UNITED STATES—Davy stands in the hallway, shoulder blades pressed to the wall. He gasps.
“Relax, drink water,” he says to himself. This place is hard work, draining, stressful, heart-warming. It’s a crouching beast, even when all the lights are off at night, a vortex of love and suffering breathing slowly in a gargantuan ribcage.
Slowly, slowly, Davy escapes the quicksand of inertia. Then he jumps and starts walking. There’s an angry lady with the lifeless graphite hair of a patient, she’s in her wheelchair and yelling at the top of her angry lungs.
“I’m not taking your taxi again. You ripped me off, asshole. Officer, I want to make a citizens arrest. This taxi driver tried to rape me at the corner of 42nd St. and Broadway. He and that gorilla. Don’t deny if. You DID it you lying sack of diarrhea.”
Davy covers his ears, “What’s wrong with you? Ever since I get here, this screaming. It hurts my ears.”
“You change your face,” she bellows, “but I know who you are.”
“Lighten up!” He lumbers around the corner of the rear nurse’s station.
There an Indonesian nurse sweet talks an elderly white woman, dressed in floral prints, a gold necklace around her neck.
“We have to take a shower. Everybody has to take a shower.”
“I’ve heard all the no’s I wanna hear today,” Davy says. “Shut up and say yes, be a part of the human race that bathes.”
The old lady’s mouth turns into a dark cave. He passes other open doors, the comatose, the drooling, a “take me home reaches his ear,” as if hissed a few millimeters from his ear.
On he walks, and finally turns the door into the mom’s shared room.
“Hello,” she says sweetly. “Where did you go?”
“Out for a walk… You know, I go through these halls and look through the open doors. They cough and gape, even my friend, the veteran you kicked out. He’s in a bad way. He told me he’s full of the cancer and the only thing he can do to keep his mind off it is to remember in his head all the songs he ever loved.”
“How long are you going to stay? Are you going to spend the night?”
“Oh mom, I love you.”
“What are you saying?”
“You are interrupting my soliloquy, that’s what.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“You never did. Just say yes and smile. Go for a roll in the wheelchair, there are people outside. You can’t even dream of going home till you move those legs, you can at least push yourself in the wheelchair.”
“But I don’t want to get out of bed,” the mom says. “I frightened to death I might fall again.”
Davy’s sister Karen walks inside the room.
“Here you are, Davy? You disappeared just like Dad did after the earthquake.”
“Can I press the button,” mom says. “I don’t see it.”
“Karen, look,” he points, ” The button is tied and twisted below the bed, beyond Betty’s reach. The nurses are sick of her asking to be adjusted.”
“Look, breakfast is here.”
“Thought we had breakfast. Take it back.”
“Would you like breakfast, Miss Betty? Your daughter asked us to serve it again.”
“C’mon, Mom,” says Karen. “Look, it’s got bacon. You always liked bacon.”
“Everyone goes off on their dream of hope,” says Davy. “A way of avoiding that we’re all on a sojourn that leads to the grave.”
“What did you say?”
“Look, are you going to try some orange juice. Lots of Vitamin C,” says Karen. She keeps insinuating, “Oatmeal is rib sticking, low in cholesterol.”
She does a trick learned from Tatania: even if the mom says no, she spoons it toward her closed lips in and as the spoon reaches those monuments to rejection, the mouth drops open, despite all protests, to receive the spoon’s payload.
“Karen, I don’t want any more of that. No means no.”
“Let’s try another. You always said try a sample of everything. How will you know you don’t like it, if you don’t try it?”
Then spoon in Karen’s hand corkscrews in toward its target.
To be continued…