So as some of you already know, on Sunday, I had some growing discomfort in my midsection that blossomed forth into a beautiful flower of pain by midnight. All through the night, I paced and contemplated what fresh hell this might be while I waited for it to get either better or worse. By the time my father woke up and I was still in pain (albeit no worse pain), I decided I’d better at least let him know what was going on just in case the situation developed further and a trip to the hospital became necessary. Then I attempted to go to bed, hoping to sleep it all off.
A few hours later, I gave up on sleep and staggered out to see that it was noon, which meant 12 hours of constant low-key pain, preceded by 12 more hours of discomfort, preceded by who knows how many hours of symptoms, since I have a number of other medical issues where other symptoms could hide undetected.
Off I went to the emergency room, then to admissions, then to surgery, and now I am home. The short version of anticipatory events is that now, all is well. The long version is too personal to share. However, as with so many things, there is a middle ground.
So here, for all my friends, family and readers who may be curious, is the shareable account of my time in the hospital, much of it written while I was tripping balls. I have elected to simply transcribe it here, weird formatting and all, and not edit for clarification, because I think it will be funnier that way. Enjoy!
First, I am sick
but I don’t notice
I have been sick a long time
some things are hard to see until something happens.
but I don’t notice
The pain is new and strange but not so bad
I can live with it
i’ve learned to live with worse
Somethings are hard to see until they get worse.
it gets worse
I shower, just in case.
I pack a night bag, just in case.
I stop drinking, even though I have been vomiting, just in case.
I am not afraid. I am prepared.
‘I will sleep,’ I think
sometimes that works
but the pain is more than I can hide from
and now I begin to understand
It did not start at dawn, when I could not sleep.
It did not start at midnight, when it began to hurt.
It did not start at noon yesterday, when I threw up the breakfast you made me
(i love the breakfasts you make me)
(and the dinners we always take together)
(our own time)
It might have begun days ago
I have been sick a long time
My father takes me to the hospital
the pain knows where we are and fights
as all things do
to stay where it feels safe
An hour passes. I answer all the questions whenever I am asked.
And I try to be polite
I say no, ma’am, yes sir, please and thank you
‘Manners matter,’ as Mr. Faust would say.
(the book is not finished)
(who will finish my book?)
The pain is getting worse
I cannot hold still
I writhe and moan and am ashamed when I cannot stop
i am making a spectacle of myself
i am a hypochondriac looking for attention
i am an addict looking for a fix
i am just trying to look bad so i’ll see the doctor faster
and I know none of these things are true
and I know they don’t think so either
(but they do o i know they do)
My older sister comes to wait with us, my dad and me
Just Me & My Dad
It was a book he used to read to me when I was little
just a little critter
the best part was finding the grasshopper and spider on each page
Funny the things you remember when you don’t want to think about other things.
We talk about sandwiches and
how good it feels when someone you love
just brings you one
just because they thought you might be hungry
‘The male equivalent of this is to check the air pressure in your tires,’ I say
We laugh. Laughter is good medicine.
My stomach hurts. I am so thirsty. I feel sick.
More hours pass
the doctor has come and gone
and the testing has begun.
(i know they think i’m faking this)
(i know they don’t think that at all)
Nurse says, ‘we need to put an IV line in.’
‘Good luck,’ I say
He’ll need it.
His name is Paco
like the song I once made up about Paco the Donkey
It was very sexual.
I want to tell him but I know I shouldn’t but it still makes me smile and I think that’s important
not much is funny now
Paco has a tattoo
(the nurse not the donkey)
I ask him what it means
that also seems important
‘This one is for my daughters, their birth signs.’
sagitarius and libra, drawn in the shape of a heart
my sisters are both sagitarius
i am libra
i knew it was important.
I tell him it is very beautiful
and sing the Paco the Donkey song to myself
while he tries and tries and tries to raise a vein
My veins are tired.
So am I.
The needle is in. Good?
The second needle is in. Yes?
Third time’s the charm.
‘Let’s get you something for the pain,’ says the new nurse
I agree and wait and while I am waiting, expecting pills, she
puts something in my IV line
chest gets heavy
skull feels full
‘Something is happening,’ I say
‘It’s the morphine,’ she says
‘Oh, they gave you the good stuff,’ says my dad
I say, ‘Holy shit, that hit fast.’
I do not swear in front of my father.
How is the pain now?
I close my eyes just for a moment to stop my head spinning.
and Bison comes
His eyes are night, full of stars
His horns are banners, trailing sweet smoke behind him
His cap and ruff are black as good, rich earth
His legs are dark water, pouring down to fill the marks his hooves make on the clean hospital tiles
His sides are pale, clean as a movie screen
‘Why is this bison here?’ i ask
‘There is no bison in the hospital,’ my sister tells me
and of course i know she’s right.
as surely as i know i see Bison
when i close my eyes
i tell him he is in my head
‘Am I welcome?’ he asks and is and so, ‘That’s fine, then,’ he says
and comes close to stand beside the bed
where i am waiting
i look into his pale side and see
black hairs hidden there amid the creamy dun color of his pelt
like wheat in the wind
of the things he has to show me
faces places safer spaces
rising water, overspilling fields, swallowing trees, engulfing mountains
until at last receding
leaving empty lifeless earth
‘First flood,’ says Bison and we are there
standing in muddy runnels where once oceans flowed
watching Last One sow Mankind with teeth taken from the dead
We grow like corn, reaching
We are earth-phoenices, born from death
We come free of the soil and dance, our muddy bodies full of life and our happy smiles full of teeth
Someone is calling my name.
i open my eyes
They have ordered a CT scan
It has now been six hours since we arrived
and that is fine
Hospital things always happen in hospital time.
I think about Sunny and all the days I passed
holding her tiny hand to keep her from biting it
(because she hurt so much)
while i wrote
The Care and Feeding of Griffins
The Wizard in the Woods
The Roads of Taryn MacTavish
I can still see the day she died in the pages of The Army of Mab
I hope I can get some writing done if they admit me
i brought a notebook
just in case
I need to write out a thorough outline for Everything Is All Right
Writers have different priorities when it comes to facing their mortality.
They call my name
They are ready to take me to the CT scanner
there, i am made to lie flat and raise my arms over my head
both of these are painful acts
morphine is strong but pain is stronger
it finds its way in through a crack in my shoulder
soon it is
Breathe in, says the Voice. Hold your breath
but o it hurts
and i close my eyes
i do not see him yet, but i feel his breath on my cupped hand
as i hold still, so still, for the machine
His breath is hot and good/sour and wild
if i reached, i am sure i could touch his muzzle, velvet-damp
i do not reach
i will take no more than i am given
it is enough that i am not alone
‘You are never alone,’ he tells me.
Breathe in, says the Voice. Hold your breath
I do and we rise up, Bison and me, and leave the Voice with the machine
They know what they’re doing
They don’t need me
and i would rather be
sitting on the grass
safe and warm against Bison’s side
while he grazes, gazing into space at things my eyes don’t know how to see
so i watch him breathe instead
A woman appears from the dark hairs waving in the pale pelt
and sits, reflecting me in the mirror of Bison’s body
She shows me the story of the Medicine Shirts
it is one I know
i say, ‘but they all died, you know.’
‘they put on your shirts and danced and died.’
‘the bullets went right through them.’
She looks at me. Her eyes are kind
if a little exasperated
as a patient mother with a difficult child
‘Death is not an end,’ she says. ‘Open your eyes. Look up.’
i do and see
through the cracked ceiling tiles
to a sky filled with stars and fish and colors whose precise hues have no names
and need none.
‘Many of the suns you see have long died and yet
their light remains
from those of living suns.
Even here, so far and so long distant from where their light began,
Men guide themselves by their light.
So it is with spirits.
Bullets may pierce bodies, but the spirit does not die.
Their light remains
from living hearts and minds.
Even you, so far and so long distant from where their story began,
yet align yourself to their light.
Those people who shot my dancers,
what color were their shirts?’
Breathe in, says the Voice and I am in a bed in the CT scanner.
Hold your breath.
I think my shirt is grey. If I die today, no one will remember that.
Back to the room I go, where my father and my sister wait.
‘How is your pain?’ the nurse asks me.
I tell her it’s fine. I feel it, but my family is with me.
Pain shared is lessened.
Another hour goes by, according to the clock.
I am thirsty and tired and hurt and above all things
happy i am not alone
Bison is in my sister’s eyes as she watches my monitors
Bison is in my father’s face as he reads his book.
All is well with me.
We talk of surgery and associated risks.
I tell my sister and my father to finish my book.
They say they can’t, but I think they can.
And now we wait some more.
I wonder how my little sister is doing
She’s still at work and probably still worried about me.
At this rate, she may get home before Dad does.
I don’t want her to come home to an empty house.
she worries enough as it is
I say some of this out loud
My sister says she’ll go home so she’ll be there
and that’s good.
My sister leaves but comes back with a sandwich for my father before she goes again
He has been with me all day and she thought he might be hungry.
I cannot eat anything, but I share sandwiches in my own way.
I think again of all the quiet good that exists in the world
and especially of sandwiches.
They take me to a room
Bison is in the touch of my father’s hand as he
kisses my hair and tucks me in like
the child i’ll always be
The new nurse gives me a new dose of medication in a new IV line
the last one blew out
it hits fast and hard
i’m starting to see why people do this shit for fun
at last I can sleep
I close my eyes and
Bison comes out of the clean white walls
We walk awhile in grassy plains made black with beasts
i smell them
feel the thundering of their hooves in the bones of the earth
Now there is a hospital where the herds of ten thousand thousands ran
‘And that’s fine,’ says Bison.
All things that live must die in time.
And hospitals are good medicine.
I sleep 12 hours.
Nurses come and go.
Each time they have to put something into me or take blood out, they have to set a new needle because the vein attached to the old one has given up.
I wake up with a headache.
Older sister comes.
Younger sister has to work again.
Life is like that.
Bills have their own priorities.
I manage to stay awake two hours, then sleep just to get away from the terrible headache.
I wake just in time to learn my surgery is imminent.
no time to stress over it
My head is agony, but the anesthetic should handle it. I can tough it out.
i am so tough
Doctor comes with papers
Surgeon comes with papers
Anesthesiologist comes with papers
i sign everything
Nurses put me in my sexy gown and put me on a stretcher
here we go
We chat on the way to the OR, as one does.
I make the operating team laugh.
Laughter is good medicine.
They set a new needle on the third attempt and get the blood ready.
We are waiting for the surgeon to finish scrubbing.
and waiting and waiting
A phone rings.
He’s on his way, put her to sleep, he says.
They ask me if I’m ready.
ready ten minutes ago, folks
let’s do this
Mask goes on. Drugs go in.
He is already there when I close my eyes.
He doesn’t speak, but he lies close and licks my headache away
so that’s good.
there are faces
they tell me to stay awake
i’m going to throw up
They tell me it’s the anesthetic
Happens to everyone
am i going home now
No memory of the ride up to my room from the OR
Vague memory of my father’s beard
The nurses later tell me I said my little sisters name
Tell her what?
with my hand wrapped
around Bison’s smoky horn
and listen to his contented grumbles as he
chews the cud of memory
And I am well
There is a pain
When the nurses asks, I tell her I got a stitch in my side
(‘I got a stitch in my side,’ said Amber)
It is a good healing sort of pain and I know
it means me no harm
So I will take it home with me
and we’ll get better together.
Dad and older sister are here.
A wheelchair is waiting.
I have a balloon
I sit on the bed to wait for my discharge papers
I close my eyes
Bison does not come
He was there when it mattered and
is still with me in
pictures stories songs
Of all the things Bison taught me, I think I will remember one thing over all things
Morphine is a hell of a drug.