That’s the one I chose to write about. Michelle gave us a sheet of prompts called ‘Life Mapping’. (Content: self-injury, hospitals, nothing graphic but some odd metaphors)
The topics ran thus:
- Your Birth
- Where you first lived
- Your Family
- A Special Trip
- A Meaningful Object
- First Bike Ride
- A Hospital Stay
- A Friendship Gone Bad
- Moving Home
AKA, the first nine chapters of my censored autobiography. (Uncensored:
- Apparently I Was Born
- The First Fucking Mistake
- Spinning Silk and Shit: My Family
- Spinning: Flying Through An Actual Fucking Hurricane, A Special Trip to the USA
- Capitalism is Fucking Wrong (Fuck Ownership of Objects!) (but let’s talk about my harmonica)
- Help I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up
- Staples, Stitches and the Power of Fucking Prayer
- BPD: buddy-punishing disaster, or How I Am Fucking Toxic
- Running the Fuck Away)
This is what I came up with for ‘A Hospital Stay.’ Scatting on a theme.
I think her name was June.
Maybe Agnes. Not Agnes. Something like that; an old-sounding name, a nan name.
Some context. I’d made a small error with my injuries. Of course I’d been told to keep them clean, use fresh blades, keep them covered, the usual advice. Unfortunately I was two people then; the one who was superhuman, indestructible, concealing my super suit under baggy T shirts and jeans, superheroes don’t get trivial things like infections; and the other one, the still one. Looks still. Computers don’t move much but they’re still processing. That one didn’t care how sore it was to walk, to put on clothes, to sit down, stand up. That one just wanted to give the injuries more company. See how far it could go.
I’d made an error. My legs were…well, you know when you forget about a pot of yoghurt in the fridge, it looked fine last time you checked it, whenever that was, but now it’s less yoghurt and more grey-green moss? It wasn’t quite like that but it gives the impression. I’d been admitted because they needed to put me under to get rid of the moss and return me to healthier (yoghurt) legs.
Me being me, I was mostly numb. The idea of fear skirted around the edges of my awareness. Might not wake up. That should scare me.
A seahorse grinned obnoxiously down at me from the wall. I was offended. ‘Get thee back to microsoft clip-art from whence ye came, foul spawn of the rankest ocean,’ I thought. The bed creaked as I rolled away from my antagonistic companion.
We’re all little fish in here.
I became aware of dampness on the pillow. Disgruntled, I wiped my face and sat up. No point putting more salt into the sea; it’s hard enough to breathe as it is. Surveyed my surroundings. Plastic curtains rippling softly, seaweed. Fish occupied the beds opposite me, quiet, drifting. Peaceful. It wasn’t that late.
June – let’s commit to calling her June – was ocean patrol for the night. I heard the prow of her boat butting against the seaweed curtains, checking on the line of slumbering fish. I sat and wished for my eyes to not leak.
Her boat peeked through my protective seaweed. I sat, hoping to look stoic, or at least unfazed – vacant, like a fish. Obviously it didn’t work.
Wordlessly she steered and docked. She put a band around my fin that inflated. ‘Will this make me float again?’ I mused, mopping at a fresh torrent from my eyes.
Bubbles of words erupted from my throat. ‘Are you busy?’ I asked as my swim band deflated.
‘Actually, love, you’re my last check on this round,’ she replied. ‘You’re being very brave.’
More salt water. She rummaged below deck and handed me a tissue. ‘How was your shift?’ I bubbled.
‘Nearly done!’ She chuckled, thumbing the IV tethering me to this particular reef. ‘Only five hours to go.’
‘Five hours?’ I gasped. What an expanse of time. Long, perilous. Difficult to navigate. She must be a really smart captain, Captain June. Ocean Patrol Captain June. ‘Five hours is long.’
‘I’m hoping you’ll be asleep in five minutes,’ she said, her wise seafaring eyes twinkling, reflecting the fluorescent bulbs from the corridor.
She handed me another tissue before I noticed the leak had recommenced. ‘Or…’ she said gently, ‘I could maybe stay here for a little bit.’
‘You don’t have to!’ I blubbered. ‘Honestly it’s fine, it’s…other people need you, I’m -‘
‘Love, all I’ve got to look forward to on the near horizon is paperwork.’
‘Really! You’d be doing me a favour,’ she said, glancing mischievously through the seaweed curtains into the space next door. ‘Look! The telly’s still here from earlier! What’s your favourite movie? We probably don’t have it, hah, limited film library here, but we have some – or we could talk for a bit if you want?’ She paused, poised to push the TV trolley closer at my affirmation.
I shook my head. ‘Let’s not talk. If that’s okay. I’ve had to talk to a lot of people today.’
‘I can imagine, pet.’ One hand plugged in the TV; the other, for not enough seconds, stroked my hair. ‘How’d you end up in here anyway?’
On cue, my legs flung a dull throb of pain towards my brain for consideration. I chose to ignore it. ‘Nothing really,’ I sniffed. ‘Haven’t been very kind to myself I guess.’ Captain June raised her eyebrows while I fiddled with my bracelets. Tactically placed to conceal the other evidence of my unkindness.
‘You know what you are?’ she said.
I froze. She’d just said. No intonation. Nothing. She thinks I’m stupid for having done it, for doing it. She thinks it’s disgusting. Why do I always ruin everything. What’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I did it I don’t know why I’m here I just needed to put it somewhere, put the pain somewhere else, somewhere out. My own stupid fault for not cleaning it, for ignoring it, for letting it get this bad. Please don’t leave. I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I’m…I’m not talking. Oh god I’m just staring. I feel like I look like a headlight-bound rabbit who, in the middle of a carriageway, stumbled into a tragically coincidental superglue spillage. My expression matches the rabbit’s, during the blinking few moments it had to come to terms with its mortality before dying from the shock.
Talk. Talk! She asked you a question. She knows as well as you do.
‘I’m disgusting,’ I said. I just said. No intonation. Just the truth.
‘Oh, pet!’ Sweeping aside medical protocol, she hugged me.
Against all naturally observed behaviour, a spontaneous team of rabbit paramedics appeared in the middle of the carriageway. ‘He’s still warm!’ chittered the first one that reached Stuck-Dead-Bunny. ‘CPR!’ And so the incredible rodents unstuck SDB from the superglue, thumped on his ribcage, and his heart restarted, and they all hopped away joyfully and ate carrots and grass and lived happily ever after the end.
Captain June smelt mostly of antiseptic, with layers of rose hand cream and talcum powder. I hugged her back.
‘Look at me,’ she said, releasing the moment. I looked at the bedsheets. ‘Please?’ I looked up.
‘You,’ – she looked me in the soul, kind wrinkles tugging her mouth into a smile that I knew Understood – ‘are a very, very silly sausage.’
I laughed messily, leaking from every facial orifice. She passed me another tissue. We watched the first half hour of Chicken Run together before she went to get her paperwork. Then she checked on me every fifteen minutes until I was almost asleep.
Just before my consciousness pendulum swung to sleep, I heard her footsteps one more time. My eyes opened and I smiled at her as she unplugged the TV.
‘Night, love,’ she said.
‘Good luck tomorrow,’ she said.
‘I’d forgotten about it,’ I yawned. The pendulum swung.
The next day was the first time I was put under general anaesthetic to clean and close the self-inflicted lacerations in my legs. I woke up with dressings on my thighs plump and robust enough to turn a loose skirt into a tutu. The surgeons used a combination of stitches and staples, supported by internal stitches and fortified by Steri-Strips, to stick me back together. Captain June was working the next night, but not the night after, and then I was sent home.
I don’t know what happened to the rabbit. I think he’s alright.