Op Note XXXIII
I began to think of the hospital as home. Not a second home. Home, home. Hacienda. La maison ancienne. The espresso machine in the break room. The couch in the doctor’s lounge while waiting for a case to start. Extra pairs of socks in my locker. A clean shirt hanging from a hook. Old New Yorkers I’ve left all over the recovery room. Moments of contemplation in the meditation room. That one place where I really like to sit. The extra toothbrush. I know where everything is. The saltines, the ginger ales, the mini-bags of pretzels. I just need a shelf with all my favorite books. A fluffy white towel pulled fresh from the dryer. A drawer that no one can open but me. I’m someone worth knowing here. It’s nice. It’s nice to feel essential. Code blue code white hot gallbladder in the ER. Initiate massive transfusion protocol. It all changes on a dime. Everyone running toward it. Everyone looking at me. Expecting me to know what to do. Like the latchkey around my neck. Opening heavy doors to empty homes. Calling strangers for rides to practice. Fixing my own teeth. I like when everything depends on me. Then there’s no one to have to thank. I like when I get to decide. There’s a woman in the waiting room looking at me with anxious eyes when I approach to tell her that her dad is going to be ok which reminds me of my own kids, which reminds me of the long grass, the laundry to do, the leaky faucet, that there is another place where there is work to be done. The alarms on the patient’s monitors are going off all around me. The noise is incessant, maddening, cacophonous. I begin to wake up. I’ve become too comfortable here. It’s lonely always confusing indebtedness with gratitude. Some dreams are actually long nightmares without being the least bit scary. The nightmare part is realizing it isn’t just a dream, it's your actual life. Disturbing, to be sure, but without a whiff of fear. Fear is for when you start to believe your real life might all be just a dream. These kinds of dreams never end. Like a puzzle without a solution. You always wake up before anything ever gets solved. Some lives are these kinds of nightmares and some nightmares are just certain kinds of lives. So easy to lose track of time in the places where one feels necessary. Even when it’s just a dream. Or a job. I know what to do here, at least. I know my role. Even after it becomes clear nothing is absolutely necessary. We only imagine it to be so. Then we imagine ourselves imagining another world where only one thing is absolutely necessary and that is to become a mind that imagines that all things are both purposeful and necessary. It will be dark soon. I told my son I would play soccer with him in the backyard. He wants to talk about karmic reincarnation and Lionel Messi. (You know, the necessities.) My daughter needs help with her math. My wife will have dinner, as soon as I am ready to come home. At some point in the evening, everyone will agree it is time to go to sleep. In this dream of sleeping, we are all dreaming. This is the point where it’s easy to lose the thread. Dreams upon dreams, divinely woven into an infinite fractal. The only thing to do at this point is to imagine there exists a dream in which you will wake up from the dream. When you open your eyes you will know you are home.