Op Note XXIX
I introduced myself as the surgeon. The room was darkened. The curtains were drawn. The patient was pale and waifish in the bed. Nurses had layered her in blankets. All you could see was her head. She was 95 years old. So the chart said. She still lived alone. Her wince when I pressed her abdomen confirmed the suspicion. What to do? She smiled at me, a pink edentulous grin, and whispered “ask them”, nodding toward the pleather couch by the window. Funny, I hadn't noticed anyone when I came in. But there they were: a little girl in a tartan dress whispering to a raggedy cloth doll, a young pregnant lady distractedly playing with the curls of her own hair, a silver haired woman holding a basket of freshly baked bread. Family? I asked. No, the old woman said, it’s all me. The room began to fill up with figures of various ages. It was getting rather crowded. Which of you will know? Who should I ask? I went up to each and every one. Hours passed. The old crone started laughing. Oh doctor, you should have been here yesterday. The person you’re looking for is already gone. No one here will know. I looked around just to be sure and turned back to an empty bed. The blankets were folded. I saw myself from five minutes ago listening to an old woman’s heart. I was beginning to think everyone here was already dead.