by Douglas V. Gibbs
White. Shining arrogance pranced like ivory keys on a piano. Ebony dots paced the ceiling, gazing wonderingly at my spinning madness. Mocking my mental hurricane of fog and mist. I could not see them through my stormy eyes. Still, they watched me. Watching me on my back, strapped to four steel posts.
Where has my body landed?
Shadows mocked the white brilliance, leaning their grayness over my upturned face. Familiar forms, yet unknown. A face molded together. The face belonged to someone I remembered, but forgot.An orifice in the face opened, spitting ghosts of words.
My damaged brain sputtered. Cranial fog cleared momentarily. Chaos organized for a moment. Only a short moment.
Concentration relinquished a momentary solution. The voice was familiar because it belonged to my mother.Chaos returned. My disembodied limbs reached to embrace her. Tingling spiders marching down my arms held my arms captive. I remained still. Mother’s tears rolled down my cheeks.
An epileptic seizure captured my body. Darkness came. Life faded. Death twisted my insides, rolling through my body like the roar of an angry lion. Helicopter blades thumped. Sirens screamed. People placed their hands all over my naked body, holding me with needles and masks.
White. The ivory ceiling with ebony dots loomed overhead. Virgin sheets on my snowy bed contained my languid, quivering body. White walls with bright lights shining on a milky tile floor thundered around my personal prison of tubes and machines. Frosty garments on anti-septic attendants marched, shouting orders to each other as a needle plunged into my purple wrist.
The place radiated purity, but the bleeding heart of mother’s red blouse served as a focal point.
My eyes opened. Tears ran down her face. I stared curiously, unable to understand why she, or myself, resided in this white place of beeping machines.Numbness filled me. Another episode returned. My lips exploded. Ice cream lips tingled in unison. Eyes wandering backward, my vision became obstructed by fluttering needle-points. Everything was spinning. I closed my eyes. The spin increased.
Tumbling. Rolling. My body died in my dreams. I recalled pain invading my body. Skin peeled from my face like the rind of a rotten orange. Rolling along the highway. Pounding with each crash of crumbling metal. Crimson fluids fled from my being.I can’t catch my breath!
The white sanctity of the hospital returned. The nightmares abated.
I opened my mouth to ask questions slamming mercilessly against my skull. My tongue rolled around in my mouth untrained. My swollen lips forgot how to speak.
I managed a primitive grunt.
A man in a white coat ran to my side as mother screamed hysterically. He stabbed a needle of light into my eyes, prattling nonsensical verbiage all the while. Pure gibberish. He spoke only noise.
The terror of darkness returned. My eyes closed. Rolling nightmares of chaos imprisoned me. I jerked awake in my dreams. Numb pain.Memories rolling. Pounding. Cries of pain. The faces of men looking down at me while tossing around noise with their tongues.
The seizure passed. A new face stood over me. A familiar face. The loving gaze of my uncle.“He’s coming out of it,” said my uncle.Words. Wonderful words. The eloquent poetry of speech from my uncle’s lips embraced me like an old friend.
I murmured the first thing that came to mind. “Where am I?”
“In the hospital, son.”
“You’re not my dad.”
“No, I am not,” replied my uncle with a slight grin on his weathered face.
How absurd. Of course he is not my father.
“How did I get into the hospital?”
“Car accident,” said Uncle. “Doozie, too. You rolled that little car eight times down the highway. Got thrown down a slope, or something like that. They didn’t give you much of a chance, from what I hear. Ten minutes or so, says your dad. Ten minutes later and you’d be in a coffin right now, I reckon. Not too good. You were comatose, you know. Month and a half, or so. This is the first time you’ve acted sensible in months.”
“Is there anything that you want?” he asked out of common courtesy.
“Yes,” I said. “I want a hamburger.”
“You can’t eat food like that in this ward. They’ll take it away.”
“I don’t care. That’s what I want.”
Uncle grinned, hurried off, leaving me with my Auntie. I glared at her suspiciously.
She smiled, sort of halfway. Her hands, drying from age, lay peacefully on her lap. Tired eyes of deep blue studied me, moving slightly behind the time-ridden slits that housed them.
“Can I be unstrapped?” I asked.
She arose and vanished for a moment along the corridor, returning moments later with one of those men in the white coats. He grinned like he knew me, and unstrapped my bonds.
“No funny business,” he said. “You were taking swings at people when you were out of it.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Just remember, one swing, and the straps go back on. Don’t be pulling on any of the tubes, either.”
“No problem,” I responded.
Auntie sat back down and asked, “How do you feel?”
“Well,” I replied honestly, “I can’t feel half of my face or my legs. Pain is racking just about every other point in my body that isn’t numb. Despite being unstrapped, I feel like I can’t move a muscle, and I am starving for a hamburger.
Uncle Bill returned, leaning over me with a box in his hand. A finger of his other hand stood vertically across his lips as he whispered conspiratorially, “Sshh, here’s that burger. Eat it under the sheet.”
My hands responded painfully, reaching eagerly for the box. Under the sheet I devoured the contraband.
I pulled my head out for air. A retired respirator loomed nearby.
“Uncle Bill?” I garbled with a mouthful of food.
“Yes?” he replied.
“Thanks. This is the best burger I’ve ever had!”