Friday, August 3, 2012

50 -Untrodden Territory

November 16, 2011

Finally, the nurses have me sitting up on the right edge of my hospital bunk, and my upper body is uncomfortably exposed to the frigid, air conditioned room.  They pull a t-shirt down, over my torso, and I feel a twinge of pain when the wrinkly fiber scrapes my nipples.

When I peek down, I realize I am wearing sweatpants that could qualify as "one size fits two".  They swallow my legs, and cling tightly around my midriff.  The waist, and legs are definitely suited for those with American girth.  I, in contrast, appear as if we are in the midst of famine, with my skeletal frame, and inflamed abdomen.

A smiling orderly arrives with a wheelchair.  My wheelchair.  The words echo in my mind, and are hard to swallow, but I will not be in the wheeler for long.  I cannot, and I will not let this end with disability.  Instead, I intend to surpass my previous fitness level, and not to be doomed to an inability of walking correctly, as my physical therapist has suggested.  First, I have to stand up, turn around, and sit my decrepit ass in the man-powered, trolley rocker.

With quite a bit help from the orderlies, I am finally able to stand, and I immediately sense my pants are slipping.  I am unable to free my forearms from the grips of my helpers, and my trousers fall enough to show my infantile package, one last time.  Another assistant helps out, and grabs the waistline, while I take baby steps to spin 180 degrees.  Finally, I touch down, and I am safely planted in my seat.

My mother brings some over-sized, warm slippers to slip over my bloated feet, and a blanket is draped over me.  The orderlies, and most of the nurses say their good-byes, and wish me well, while my mother signs the rest of my release forms.  I am dependent upon her, once again, and I will surely be an extreme, and time consuming burden.  However, if I were asked to hand pick someone for this job, my answer would be a definitive.  "My mother."

Finally, I am wheeled into the hall, and my Florence Nightingale is the one driving the chair.  I am not paying much attention to my surroundings, since I am contemplating how to wrangle this girl's phone number.  I am quickly reminded of my severe pain when we enter the elevator, and the wheels bump-bump through the opening.  I wonder how I will handle 70 miles in the car, as those small jolts send shooting pains through my gut.

We descend eight floors, and make our way into the grand entrance hall.  It is busy with doctor's, nurses, students, and professors.  The ceiling reaches 10 floors high, with green foliage, and glass reflecting car headlights from outside.  I can smell the cafeteria, and see all of the families who must have someone here.  The food smells appetizing, but I know I am physically unable to eat.

The grand sliding doors open, and their is a whoosh of air blowing downward to ward off insects.  We pull through the foyer quickly, and the second portal opens.  Another blast of air, and I am outside.  It is early evening, breezy, and the area is bustling with cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and sea gulls.  The birds have their beaks tucked into their breast, and they reassure me that I am not the only one that feels chilly.

We pull to the curb when the valet brings the car.  My step-father wrestles me into the four-door, black Audi, and out of my chair of despair .  As I fidget, and attempt to put my seat belt on, I look up at Florence.  The street lamp behind her is shining, so I cannot see her face.  I offer "The Rum Diary" novel to her, once more.  Once again, she tells me to keep it.

"OK, " I say.  "One more thing, though."
"What's up?", she says.
"I want to call you when I come back home," I tell her.  "I know it is probably not normal for me to ask...," I trail off.
I am surprised when she says, "Sure."
As she is scribbling her number on a yellow business card, she says, "Here.  You can use it for a bookmark.  That way you won't lose it."
"I have already lost it", I try to laugh.  "I will hold on to the number, though."
"Ha, ha.  OK.  Bye-bye, then.  Get better, DWT."
"I will.  Thank you," and I shut the door.

I relax my head against the headrest, and my head begins to swim as we pull away.  Since, this portion of the Charleston peninsula is filled-in marsh, the road is intensely knobby, misshapen by the heat of summers past, and every pot-hole jostles my fluid abdomen.  I feel nausea, and already feel like I could vomit, or otherwise soil myself with every twist, and turn.  Fortunately, the highway will be a smoother ride.

Nearing the outer edge of Charleston, we stop momentarily, and wait for the traffic signal to allow us to merge onto Highway 17, and head South towards Beaufort.  There is a drastic, 12 inch jump in altitude when we drive onto the bridge, and my entire body cavity wails inside.  As I fold my arms over my pot belly, and I feel the vibration of the steel grates on the draw bridge.  

There is a mild relief when the humming tires return to asphalt.  We have crossed the Ashley River, and head to a land of questions, doubt, and fear, where I have no idea what is to become of me.  My mother's house is not my childhood home.  I grew up in Charleston, and I find myself uprooted.  

I lie back against my door, with the armrest jammed into my ribs.  I don't care, anymore.  I am exhausted from the pain, and mental distress.

I gaze at the pearly, and crescent Palmetto Moon, and wait.  This is the first ride, of the rest of my life.  I am headed for unknown territory, and I am leaving vodka behind. 

What's done is done.

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