Nurses are grand, wonderful people, devoted to making the lives of the sick and miserable less sick and miserable. I really do mean that. Most of them really are, even the ones who attach bed alarms to your bed. But they all have a little button on their right hip that they press whenever you complain about being tired, and when they press it, out chirps the same bright little voice, pre-recorded in some quaint garden in Nottinghamshire:
“Try to get some rest, dear.”
And then with a great silent whirl on inch-thick rubber soles, he/she is gone through the swirl of pastel curtains and you are left to wonder how, in the clatter of metal-on-metal surgical tools, china-on-china luncheon ware, and nurse-on-nurse shouting you are supposed to get some rest, dear.
It’s not exactly Mary Poppins.
It’s not even Mary Grantham, under whose care I am sure I would thrive, in any room in the mansion.
After impressing no one on the neurological unit with my charm, or steadiness of feet, I was moved to the rehab unit. The nurses and doctors give this a big buildup, because this is The Final Step! before going home! Here I will learn How To Take Care Of Myself! before going home!
Mostly I just want to sleep.
I don’t want to do physical therapy, I don’t want to do speech therapy, I don’t want to eat meals in a cafeteria with everyone else, I don’t want to watch T.V. and play games with everyone else.
Mostly I just want to sleep.
I am at least 15 years younger than everyone else in the unit, except for the guy who fell off the tire swing crossing over a river and the guy who crashed his motorcycle. My roommate, I notice, is the youngest woman, besides me, and she is a good 15 years older than I am.
She’s also a bit out of it, because she’s had a stroke, and she’s using that to mislead the nurses, I think, to hide her embarrassment. They want the name of someone close, in case of emergency, and she keeps giving them the name of her son, who is in Sri Lanka, or Indonesia, or someplace like that (that is, oceans away), pretending to misunderstand “close” (“There’s no one closer?”).
This is a Catholic hospital, you see, crucifix on the wall, saint in the name, and my theory, brain damaged though I am, is that she, brain damaged though she is, senior citizen that she is, doesn’t want to admit that she is living in sin with her boyfriend (for lack of a more modern word), that doing so will somehow put a big angry mark on her permanent record.
I want to yell at her that the box for LIVING IN WANTON LUSTFUL SIN is right above the box for LEZZBIAN but mostly I just want to sleep.
The nurses finally get over this closeness thing when the sinful boyfriend walks into the room and, clever Catholics that they are, they get his phone number for their charts. Unfortunately, they are not clever enough to get a list of my roommate’s medications from him before he leaves.
No, that list is extruded from her by a Greek chorus of nurses sometime after midnight, backlit on the curtain separating our beds like some bizarre shadow play:
“What medications do you take?” they intone.
“What? What medications do you take?”
“Oh, Lipitor,” says the head of the chorus.
“Ah, Lipitor, Lipitor, Lipitor,” echo the rest, their arms fluttering as butterflies in the breeze.
I let the word float through my mind (Lipitor, Lipitor, Lipitor) and picture the little waves of the beach that day we were picking blackberries, the waves nipping on the worn salted stones (Lipitor, Lipitor, Lipitor) and I feel myself starting to not feel anything, that feeling of not feeling you get when you’re going to sleep.
“What other medications do you take?” Greek chorus.
And now I have to pee. Fortunately, the diaper is properly nestled from shoulder to knee.