My book options are either a rich girl with predictable life problems or a rumpled copy of a vampire story. Like Suzanne on Orange Is The New Black, I feel, “Vampires are derivative,” so I stick with the somehow New York Times Bestseller paperback. There’s literally nothing to do between med checks, so I designed a routine of ten laps after every chapter to while away the time.
My second to the last day in the hospital, and I got a puppy. He’s probably 24, my height, a scraggly little mutt of a man. He spent breakfast hour giving away his food, then going table to table to see if someone needed anything. At my table, he took the time to thank me, in front of my fellow patientmates, for letting him play UNO with us the past evening. Then he took to asking about my milk and if there’s something he could take away. I coldly told him, “You’re being overaccommodating; why don’t you finish your breakfast?” Like a puppy he lingered for my approval but once I’d left the dining room he got the hint.
Puppy followed me as I entered into my after-breakfast ten loop walk of the ward. Hands clasped behind my back, taking quarter steps since there’s no rush, I ask him to share what’s on the sheets of paper he carries, quietly hoping it isn’t some Barbarella nonsense. We loop past the water fountain as he enters into his setting: he is a great bird, at flight, surveying the majesty of his lands. As he reads, his tone shifts to something…metaphysical. Gosh darn it I’m intrigued!
The lady who chose the vampire book parked a chair at her room door. As we approach, she proceeds to chastise him for reading poetry to me; I find this odd considering she’s wearing a wedding band. He stops to make his acquiesing apologies whilst I saunter on, clasp resting above my uterus, wondering what would it be like if my period started while in the ward. Of all things to worry about – the wanderer who preferred to pee in my bathroom, the catatonic woman who’d wake a few minutes just to tell everyone to go to hell only to fade back down, the constant threat of stealing my journal – my mind was on menstruation.
Puppy returned on the fifth loop. “Continue your reading,” I said, sagelike, interested in his bird’s flight. This time, he finds himself on a mountain and he’s climbing it, moved by the sounds of his lost love beckoning him forward. Goodness, I think to myself, do all great poets have to achieve psychosis to harness the power of words? Have I done myself a favor then?
Puppy is dressed in his hospital gown but with a hunter’s camouflage sweater over it; I’m dressed in all black street clothes. As we make a turn by the nurse’s station we encounter a regatta of wheelchairs, the ladies ranging from early dementia to raging psychosis. We pass by The Screamer, quite the pair of lungs on her, and once the puppy clears her she howls to him, “You’re the soldier, you need to be careful!” Towards me she tells him, “See that one dressed in all black, you watch her…SHE’S GOT A KNIFE!”
I smirk for several reasons.
My last loop is done, so I go find the least loudest place to delve into a book which spends its better energy dumping a wet mulch of a predictable whodunit subplot.
At least I have a puppy.