My friend warned about what would shock me most. They took part of her skull out…
“You’re going to see her with a lot of tubes leading into and from her skull. The sutures look ghastly… Remember, it takes time for the surgery to heal.”
I walked into the Intensive Care Unit after scrubbing my hands twice. As she came into view, I watched two nurses trying to sit her upright. They said her name loudly, repeatedly.
“A sign? … can you tap your toes?”
She tapped her toes. She did. But she could not sit up, open her eyes, or speak. Her body seemed to go limp against the nurses arms. I stood in the middle of the ha llway unable to walk forward momentarily. I saw her with jagged red lines across her head and ears, drawn closed by what looked like needle and thread work.
I felt my thoughts haltingly click to the sickening hospital metronomes until the electronic noises faded like white noise.
There is a bond between sufferers of trauma and witnesses to it. For me, this is an important connection. It serves as a bridge back to my humanity from self isolated places. For some years, it was the only bridge I knew. It was a safe one to travel, looked out for by someone who understood… in an existential way. I have everlasting gratitude for her, metaphorically speaking, saving me from myself.
I guess we traded roles over time. I never minded it. I worked on myself like a therapist, and it helped actually. I liked being the night watchman for my loved ones. I have a protective personality, and it does admittedly have a validating effect on what seems like a masculine, though not universally so, desire for “usefulness”.
Besides, it gave me a way to turn all of these traits from years of physical hardship into something beneficial. She helped me build my social life experience up and out. I looked after her safety and sense of safety – an area affected, amplified by those long-night years.
I stood without moving. No one in the room had noticed me in the hallway. It went quiet inside of me. Absolutely still. The hospital staff moved around me like I was a wallpost, and soon they were white noise too.
Today was hard. I felt lost and without any power.
I stood in that hallway, eyes not moving. Eyes not able to move. Silently and uncontrollably weeping.