Food, Nevermind

posted by Megan Swanson

Everything is white except for a blue striped rubber butterfly on the wall about the size of my big toe. It is smiling. The other beds had butterflies with hooks at the bottom, but this one appears to have lost the hook to a battle with a clingy stethoscope. Shadows pass at the bottom of a long gray curtain, but only every few minutes. There is no noise except for the television in the lobby around the corner playing Korean soap operas. It seems the woman two beds down from me has left as well, her unnamed issue too menial to deserve a night in one of the cleanest spots in Cambodia.

Despite its apparent spotlessness, there is a bug in the corner. When I opened my water bottle a piece of the plastic wrapper felt gently to the floor where it still rests next to the bed. I would pick it up, but I am frozen. Breathing in and out slowly, I try a yoga method of calming myself down by concentrating on my body, starting with the tips of my toes.
I focus on each toe individually and move onto the rest of my foot for about a minute before I scrap the entire ritual all together and start crying.

This hospital is not meant for me and there is nothing that I have been more convinced of in my life. The walls are bare, nothing, not even a silly painting done by a local child hangs on the wall. Where are the magazines? The television? Even a cup of water? Nothing. I make one more attempt to slowly sip from my luke-warm water from a bottle I brought. The sickly liquid trickles down my throat, but I can’t choke back anymore tears.
I make a frantic call to Brian who pleasantly agrees to my quivering voice to talk to the doctor, but I can already hear a softer voice in the background telling my professor that I need to stay the night. My professor agrees.

I don’t do well with any rational thoughts. Oftentimes my mother has attempted to teach me to slow down and concentrate upon what I think is irrational and in the end the issue is in fact, not an issue at all. I know the right thing to do is to stay in the hospital. I ate something that upset my stomach that in turn decided to wage WWIII on the walls of my intestines. My hands shook so hard earlier that I dropped my pills, just as my one of my great-aunt’s hands shake when she drinks her coffee. That is when I knew I needed to go to the hospital. I was rational then. Now though, I apologize mom, the irrational is overwhelming.

Several hours later I woke up staring at the red string on my left wrist. Some color had returned to my skin and I could see a tiny dab of my blood fighting against the ebb and flow of fluids streaming in through a foggy tube of my IV. The color of blood almost exactly mimicked the red string on my wrist.

Three days prior an elderly woman tied the string around my wrist before I knelt down at a Buddhist alter and prayed for luck. In what I don’t know, but sitting in my hospital bed in this situation all I could think up what a high school English teacher spelling out I-R-O-N-Y. Maybe the luck I prayed for before will come later.

Soon a breakfast cart arrives pushed by a shorter woman with a baby blue medical mask across her face. I smile, but I cannot tell if she returned the gesture. The scrambled eggs are the normal yellow, but puffed and deflated all in one. My fork pierces the rubbery outer shell to release an egg juice that I immediately dismissed.

A world away was a kitchen that had bread, soon to be toast, lightly buttered. Boxed maccaroni and cheese stashed away in the cupboard.At this minute a boat, airplane, automobile, sprinting transfer of those foods seems indefinitely a viable option. UPS could do that right?

The search for a perfect adventure has arrived and it is passing me by through the view off of my balcony at the hospital. The search for an experience definitely caught up with me this time. Right now, standing on the mountain that is my driveway in good old Roswell, Ga. and proclaiming “I want to eat toast!” is fine with me. Little red band, let me know when the luck arrives.


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