The 3 A.M. Epiphany – Exercise 2

Hospital Hallway

You walk into the doctor’s office and there is a heavy smell of antiseptic and death. There is no one at the front desk so you stand in front of it like a confused tree. Five minutes tick by and no one returns to the desk. Other patrons sit with straight backs, spines so erect it makes you uncomfortable. You are wearing a T-shirt, faded jeans, and a pair of muddy sneakers. Looking at the other patrons, you see everyone else is wearing their Sunday’s best. Ties and brooches, diamond earrings, shiny black shoes that make hard clacking sounds on the floors of important buildings. You look down at your shoes to see your left one is untied, so you lean over and retie it.

Sitting down without signing in will make your visit a useless one. You will never get seen. There is no sign-in clipboard on the counter. The other patrons are eyeing you with careless pity. You do not make eye contact with them. You listen for footsteps. Perhaps someone is about to open the door and call out one of these citizen’s names. You have waited eight minutes. You are now this room’s center of gravity; its focal point. If someone throws this room across the universe in a wide arc, your path will remain a smooth curve on an unseen graph. You decide to sit down at the chair closest to the front desk. Someone will come in and you will see them and jump up and take your rightful place at the head of a two person line. Or the person will come back from their bathroom break and sign you in.

You stare forward at nothing, making yourself invisible. No one can detect you in your invisible chair, surrounded by an invisible cloak. You focus on nothing and you are nothing. You are unaccounted for with no name on a paper that is not on the counter.

A lady in a white coat emerges from a small doorway behind the counter and you jump up like a rabbit during hunting season. You will soon exist. You will soon be a part of a process with a name, a time, an insurance card, and a phone number. These are all properties of you, and since they exist, you must therefore also exist.

The lady opens your mouth to say something, but another lady comes through the main door and opens your mouth instead.

“I am ready,” you hear yourself say.

“Wonderful,” you feel yourself thinking, and the words emerge from the lady’s mouth.

You intend to smile and her lips part to show pearly white teeth.

She leads you down a long, polished concrete hallway. The walls are white. The lights are bright. Nothing to hide here. When you turn and enter the room, there is an elderly lady lying on her back. The cold, silver puddle of steel lies underneath her. There are instruments lying in front of you. A scapel, tongs, pliers, garden shears, lighter fluid, a translucent bag of leeches, and a small kitten actively trying to escape its cage. The woman has already been opened from belly-button to sternum, a crimson meat flower ready for pollenation. You step forward and as you reach for the lock on the kitten’s cage a small, rustic farmer-looking gentleman rushes into the room, boots leaving clumps of red clay all over the floor.

He says, “Sorry, sorry . . . this young citizen is here to have her gall bladder removed.”

The woman in white says, “Oh . . .” and then turns to you and says, “come with me.”

You turn to look at the room one last time on your way out. Everyone is smiling. Their smiles are wide, like a youth minister’s. The kitten hisses at you. The woman on the table breaths through a tube. You make your way down the hall again. The smooth floor becomes textured. The walls are made of cotton. The nurse stops and suddenly turns to face you.

“I need you to cough,” she states. You can tell by the manner in which she says this that she has said it millions of times. You try to repsond, but cannot. “I need you to cough,” she states again. The walls begin to dissapate; the cotton turning a soft, slow black, like survivalist tinder. And then without warning the floor is gone and you are falling at 9.8 meters per second.

“Sweetie, I need you to cough,” the nurse says. You emit a dainty wisp of air on your third attempt. The room spins and time is no more. You open your eyes again and the nurse asks if you would like more blankets. Yes, you would. How you convey this, you are not certain. You are not fully self-aware, but this person is standing in front of you. You are not invisible. She can see you.

Before time is fluid again, you think for some reason of Juliet, your cat. Have they fed her? You must do what the nurse and doctors say and heal quickly so you can get back to your garden. So you can dig your wrinkled fingers in the dark, wet potting soil and give life to your flowers and herbs.

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