A story

Scenes from the ER

“She’s here for an IV — she’ll need two units of fluid, some blood work, and probably a chest scan, just to be safe.”

Blankets, fresh and mercifully warm, are left on my gurney with a simple patterned gown. The pattern is comfortable, familiar. I change, then shrink deep under the heat of the thin covers, wondering about the inventor of the magical blanket warming machine and whether he knew how much solace such a simple comfort could provide. I wait for my dad to arrive.

“When he gets here, you’ll send him to this room, right?”

They will.

My nurse walks in on a wave of calm, unperturbed by the climate of my skin and bones and face. He wordlessly cranks up my gurney an extra few inches and wheels in his racks of equipment. I didn’t realize how much grace could go into the preparation of a tourniquet, but he somehow pulls it off.

He ties it very tightly around my upper arm and I’m grateful for the rubber that twists uncomfortably on my skin. By now I know that a tourniquet that tight means a nice, smooth draw and I barely feel the needle as it slides into my vein. When I open my eyes, the fifth vial is already full of blood and the visual—correlation? causation?—makes me feel like I’m going to pass out. Maybe passing out at the hospital wouldn’t be the worst thing? My mind moves on.

When my dad finally appears in the doorway, I’m settling into position and the saline has begun to flow in a cold, steady stream. Did you know that you can feel temperature in your veins? He goes to find more warm blankets and then carefully neatens the pile that’s fallen to one side. In my stubborn pursuit of independence, I had forgotten how nice it is to be taken care of by someone who loves you. I ask for a story.

“A story?”

Yes, a story. Because it’s late and we’re not going anywhere. Because I hate phone calls and filters and mundane exchanges that buffer us from having actual conversations. Because I’ve known you for 24 years and I’m just now appreciating that you were 24 once, too, and 23, and 22, and 21…

“Okay.”

He thinks for a minute.

“Did I ever tell you about the time my friend stole quaaludes from the mailroom of a doctor’s office in his building and we took them to play pinball in Times Square?”

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