For a split-second, everything is darkness. I’m not sure where I am, and need to focus to remember simple, but crucial information: who am I? What is my name? What is the last thing I remember? Do I remember enough to open my eyes and not be dreadfully surprised?
I’ve been in a car accident before, and it didn’t feel quite like this. This feels somehow… more serious. I hear myself breathing, the easy-going, breath-in-breath-out rhythm I aim for when I’m on the verge of a panic attack aboard planes on the verge of take-off. I tell myself breathing is, surely, a good sign.
I open my eyes, and immediately wonder if this was a huge mistake. For a moment the lights are so bright I wonder how I didn’t see this coming from behind the safety of my shut eyelids. A heavy-built woman with a round face and massive hands is sitting next to me, knitting peacefully. She puts her needles and wool down and smiles kindly at me once she realises I’m awake.
“What’s going on?” I ask her.
“It’s alright, ” she tells me, in loud, paced Italian, “You needed to rest.”
A doctor in a white coat walks past the wide open door of what I now realise is my hospital room. We briefly make eye contact; he stops cold in his tracks and practically runs to my side, while the Italian lady resumes her knitting. Without saying a word, the doctor takes my pulse, and listens to my heart with a stethoscope. He then begins taking my blood pressure, while I become very aware of all the machines beeping and flashing next to my bed. He seems so nervous I have to fight the urge to offer to take his blood pressure.
“How are you feeling?” he asks finally, trying hard to disguise his amazement while his temples sweat profusely, mocking him. “Do you know where you are?”
I open my mouth to reply, and discover I can’t actually answer that question.
“Why am I here?” I ask him, trying to disguise my mounting panic.
I’m not big on uncertainty, and not knowing why I’m in hospital. Hence the mounting panic.
“You don’t remember anything?” asks the doctor in a high pitched tone, at this point giving away the fact that he has either little medical experience or little experience speaking to humans who are not big on uncertainty. Before I can let him know just how little I think of him and his abilities as a doctor, the three of them enter the room, and rush to my side, nearly shoving the young doctor into the beeping, flashing machinery.
She holds my hand, her wide eyes welling up with tears. The two men stand behind her, at a reasonable distance from each other.
“Are you alright?” She asks me, touching my cheek. Her grip on my hand is so tight I can almost hear my bones pleading for mercy.
“I’m fine,” I tell her. “Really, I am. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
The fact that I don’t know what’s happening comes as an obvious shock to them, because they all immediately put some distance between themselves and my bed. “You don’t remember anything at all?” asks Nowhere Man. I helplessly shake my head. She buries her head in This Charming Man’s shoulder and proceeds to sob uncontrollably. Nowhere Man shoots the dirtiest of looks at This Charming Man.
“Could you please tell me why I’m here?” I ask, trying to bring everybody’s attention back to what really matters at the moment.
Carefully and gingerly, Nowhere Man sits next to me and respectfully holds my hand. His palms are cold, and so dry they almost feel slippery, but it doesn’t bother me. I can always count on him for factual information and a rational explanation, with a side of authority and respect. At this point I’m hoping to God he won’t disappoint me.
“You were out for a very long time.”
“How long?” I ask him.
“Months,” She sobs, her voice muffled by This Charming Man’s expensive cashmere coat. “We weren’t even sure you were ever coming back.”
“But she’s back,” says the Italian lady all of a sudden, still knitting by my side. “And she’s sticking around this time. Isn’t that right?”
She makes her question sound every bit as menacing as it is reassuring.
“You don’t know that,” says This Charming Man, miserably failing to hide his disdain. The Italian lady looks at him square in the eye in disagreement, and he decides the smartest course of action is silence.
But she’s right. I am back. And I am sticking around this time.
So stay tuned. And thank you so much for reading.