In my other life right now, I’m in the hospital. I’m propped up in bed, my eyes closed. I’m pale, but my skin is like porcelain, perfect and smooth. My hair is a little messy but in a way that seems “tousled” or “wispy” as opposed to “greasy” or “matted.” Floating near the head of the bed is a Mylar balloon in the shape of a sunflower. Its string is weighted to the bedside table by a shiny, foil-wrapped pyramid. Vases of varying sizes and shapes crowd the windowsill and countertop with combinations of mums, lilies, and carnations. There are fruit baskets and a Starbuck’s Gift Pack. Crayon drawings are taped to the wall. On a laminated prayer card next to the phone, St. Philomena, in flowing robes, extends her arms toward me.
I sleep for hours at a time. People come and go. They whisper. They rearrange the chairs to sit near me in the bed. They sit on the other bed. Some of them stop in with an offering, cards or flowers, maybe candy.
Others come and stay, leave and come back again. They get to know the staff.
They whisper, they pray. They worry over me. They form a camaraderie among themselves. They take turns going to the cafeteria or to the chapel. Sometimes others come and so they go, and then they come back.
When I wake, I am weak, but there is light in my eyes. I am still me. Relief floods the room. I say hi. It’s barely a whisper. They say hi back, also in a whisper. They carefully approach. How do you feel?
I am brave. I do not complain. I nibble a muffin, turn my head away at offers of more food. No. Thank you.
I gaze around the room at the additions of flowers and cards. I get the lowdown on who has been here and what they’ve said. A nurse comes and takes my vitals. I’m not sure what my treatment plan is but it doesn’t matter because I am not in charge of anything. There is nothing for me to do here but rest and receive. I have everyone’s full attention, and they demand nothing of me in return. They had no idea. They wish they’d known. They are amazed I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, given. I am a champion. I am visited by angels. Friends and family come from near and far to see me. When I’m tired of hearing their stories I close my eyes so I can be left to my thoughts. When I need something, I push a button. I sleep and sleep and sleep. When the time comes and I am ready to go, I will be released.
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