Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Bogart-Bacall Syndrome

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1. Gall Bladder

I call my older sister, ten stories higher than me.  I call her first because I know she’ll be up before my mom.  My sister has to work.  “Hey,” I say.

“You’re calling early,” she says, brushing her teeth. “Isn’t it only 4 a.m. your time?”

“I’m in the hospital,” I say. “I’ve been here since last night, but I didn’t want to bug you guys.”

“You’re in the hospital?” my sister says.

I am lying on a gurney in the darkness of an Emergency Room cubicle, small colorful lights beeping and flashing around me.  They’re making me wait here until a room opens up.  I’ve already been through 911 and all the tests and we know my gall bladder has gone bad.  I need surgery, probably gonna happen in the next few hours or so.

“Don’t tell Mom,” I finish.

My sister waits the exactly ten stories it takes to connect with me, then says, “Oh, I’m not gonna tell her.  You’re gonna tell her.  Wait two hours, because they sleep in to eight.”

I had tiny-wished that she would tell our mom so I would not have to be the bearer of such distraughtful news at a time like this, whatever this time was, but I was naked under the sheets with tubes attached to me, and I could see my clothes folded and piled on a shelf nearby.  I wondered what would happen to me.

“You’re right,” I say. “I’ll tell her.”

2. Allergies

Six years later, my gall bladder gone, I live in the same town, but this morning my bed sheets are flecked with blood from my nose and other smears of face DNA.  My legs are hairy.  My bones and muscles want to sleep. The whites of my eyes are atlases.

I take a sick day.

I sit on the couch for a minute and my baby, Leo, comes to bury his head in the palm of my one good eye.

“Tell me about when I was sick,” he tiny-growls.

“You have never been sick,” I purr back, all Bacall. “You might have been slow to eat solid food and you took a little time in learning the litter box, but outside of that, I thought you were perfect.  I think you still are.”

Leo sleeps.

I think , Wow, it was nice when all of you were younger, not asking these questions, just letting me take care of you.  

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