I walked into the hospital with the casualness of a man getting a teeth cleaning. I sat in the waiting room when the first of many workers in toilet blue scrubs came to get me. I was brought into a private room where I was told to undress and to put on the backless gown, a shower cap, and brown socks that had traction on the bottom.
A nurse came in a bit later. She took my blood pressure and temperature. She asked me if I brought a book to read. I couldn’t imagine what book I would be able to lose myself in right before I was to be knocked out and cut into. Frankenstein, maybe?
After a while I did grow bored and almost fell asleep, but invariably another nurse would come in to ask my date of birth and whether I had any allergies. They injected an IV into my good wrist. It took a couple jabs to get it right. The nurse apologized, “You have very thick skin.”
“That’s funny.” I told her. “I usually cry very easily.”
The anesthesiologist came in at some point. He asked how I broke my wrist. I explained it was a basketball accident. We spoke of basketball for a moment. Later another guy came in to shave my wrist and hand. Blonde hair covered the bed as he took his time returning my arm to its prepubescent state. I told him he was lucky I wasn’t having back surgery or we’d be here all day.
All of a sudden I had to use the bathroom, but I looked over my left shoulder and didn’t want that IV to be jabbed back into me. That damn contraption kept dripping and dripping. I let out an impatient sigh. My manicurist told me, “We’re almost done.” A resident came in and marked my right arm. One of my fears was that I would wake up and the wrong arm would be operated on. He told me had the same surgery and that he had full use of his wrist now. The drip and the needle and the fear that these might be my last waking moments kept me from obvious masturbation jokes.
More time passed before an Asian woman came in to get me. Her phone rang. She was being balled out by a doctor as she was pushing my gurney with her free arm. This was the strangest perspective. I was moving horizontally below eye level while everyone else moved vertically. The guy who originally grabbed me from the waiting room came over and helped the woman who was pushing me. He asked how I was feeling. I told him, “Like I’m going to my funeral.”
I was pushed into the very large, very bright operating room. The whole gang was there. I felt kind of special having so much attention. They were blasting terrible rock music from the late nineties. The Filipino anesthesiologist said, “Here come the basketball player.”
Some other guy asked if I was a Laker fan. “Miami Heat.”
“You must be excited.”
“LeBron James announced he was coming to Miami two hours after I broke my wrist.” I moved under my own power from the gurney to the operating table. “I bet a friend twenty bucks yesterday the Heat are winning seventy games.”
“Breathe into this.” He told me as he put oxygen over my mouth.
“Do I get knocked out slowly?”
He laughed. “Man, you’ll be out before I count to ten.”
More then ten seconds passed as I wondered if while I was knocked out I would have a conversation with my younger self, my spirit animal or Manute Bol.
But my next cognizant thought was “ow”. I was in another room. My arm hurt so much and felt unbearably heavy. I looked down to see a white cast. An Asian nurse in glasses asked if I was in pain. All I could muster was, “Yes.” I couldn’t verbalize that I’d never had any painkillers and didn’t want to numb my feelings of living however painful they might be. She injected Demerol into my ass and I suppose my arm didn’t hurt as much.
She asked if I had anyone in the waiting room waiting for me. I told her, “No.” She said, “That so sad. I go to emergency room alone too.”
Now, I felt sad for her. “I have a friend who’s going to pick me up. Could you call him?”
My eyes shut and when they opened he was standing above me. The nurse asked if I needed any help getting dressed. I’m weirdly independent so I insisted on doing it myself. The nurse put the sling under my cast and helped me tie my shoes. She told me to get my prescription filled of Vicodin and to down one immediately after I ate, so that the pain wouldn’t catch up on me.
She wheeled me outside toward the car. My friend asked how I was feeling. “Fucking ‘Nam.” I said. In the wheelchair and sling I thought there was nothing funnier then pretending I was a Vietnam veteran. I kept the act going on the car ride back. Cursing those goddamn Gooks which no one else found funny.
We stopped at the pharmacy. I got in line. Luis helped me. He didn’t like any of my jokes. As he called my insurance company the pharmacist next to him, a pretty Persian, asked if the envelope on her counter was mine. “No.” I said but then thought more of it. “What name is on it?” I knew it wasn’t my envelope, but I tried to explain to the pharmacists that it might have significance to my life. The drugs were making me loose lipped, but they were also making me ornery. When people wouldn’t get out my way it pissed me off, as did babies crying, people jabbering on cell phones and an able bodied six foot four guy asking me for money. I told him, “I should be begging from you.”
Only one woman felt my pain. She told her elderly mother to get out of the poor man with a broken arm’s way. I told her, “Thank you, this is the type of pity everyone should be giving me.” But then she prattled on about her own injury. I nodded my head until she was gone.
I got home. My apartment’s previous tenant’s American Rifleman magazine awaited me in the mailbox. I downed a pint of Cookie Avalanche soy ice cream and another pill. Then I headed for my bed. I put on a CD, The Breeders Last Splash. I remembered in high school telling a friend that album was how I imagined it would be like to be on heroin. She added, “Yeah, like doing heroin on a cruise ship.” That pretty much summed up my state of mind. I conked out to the lyrics of Invisible Man.
He’s The Invisible Man/
Count the bubbles in your hand/
The Southern skies/
And the summer sites/
That’s all that’s left behind.