All drawings feature in this essay are by Small Daughter, Ms. Regan Christine Hand
(You can read part III here)
(Dedication for this essay goes to SOFREP brother Tim E. )
I got a shot of heparin every day in the gut, next to my heinous incision. Day after day, right in the gut.
“What is that shot anyway, and why can’t you push it through the IV… I mean why the stomach; I’m saving my stomach for incidental rabies…”
“Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Hand… this is heparin; it is a blood thinner to help prevent blood clots, especially in your lower extremities while you are immobile for so long. We can’t push it through the IV because we have to keep the two solutions separated.”
“Yeah but in the gut?”
“Well, I supposed we could go into the triceps.”
“Yeah, yeah!! For the Love of Oden and all we hold sacred please hit my triceps!” I wallowed, and she did.
Next day’s nurse came in and a-heparin he too was a-totin’: “Tricep? I never heard of anyone getting heparin in the triceps,” he doubted.
“Yes, yes… in the triceps—just shoot the shit man, shoot the shit!”
There was a heavy shadow over reality and my dreamscape. I was at times mentally fatigued with trying to separate what was real and what had been all a part of a 20-day bout of unconsciousness and hallucinations.
I remember being home not too long ago and searching high and low through the house for a new vacuum cleaner I recently ordered… but to no avail. Just short of texting First Daughter and asking her where she put it… I sat down and rubbed my face for several long minutes in the realization that I had ordered the vacuum in my dreamscape.
“Let’s face it, George… there is NO vacuum. You are living life right now without a vacuum cleaner—-get over it!” I told myself. “It is as it was, life before a vacuum cleaner that is,” and it was all over but the crying.
But what else wasn’t real? What didn’t I do that I thought I already did? What did I really do that I thought was only part of a dream? I rubbed my face some more and worried. “When I drive is there really a car in front of me to yield to; am I not yielding to a car that really is there??”
When I came out of my 20-day stupor, the tube finally pulled from out my throat to breathe for me, my personality according to my daughter was completely changed. My voice was completely changed as well. I was a totally different person in mind and body and she didn’t like it no, not one bit. “Will he always be like this?” she questioned my surgeon dolefully. “No, it is just temporary I assure you,” he promised and Daughter exhaled.
They helped me to stand up just to see if could stand. I did stand though very shaky and only for seconds. I don’t remember a shred of any of it; I don’t remember when I started to remember; I forget when I began to remember again.
For five days after I regained consciousness, I was not allowed to have a drink of any liquid. I mean I was getting what my body needed from IV fuids, but I was crazed by thirst. I was ready to kill someone for a drink of water. It was all because I was still pending a final procedure, one that forbade me to have ANYTHING in my stomach.
I became a monster.
I spied the bathroom in my room. Certainly, there was a sink in there. I calculated how long it would take me to de-tube and make it there to suck from the sink faucet.
I tried to trick the nurse: “Hey hon, could a brother trouble you for a wet rag to wipe my face?” I would suck the rag dry of all moisture as soon as I got it. But… it was not the nurse’s first day on the job. They wrung the B-Jesus out of those rags such that not a drop fell to my tongue.
“Ok, enough charades…” I announced suddenly and quite matter-of-factly, “I would suck a gallon of buzzard puke from a rabid witches ass! All kidding aside: I’ll have one six-ounce tumbler of water right now, hold the lemon wedge!!”
I struck a medical deal with the nurse in charge. I don’t recall how I actually did it (or even if I really did it, for that matter). She agreed to give me two coffee cups of water which she somehow corralled into being part of the pending procedure. In it, she put a powder that turned the water reddish and acrid.
I choked the first cup down clumsily and with considerable grunting and sputtering. I smashed the cup to the floor with great gusto and demanded “MORE!!” I was given a second cup… alas, but it was time to go. Some incredulous cretin reached for my cup amid gulp and I gave him a galactic death stare. He retracted his hand with a jerk.
Drinking, I felt the relief of a spirited August thunderstorm condensing and pouring suddenly in the Gobi desert. Flowers of all sort burgeoned forth to see who was rap-tapping on their wee roofs. Small desert animals pretended to run from the rain in fear, knowing Goddamned well they were happy as pigs in shit that the rain had come.
This I thought as I was being wheeled for the ten thousandth time down a spic and span hospital hall, counting the endless line of fluorescent tubes as they passed above me, drowsy as a Serengeti lioness shot in the ass with a tranquilizer gun while a National Geographic twerp snapped away with a Nikon camera instead of a Canon-—the senseless fool; the mindless oaf!
And it came to me at the time, the soliloquy by Al Pacino at the end of the movie “Carlito’s Way:”
“Sorry boys…” I began, “and all the stitches in the world can’t sew me together again.
Lay down, Lay down…”
“He’s a dramatic one, this one is,” whispered a nurse to another. “… and a fan of Al Pacino,” responded the other.
I drifted off, as if in a Calgone bath.
There lay before me that dreamscape-kind of world, one that I had left just days ago. It seemed remiss, almost pouty that I had left it at all. I had no words of consolation. I just lay in my bed and asked my nurse for some Chapstick that I spied on the table against the wall opposite me. There was a styrofoam cup filled with Chapstick dispensers, and my lips were dry as a popcorn fart from five days of no water.
Steve was his name, my new nurse. He was over 65 years old and I marveled at the lack of common sense to his disjointed ways. He moved back and forth across the room, hands always empty… so what the hell was he doing??
“Hey Steve, can I get some Chapstick please?”
He acknowledged as he passed this way and that empty-handed.
“It’s here Steve, here on this table in the styrofoam cup, my man.”
And Steve did the unthinkable: he gave me the Chapstick and stood there and waited for me to give it back. Never mind the cup full of the damn things that he never even knew were there, so how could he miss them all, let alone just one? For this, I would push in his face in the rudest and most disgusting way, or did I just imagine I thought that. I think a no, I mean a yes, but it’s all wrong; that is I think I disagree… nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
…and I sailed away.
There was a knock at my door. “Come in,” I invited. In there came a young man of some 25 years: “Cheez mate” he greeted with an Australian accent and without eye contact as he proceeded to languish in a reclining armchair with a sort of “screw you” attitude there in my hotel room. My hotel room? Yes, my hotel room.
Again a knock and another Aussie entered, bumped fists with the first and pulled up a chair so the two could commiserate. A plastic baggie of cigarettes came out of a pocket and a fag hung from the lips of each of the dingo dudes.
“Say, I don’t think you’re allowed to…” “Got a light mate?” the Aussie cut me off.
“No, but I don’t think you’re allowed to… uh… to…” and the doobies sizzled and seeds popped between thick huffs of Cannabis smoke. One of the Down-Undermen grabbed the phone: “Yeah babe, it’s me… you comin’ over or what, Sheila?” Oh damn… Sheila?
I looked around for Steve to pulse his reaction to all of the goings-on. Well, Pickets Charge could have swept through this room and Steve would’ve remained unaware, mindlessly arranging the newly discovered Chapsticks in the styrofoam cup. You could’ve launched a Saturn Five rocket in that room and Steve would only have know the number of Chapstick tubes in the styrofoam cup because he counted the mother-phuqers.
You know what you could’ve done? –you could have taken the 600 Fusiliers of the Light Brigade and had them attack the Alamo right there in that room and Steve would’ve suddenly appeared in the picric acid smoke of the guns, and blast furnace aftermath of the clash: “Anyone need a Chapstick?”
Without a knock, the door opened a third time and in there stepped a young woman dressed as a prostitute for Halloween. “Thaaaat costume is amazing, hon… if you were to wear that same one tomorrow when it’s not Halloween, you would probably get arrested for soliciting… LOL!”
But wait… this was not Halloween, but yes it was… it really was October 31st; I came to the hospital on October 23 and was there until November 6th I think it was. I missed Halloween and Thanksgiving… or did I? WTF was going on then?
I looked down and around my bed, which had somehow suddenly been insanely perched atop a ten-foot pile of boxes. So delicately was it balancde that I scarce took a breath lest I topple my kingdom. I needed Steve to come help me, and Steve, in fact, did come in, though I wish he had not.
Steve entered walking upright across the wall, 90 degrees perpendicular to the floor. The sight was so disturbing to me that I closed my eyes but called to him to do away with my Aussie dopers and their hooker. I kept one eye slammed shut, but cracked the other just enough to see Steve leaning in at 90 degrees with a hand cupped around his near ear: “Do what?”
“Steve… go ahead and call the police to come and rid the room of all these people. Did you get that, Steve?”
“There are no people, Mr. Hand; you are in your hospital room.” Steve corrected.
I popped open both eyes to see that my feet were sprawled ahead in front of me draped in a linen hospital sheet. Behind them, a picture window displayed the nurses station, a nurse perched thereby, busily phoning and jotting. Was I back?
What or where is back? I wasn’t sure. I am only now partitioning the two in separate dimensions. It seems imperative to partition those two, if not for fear of going stark-staring mad, then for fear of creating a temporal rift. The key then is deciding which side of the partition I belonged on.
By God and with honor,
Drawings courtesy of Small Daughter