I Remember You

I remember you had so much cancer eroding your mouth that you sneezed and it broke your jaw. So we cut your face in half and scraped everything out and chopped out one of the bones in your shin and sewed it back into your jaw to reconstruct the mess we made and I remember when they said we do this all the time you both laughed and when we wheeled you back to the blue sheets and steel you were still laughing. And the days passed and your mouth kept healing but you had something else brewing inside of you, rotting and swelling in your belly like a balloon and it filled you with sickness so we hooked you to machines and we breathed for you, squeezed every vessel and poured fluids and drugs into you, but you were so sick and you kept raising your thumb high and you said you wanted to do it you said you could do it you said. And each day the white coats would sweep in, nodding, adjusting, and you would smile but you kept getting weaker and weaker and your body kept sinking deeper but your spirit never did, I remember that. And when she asked to leave your bedside to tend to your livestock we said we’d be there for you but when she left, so did you and you had a tattoo on your wrist and calluses on your hands and that night I cried in my car and pounded on the steering wheel and demanded the moon for answers because I didn’t know if we couldn’t help you or just didn’t help you but I don’t know if I’ll ever know the difference.

And then you, I knew nothing about you except for the video you showed me from when you were famous and you told me you were so happy before you fell into your dark place with the needles and bath salts and I remember how my breath stuck in my throat the first time I saw what happened to you after they removed the dressings so every day I would sneak into your room before the white coats to drip water on the edges of your bandages so you wouldn’t scream when they ripped them off and you told me that the drugs made you hear snakes hissing and women screaming being raped and you hated it but you couldn’t quit because being without the drugs was even worse and I couldn’t imagine anything being worse so during those quiet morning hours in the darkness I told you that things would be different this time and that you could have a second chance this time and you could do it this time and I told you to come back to find me and prove me right this time and you told me you would so now when it’s late and the sky is falling asleep and my footsteps echo in the hallways I remember your video with your head thrown back laughing and I still look for you.

But for the life of me, I can’t forget you and the way that you smiled when you said her name and how you kept waiting for your mother to come but she never did so you’d talk to the ceiling pretending she was there until one day your lips kept muttering, chanting, and your eyes followed me but they were blank inside and that’s when we found the puddle of bacteria chewing into your brain so they wheeled you back into the operating room and bolted your skull to the table and scraped out the pus but your body couldn’t handle it and the baby cried for help on the monitor so the white coats came running and they burst into the room with soapy hands and the nurses ripped blue tissue paper gowns over them and they sliced your belly open and stretched the edges wide and dug deep inside and when their bloody gloves reappeared they were welcoming a new tiny human to the room but you weren’t there to see what you had held onto so long for.

And when the day was done I wandered endlessly through the hospital to the tiny broom closet filled with warm glass incubators and the nurse guided me over to the corner and I saw the only thing that made that day worth it and leaned over that little bundle of new life and whispered this isn’t what the world is always like but when I got home I still smelled like you I’m right here for you I knew nothing about you I still look for you I can’t forget you I still remember you.

Rubor Participation
2018 Contributing Essay

A member of UUSOM Class of 2019. She is interested in documenting the human experience in medicine using video blogging and writing to illustrate the rawness in seeing patients in their truest state. She enjoys a shameful amount of black coffee and can either be found prodding patients in the hospital, or somewhere in the mountains.