Some parts of life don’t bear talking about. Factories, mostly. I spend a lot of time in factories, time that forms a base of knowledge I have spent so many hours on the road to acquire. And yet it’s hard to talk about factories. Complicated, really.
Hospitals are like that too. Except I didn’t mean to spend so much time in them. Some days I remember the details. I remember waiting in the UCSF hospital while Tara got ACL surgery, nervous and uncertain in a tiny sitting area with no windows. Reading bad old magazines and trying not to stare at the only other visitor, an old man. Wondering over and over what or who he was waiting for but neither of us in any mood for talk.
The next time I had to wait through Tara’s surgery I went sneaker shopping in Siam Discovery, a fancy Bangkok mall. I had a couple hours they’d said, and knew better than to sit still. Sneaker shopping sounds fun, and often is fun. I remember walking the BTS stations almost surprised how normal everything felt. How normal my body was, despite the huge scrapes on my arms and legs. I felt worried, but also lucky, the doctor having cleared my shoulder after an exam. Only Tara’s wrist broken, after the motorcycle crash in northern Laos. Just the small bones. Just her right hand. Five years later it’s still a hard week to think about.
The third time wasn’t even surgery. Just stitches and a lot of cleaning, a lot of cutting dead skin away. She was awake. I left the room, pacing the entry to the fancy Hong Kong hospital for an hour at midnight on a Sunday. Nervous and tired but pretty sure she’d be ok. That was easier, but still too hard.
In March of last year it was again voluntary, or scheduled: one night in the hospital alone after shoulder surgery. My left, beat up by years of climbing and frisbee. And probably never a hundred percent since New York. Or since that motorcycle crash. Overnight hospital stays, like Ben Watt says in his book Patient, are strange things. Peaceful but without rest, the body either shutting down or being woken up for pills, for checks, by pain. It’s hard to sleep, even in a private room, even with luxury. I got laid off that morning, by phone, before the nurses brought more pain killers. Overnight hospital stays, when they’re going ok, are an awful lot of time to think, and no energy at all for thinking.
And then New York, of course. Two different hospitals. Five nights each. Surgery with fingers and biting on sweatshirts. A lot of pain and long waits to try walking. A lot of slow hellos with nothing to say. A lot of time to stare and think and no energy at all.
Hospitals are hard to talk about. Like factories.