Op Note XXXVI
I didn’t have a choice. One of those stem to stern incisions. All of her spilled right out. The assistant ballasted escaping guts while I suctioned out all the blood. Had to inspect every square inch. The things we saw that day. Whoo boy. At least I’ve never seen anything like that. Not kidding. Shredded from the inside like a scythe. Couple cans of spilled paint candy caning together in spiraling maroon/purple swirls. Had to patch every hole. Cut out the unsalvageable. Held pressure on all the rest. The next day she was somehow doing better. Extubated. But in a bad way. Basically just a head pinned to the top of a swollen stitched up body that didn’t seem to belong to her. Seemed in good spirits though. Was smiling almost. Like an animatronic Mona Lisa. Nodded her head at me. Waved me over with a lavender hand of bones. I was going there anyway. I’m the doctor right? I don’t need stage directions. I checked her belly and it seemed to retract as if it were afraid of my touch. The wound looked good at least. Not my fault it hurt. I noticed she was beckoning me closer. So I leaned in and she was whispering. What did you say? Her IV was alarming again. My ear was now a quarter centimeter from her dry lips. What happened? What did you do? she said. I didn’t have time for this. Thirty-three patients on my list. She wouldn’t understand any of it anyway. If she did, she would never have gotten into this predicament in the first place. I fake laughed at my own joke here. Anyway, it was time to tell her what I did. I leaned over, my lips now a little too close to a stranger’s left earlobe, and told her everything. Everything I had ever done. The banal, the porno, the hero, the humiliating. I told her about the one thing I had been so ashamed of, for so long. This one stupid thing that impacted pretty much every plot line of how my life subsequently played out, in the sense that I always reached a crossroads with a person I liked or a situation I really dug where I had to either decide to tell them about my hidden shame or continue to keep it a secret. If I chose to keep it a secret it meant I would retreat deeper into myself. I have always chosen not to tell. Like, my very life as lived is a direct function of this one thing I had never told a single person before. Until this moment. That’s fucked! I apologize. I shouldn’t use that kind of language in sacred places like the ICU. Tattooed nurses instead of bishops. Spouses and moms sleeping all night on bedside chairs instead of Christ. She was trying to tell me something again. I couldn’t make out a word. The damn fire alarm. They were always false, though. No one ever had to go outside. We all silently endured and ignored them. I never saw any smoke. I leaned in close to her again. Say it again, I said. How long do I need to keep this damn tube in my nose? she said.