Night is longer in a hospital bed, longer even than the frontline of a warzone unarmed & unable to defend oneself, chemo & cancer, enemy allies, needles & beep screens. Judy suffers an agonizing longing to escape, to sing, but the night won’t allow that, will it to be.
“There are those who write things down and those who don’t.” Judy giggled a bit as she realized she was talking aloud to herself. “And a whole lot o’ people in between who do a little of both,” she continued. With a sigh, she snuggled into the chair next to her bed. “If you don’t write it down, then it didn’t happen.” Where had she read that?
She closed her eyes and unconsciously massaged her left wrist where the bullhead IV lay in her vein. That damned thing hurt worse than the cancer she had fallen prey to, worse even than the chemo, its painstakingly wretched fingers tearing her body apart a single hair at a time. She was able to struggle through the Big C day to day, both of them, Chemo and Cancer. Caca. The IV though, it was a beast that gave her body no rest, another level of torture, the one too far.
Lights twinkling outside the window danced in her eyes, twinkling, calling out to her to notice them. She willed herself into a necessary melancholy, a survivor tool she had developed of late. From the tenth floor window of her hospital room she had learned the winking and blinking pattern of a world that seemed to have little to do with her anymore. Three weeks from her twenty-ninth birthday, twenty-one days spent in this room, offered little else. There were tests, biopsies, MRIs, EKGs, UA drops, X-rays, blood, blood, and more blood. Who would have thought an acronym could hurt so much, she thought. I’m sick to death of acronyms. She had to laugh at herself at that statement, not quite to death yet.
The mean nurse would come tonight to torture her with the terrible stabbing tools of her trade. She was a witch and Judy her victim. Judy refused to learn any of their names, these white cloaked monsters with their patronizing jabber and containers for ‘points’. She felt like one of her grandfather’s rabbit stew rabbits. As a small girl, she had watched him hang them by their ears from the clothesline in the backyard. He coo-cooed them and pet their fur, kind executioner that he was. Like hell, as soon as they relaxed, he punched them in the base of the skull with the hard edge of his hand. “Jellybean, tender-meats when they’re relaxed, we don’t wanna eat no wild blood,” he explained to her. That’s what these people did, chatter, chatter, chatter, punch, stab, stab.
Judy would have preferred to sit up from the first day she spent in this awful room but was tied to the bed by tubes and wires feeding and recording, liquid gurgles and mechanical chirps, witnesses to her frail hold on life. The visitor’s chair beckoned to her. ‘Yes and the chairs have voices,’ Judy thought and it said, ‘Never mind all that and any necessary apparatus confining her, she should just get up and drag it to the chair with her.’ Finally having done so, it felt wonderful to have claimed such a small victory. No longer would she settle for an extra pillow, the buzz and whir of the bed adjusting its envelope to the requirements of its enclosure. “I don’t care about ‘Ms. Pokes-a-lot’ either,” she whispered to herself, “She’ll just have to torture me in the chair tonight. Tomorrow I’ll mark another year.”
“Tonight is my last night as a twenty-eight-year old,” she continued, “I’ll spend it asserting myself as the independent woman that I am.” She gripped the arms of the overstuffed chair and smiled sadly at her maudlin thoughts of yesterdays. She didn’t consider such thoughts memories. As far back as she could remember, she had been blessed and cursed with an inkling to the foreknowledge of what was coming next. This was especially true of that day of days, her birthday. Having been born the thirty-first of October, she was Daddy and Momma’s holiday child. Halloween owned what should have been her day. She had spent each of her birthdays in costume as a cat, a fairy, a princess, a nun. The list was endless and her mother kept a perfect chronological record, ‘Judy’s Halloween Birthday Book’. From the appearance of things here, there would be no thirtieth birthday. She would finally wear the ultimate costume, sure to win any Halloween contest. Hers would be the flesh of the dead. Her prognosis was not good. The doctors spoke in terms of days and weeks. The more optimistic ones even said months once in a while. No one uttered the year word.
Judy touched her smiling lips with her fingertips. “I look stupid when I smile,” she giggled to herself. Her smile grew as she realized it didn’t make any difference now. She was alone in more ways than she had ever thought possible. Divorced, no kids, Mom and Dad wonderful and oh so sad. They were the pain in her heart that the IV was in her arm. Their suffering was much worse than her own and she was aware of it. Daddy’s ‘Jellybean’, Momma’s ‘Missy’, their only child, was soon to leave them. Everything that could be done had been done. Judy had run out of strength and, at some level, the three of them were collectively aware of it.
Still Judy smiled. Had they changed her pain killers without telling her, she wondered. She felt wonderfully free of physical pain. Even sympathy for the awful pain of her parents seemed to have taken a back seat to this new euphoria come to possess her, body and soul. She had worn herself out earlier, talking them into leaving her for the day. Tomorrow was her birthday. They could return then she suggested and celebrate with her. She held them to a promise to go out and have dinner then go home and get some rest. How was she supposed to rest when they refused to do so? She felt a pang of guilt for pulling that one but it was the truth.
Judy settled deeper into the luxurious embrace of the chair, it being what a bed could never be. Once comfortable, she implemented a new process she had conceived of sometime during her three weeks of institutionalization. A song by the Moody Blues, ‘Nights in White Satin’, was her parents’ favorite. It was ‘their song’. They were a very romantic couple, even after more than thirty years of marriage. They had danced to the tune the night they met. Judy’s trick was to become her former little girl self so she could once more watch their dancing silhouette. A tear ran down her cheek as she repeated the thought that had come to her as a child, the dream that always came to visit when they danced, “There is only one of them.”
© 2016 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2016 ©