Learning how to feel
November 5, 2006
I have been living in your sterile, white world for a month now. As I am sitting across from you, waiting for them to wheel you in, I cannot tell if you are smiling back at my sorry attempt at feigned happiness or frowning, because the yellow hospital mask is a shroud over your mouth. I can feel the tears again so I have to stop. Think. Think. THINK. Come on- think of something happy. Something beautiful. Colorful, real thoughts to distract from the white sterility that surrounds us. I don’t have to, because I see the corners of your eyes crinkle into a smile. Your smile. The same one from when we were little girls years ago. Your smile always makes me smile, and again you save me.
They wheel you in, I have moved on the hospital bed and refuse to move so they are forced to wheel me in too. Your crinkling eyes and the sound of that obnoxious, nasaly laugh that is so distinctly yours is all I have to remind me that it is, in fact, you under the tubes. And lines. And IVs. And blankets. And monitors. And masks. God, if they would only take off that mask- it scares me not to see your whole face. It is only an ultrasound so they let me stay. But again, I feel the tears and this time there is no laugh to save me.
I stare at the monitor. I convince myself it is a baby I am looking at and not your deteriorating organs. That is not a bleeding liver, it is a baby’s head. And that is not an enlarged spleen, they are little tiny hands, oh how beautiful are the hands? And that is not a look of resigned disappointment in the doctor’s eyes, he is smiling at the picture on the machine. And it is not your life leaving, but a new life coming in. Your cough brings me back to coldness of the truth.
Again, I look at you. I make some random comment about how cold it is. You grab my hand, and though mine is much warmer than yours, though know I am not really cold, you pretend to be warming my hands because you know well enough to realize I need human contact at this moment. I need a pulse and a laugh and roll to know you are still with me. And it is at this moment that I realize for the first time in my twenty years of life what love is. And it is so much easier to be numb. I want to be cold and unfeeling and sterile like the linoleum floor and white countertops. I want to be able to sit through this and be strong for you.
The white linoleum does not cry. It does not crumble, like I do as we go back to your room - of course it is after you are too medicated to notice. Of course I would never breakdown in front of you. Of course I wait until I hear the deep uneasy breathing of your sleep to begin to cry. And of course, even through the tubes. And lines. And IVs. And blankets. And monitors. And masks. I know that you know that I am not strong. And that every night, I do cry. And that when I go into the bathroom and leave the water running, it is to cover the broken sobs of a broken girl whose weakness terrifies her. But of course you will never tell me that you know and I will never ask. Because we must be sterile and white and cold and numb here. And though I will never tell you this, I hope you do know, that by some bitter irony, it was today in this sterile white cold numb room that I learned how to feel. Comment