The English version of this story was not published in my book The Door and other extraordinary stories! So it’s the first time published here on my blog: dorindavid.wordpress.com, only for you, my friends. Enjoy!
(Translated from Romanian by Mihaela Alecu. For Romanian original click here)
I don’t know how I came to be here. When I first cough I thought the air wasn’t properly placed in my throat. And yet, here I am, on this hospital bed, in this ward which looks like a waiting room for a railway station. People come and go, nurses, doctors, they all pass by. They are friendly, maybe because I am scared. That is one of my things, I’m scared of hospitals. I admit, I fear needles the most. And then I tend to talk allot, to postpone the moment as much as possible.
But this time I couldn’t postpone anything. The doctor looked carefully into my throat and uttered clearly and decisively:
“It needs to be surgically removed.”
I think I became suddenly pale just from hearing those words, because the doctor told a nurse:
“Bring him that mirror…”
The mirror was, in fact, like a small, green, round box of mints, with hinges on one side, to be easily opened, with mirrors on each side. I hold it so that the image of my throat would reflect from the first mirror to the second, and I could see deep inside my throat, beyond the back of my tongue. It looked like a glade of snow, a milky white thing, like a lock of wad with small pores like white, fluffy mold. It was nothing much in it, it was just strange.
“You see, it needs to be surgically removed.”
I, white like chalk.
“But don’t worry; it will only take a few seconds.”
“You won’t feel a thing!”
I, almost fainting.
“Did you eat anything this morning?”
I nodded no.
“Dear, bring something for him to eat,” the doctor harshly rounded on the nurse.
And as I was sitting, laying on the hospital bed, nurses started coming with sliced salami, covered in supermarket paper, with sliced hard cheese, packed in supermarket plastic, pâté, in metal tins, tomatoes and cucumbers, from the market, I hope. They put them all on top of me, on a table cloth placed above me like for a picnic.
“Help yourself, please!”
I take a slice of bread, I don’t even know where it came from, I missed the moment when they brought it, I spread pâté on it, I put a slice of salami, I put another one, because it fits, on top I put a slice of hard cheese and I start biting. I add some tomatoes and I start recovering the color in my checks.
Everybody comes around my bed. I’m already feeling better, although I find it weird that the nurses keep their surgical gloves on. But I see that the fat from the salami doesn’t stick to the gloves, so it all makes sense.
A doctor comes from somewhere in the back and asks me:
“Are you ready?”
I, with my mouth full, I would like to say that I am not at all ready, but I was thought that it is not nice to talk with a full mouth, therefore I rush chewing, signaling with my hand that I would like for him to wait a few moments. He stands with the scalpel and with an instrument in the shape of a clipper in his hands, waits a few seconds and then he draws away.
“I will come back immediately,” he says as he exits the ward.
I finish chewing and I ask the nurse next to me, the only one left:
“But aren’t you going to do an anesthesia?”
“It is not necessary; it will only take a few seconds.”
“But still,” I tell her, scared again, “it is nonetheless an intervention.”
“We had a spray, but it’s finished. We are sorry…”
“O my God, but I need the spray, I need it to numb my throat a bit, I cannot be like this for the intervention, without anything.”
I take a breath and I tell her with a sweet voice, smiling:
“Come on, I promise I will not owe you.”
The nurse smiles playfully, then she winked like an accomplice.
“Come with me, I might have a spray somewhere.”
I get up from the bed like an automatic machine, without realizing, due to the emotions, that the food had been cleared off me, and I follow her. She walks through some narrow corridors, she opens doors, she goes into empty rooms or full, until, finally, we get to what could be called the nurses’ room. One of them, probably, because here there were only four cabinets, heavy, metallic, inherited from the communists. The nurse opened one and started to poke about. She gloriously extracted a spray. She attached some sort of thin straw.
“Good. Open your mouth widely!”
I, good and happy, do as she says. She introduced that hose like a thin straw up to the back of my throat, she tells me not to move, not to breath, and sends a couple of puffs directly on the injured spot. I choke, of course, and I want to cough, but I struggle to hold back. However I make a few small sounds, I swallow, I shut up. Then I:
I would like to give her fifty lei, but my clothes are in the ward. I tell her. The truth is that I would have paid anything for this anesthesia!
“Come on, let’s go back to the ward she answers.”
We go back, rambling. I follow her like a puppy, while I feel how I can no longer feel my throat. I am so happy it is numbed. Now I am ready for surgery.
We finally get back to the ward and I sit on the bed. A few nurses come with all sort of devices, some more sophisticated, others simpler; one is clearly a vacuum for liquids, due to the spiraled hose attached.
“Does it have a disposable end?” I ask.
They look at me like „What kind of a question is this? Of course!” so I better hold my mouth, ashamed. After they surround me with devices, they leave.
“The doctor will come immediately to operate on you.”
I remain alone in the war, alone with my thoughts. And with the numbness in my throat. It seems that its intensity is starting to fade. Maybe it is just an impression. I lay in bed. I feel tired, but I wouldn’t like to fall asleep. I look around the walls; I try to hum a song in my head. It doesn’t go well so I better give up. I wait.
The door opens. I flinch. It’s not the surgeon; it’s my younger son, Biology Olympic. After he finishes high school he will study medicine at the University. It is alright.
“How are you, how do you feel? Are you done yet?”
“I haven’t even started,” I tell him resignedly. “I think they forgot about me.”
The anesthesia is no longer effective; I feel how despair grabs me again.
“Let’s go,” I tell him.
I put on my clothes, straight over my pajamas, I no longer have patience to change.
We go out on the corridor.
There is nobody, no one asks us anything. The hospital seems empty.
“Was there anyone else when you came? Or did they all leave?”
“I don’t know but I didn’t encounter anyone.”
I nod my head, and we continue on our way. We get out of the hospital untrammeled. I fell my throat again, full capacity. But I don’t even think about the puff in my throat, I don’t feel it, it doesn’t bother me at all.
We head towards the house I grew up in. You can see it from the bridge, unchanged.
“Let’s see,” I tell my son, “is your grandma home, or is she at the cemetery?”
The gate is locked.
“Hmm, there is your answer.”
I look at my son. What should we do? I wonder. Should we go up to the hill too, to the cemetery? I look at him and suddenly I realize:
“Oh my God,” I tell him wry. “I forgot to pay the nurse!”