“And your socks, too,” I said
She stooped to reach her feet
And the liner of the exam table crinkled and popped,
Cutting through the silence, the silence of hospitals at night.
Hastily she wiped sweat and lint from her toes and looked away, a timid smile.
Soon, I knew, she would grow tired
Of the repetitive head-to-toe once-over from strangers in bleached lab coats,
But for now it was new, it was strange, it was temporary.
She would go home (or so she thought) and tell her daughter or her boyfriend about the long wait in the ER, about being tapped a dozen times with four different reflex hammers, about being fixed.
From her feet more clues, tediously connecting the dots
To complete a picture already dreadfully apparent,
The unmistakable dragon unchanged by the little shadows and wrinkles that were filled in.
But connecting the dots would give me time to think,
Not of the answer (for if she were a test question, she would be a merciful one, a straight-to-the-point one), but of how to tell her, how to break the news.
She had blurry vision in one eye today
And could not see the color red;
Last week she tripped and before that she dropped plates
(Just some clumsiness, that’s all, nothing really).
She was born in Maine. Her mother had lupus.
She was healthy, or thought she was healthy, or perhaps she really was healthy until her diagnosis would be revealed to her, would be handed to her, words as good as Greek falling into her lap, and then
Out, out brief candle, the semblance of health snuffed out with the stroke of a few keys into her medical record,
Indelible ink spilled upon the story she had written for herself, the neatly tied up one where she dies of old age at home surrounded by her loved ones
Or, Hell, dies in her sleep like her grandfather,
But not like her mother, not with pain and suffering, not drowning in fear surrounded by strangers on the fifth floor of some godforsaken building, house of Nobody, house of the dead.
But the ink had spilled. What’s done cannot be undone,
And it was time to rewrite her story with her.
Image credit: Doctor’s Office by Thomas Anderson licensed under CC BY 2.0.