“What do you think you’ll write about this week?” Danielle, my girlfriend, asks. She is laying on a hospital bed, a tube connected to the wall runs warm air through her gown, and a rubber tourniquet perks up a vein in her hand for an IV needle. A TV plays the only channel it receives, Good Morning America is already starting their talks on Christmas and the impending War on it. Neither the TV nor I end up being suffice distractions for the needle’s plunge.
“I’ll probably write about how hard this is for me.” I replied.
Shortly after, a doctor comes in with another needle. “You’ll feel this one pretty quick” the doctor says as she sticks the needle in Danielle’s arm. Her face freezes as the needle is taken out.
“I definitely feel it.” She chuckles, giggles, and progresses into a fit of laughter. I laugh because she does. “Stop. Laughing.” She fights to say. The doctors wheel her away and point me to a door that reads SURGICAL WAITING AREA.
In the room are individuals and families, each in their respective clusters, dispersed throughout the room. A lady dabs her eyes with tissues. She would learn that whoever she was waiting for did well. A family huddles together and talk quietly among themselves. Later in the day they would learn that their mother/grandmother has a tumor in her brain. I wondered at what point Danielle drifted into subconscious. I wondered if she dreamed while doctors incised and rearranged, or if it would be like an extreme case of zoning out; one minute she’s awake and the next minute she’s in the recovery room, bandaged, slightly lighter than she was when she came in.
I received periodic phone calls from the surgical staff. “Hey she’s doing great!” “Hey! Not too much longer now!” “Hey, still great!” I expected that if they had bad news they wouldn’t have told me outright and instead said something like, “Hey! You should be here! Now!” I don’t think they would have called me and said “Hey! We gave her a dolphin’s heart!” Or “Hey! She didn’t want to be a girl anymore, right?”
They took her in around 9:25. The first phone call I received at 10:10 said that they started the surgery at 9:55. They estimated the surgery times from as little as four hours to as many as six. To be on the safe side, the side closer to four hours, I left the waiting room then and got back around 1:15. Looking back on the day, I don’t know why I thought she would be done quickly. I also don’t think any reasonable person would want to wake up from surgery and hear the surgeons say “Yeah, we wanted to take our time, but its Monday Night Football night and I gotta go.” It took closer to eight hours, from the time she went under, for the doctors to give me an actual estimate as to when I could see her. In the meantime, I set up her bedroom TV at home, got Netflix set up on my Xbox for her, bought recovery snacks, ate lunch, finished One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, ate a Snickers, and downed several cups of Douwe Egbert’s instant coffee.
I finally got to see her at 6:30. Before I go on, I want to say this. I’ve never had a major surgery. I’ve never seen anyone as they awake from anesthesia. I honestly kind of expected her to be more chipper; essentially how she was before she went in, give or take a tube or two. I went behind Curtain No.5 and found my Aphroditic beauty drained pale, sickly stoned, clutching a green bag of clear vomit. She smiled and gave a raspy hey.
“How are you feeling?”
“I think…I saw…Mindy Kaling. Shhhh.” I had to put my ear in her mouth to hear her. To the clear mind, she simply saw an Indian doctor. To her, I can only imagine that the anesthesia caused her to think that she was on the hit Hulu series The Mindy Project.
Before she could leave, she had to use the bathroom on her own. Before that, I had to sign her discharge papers. The nurse marked a blue X next to a line that read Responsible Adult. I looked around before signing it. I wanted to make one of those terrible “I don’t know how to adult, I don’t want to adult today” jokes but didn’t on the off chance the nurse laughed and thought I was being sincere.
I was my own valet. I pulled up in my rockin Chevy Aveo and we drove off into the darkness. When we left in the morning to go to the hospital, we drove through a fog. If that isn’t an apt metaphor for how her day was, I don’t know what is.
Now, as I type this, she is sleeping in a sitting position. Her cat is at her feet, also sleeping. The TV is paused but will be ready to play the next Vampire Diaries episode as soon as she wakes up. Next to her is her cell phone, fully charged; a bottle of water, a prescription painkiller, and an empty bag that was once filled with peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles. And on the other side of her is me, letting her sleep, holding her hand to make sure she is okay.