to the ER. She left a message on my parent’s answering machine which was waiting for them when they returned home from my mother’s final cancer treatment. Not the most idyllic homecoming.
They were trying to get me on the slab as soon as possible. Everyone was eager to know when, especially my mother who kept calling. At one point my novia and I were in my hospital room, and we could hear the nurse talking to someone on the phone outside the room.
“I bet that’s your mother,” she said. I smiled. We soon found out it was. My parents lived a couple states away. It’s hard to watch someone be in pain and not being able anything about it. Even worse when it’s from afar.
Though the time of my surgery was still unknown what was certain was it would be before the end of the day. I looked at the clock. It was already past 6pm.
Together we waited. Neither had much to say. There wasn’t much to say. Only sprinkles of small talk. We sat holding hands. She hadn’t slept much the night before. What sleep she had gotten was fitful. I invited her to crawl up beside me in the hospital bed. We lay there together in our microcosm. Far from this unkind world. For a little while time stood still. Together we breathed. Together we exhaled.
When they came to take me away it was without warning. There was no gurney as I had expected. Instead they wheeled me out in my hospital bed. My novia followed closely behind. She barely spoke a word. It was all she could do to follow behind as I was wheeled to the operating room. I tried to assuage her fear by letting her know it would be ok. I can’t recall if I did this verbally or telepathically. Oddly I had no fear. No worry. No anxiety. I felt very much alive. Such a curious thing. When you’re going through the daily monotony of life you feel like the walking dead, yet when you’re faced with your own mortality it’s like an electric shock bringing you back to life. Worry is a leech. It sucks away any enjoyment of life. It’s been one of the greatest plights of my life. We are the only creatures on earth who think about tomorrow. Birds don’t. What would our lives be like if we weren’t weighed down by the pervading thought I wonder how this is going to work out? I decided not to. I wanted to be a bird and have no thought of tomorrow. What’s the worst that could happen? I die. Frack it. Whatever. My only regret would be that I didn’t use the turkey baster.
The three of us, my novia, my driver, and I ventured through a labyrinth of twists and turns. The man driving my bed expertly maneuvered past areas with seemingly impossible clearance. When we arrived at pre-op I was greeted by the anesthesiologist. He was wearing his team uniform: blue scrubs. His voice was like a drug. He went into a cool, and well-rehearsed speech about how he was going to sedate me. He hadn’t even done anything yet, and already I felt sedated by the golden tones of his voice. There was a brief aside about how with any surgery there is the possibility of death due to unforeseen complications.
“But the possibility of that happening today is next to nothing. You’re going to be fine. You’re young and fit,” he assured me.
As if on cue Dr. Staffer, the surgeon, came right after him. He was large like a football player. His voice was deep like Barry White. He shook my hand with a firm calloused lumberjack handshake. While he was explaining what was going to be happening while I was under the ether, the anesthesiologist slipped the first dose of drugs into my IV. I felt the frigid liquid crawl into my vein. Within seconds I could feel its wonderful warm arms about me. My face went from keen interest to euphoric fondue. Oh my God, this is wonderful. I feel amazing. This is the best cocktail I’ve ever had in my life. Keep my tab open. Dr. Staffer’s mouth was moving. I heard nothing. I just stared up at him. This is guy is big. His grand stature is making me dizzy. My head flopped back down on my pillow. I was salivating. I felt a sudden urge to ask him to sing me some Barry White, and bring me another cocktail. Wow, I feel a-maze-balls. I was trying not to laugh.
The procedure itself would take an hour, 30 minutes for prep, and 30 minutes to vacuum out my appendix.
“Like Jell-O?” I turned to my novia, giggling. She was not entertained. “Oh, Jell-O. That’s the first thing I want to eat when I wake up,” I told her. The doctor went to get prepped, as did my novia.
Suddenly my bed floated into the operating room. One of the surgeon’s was finishing setting up. He was also wearing his team uniform. All I could see were his eyes which were eclipsed by surgeon goggles.
“Hi! I’m here for the party!” I said and waved at him. “Just got my birthday suit back from the dry cleaners.” He looked both ways, trying to figure out if I was waving to him or somebody else before tentatively waving back. I saw the metal slab where I would be placed. The operating room was frigid and I was going to be naked. My prevailing concern was that my penis was going to be no bigger than a thimble, and they were all going to laugh at me. This concern lasted but a moment as the anesthesiologist brought me my second cocktail, and after that I was somewhere over the rainbow. He asked me to count to ten. I barely made it to three before I was unconscious.
About three hours later I crash-landed back into my body, as if I had fallen from the sky into a war zone. Everything was amped, as if someone had cranked up the gain on my mental mixing board. I was panicked and disoriented, trying to remove my IV, and the oxygen tube that had been stuffed up my nose, and get out of my hospital bed.
“This is a recovery room, why are they shouting?” I asked no one in particular. I didn’t realize I was also shouting. I felt hands on me, my novia, trying to calm me. “Why can’t the recovery room be a library with quiet soft music playing in the background, not with gossiping nurses?” I boomed. Shortly thereafter the nurses went mute. My filter had temporary stopped working. Substances have a tendency to do that.
It was worse than the CT scan revealed, I was told. What should have only taken an hour took over two. Meanwhile my novia was in the one of the worst places on earth, The Waiting Room, with no one bringing her any word, good or bad. I felt terrible when I learned of this. I can’t imagine what it was like for her, waiting in the balance, steeping in her own thoughts. I probably would have had worry leeches all over me.
I looked around. I was back in my room, no recollection of how I had gotten there, as if I had been teleported. Damn opiates.
My novia bent over to kiss my forehead. She told me she’d be back tomorrow after work. Seconds later my room was vacant. The ghostly tendrils of her fragrance still hovered about me. The heart rate monitor chirped softly in the background. The hallway was bustling with life, and I felt another something I had never felt before in my life.
As if for a moment my soul had been dislodged from my body, and was floating above me. I was a bird. With no thought of tomorrow. I felt honored to have another day, to be on Earth a little longer.
I wanted to savor the moment, but I could feel the ether pulling me back under.
I was awake long enough to have one last thought.
“Goodnight,” I said to the man in the moon, and with that the curtains of my soul were drawn.
To be continued…