Saturday, July 19, 2008

3. "The Holding Area"

Finally I am being wheeled through barren, like out of Saramago's* "Blindness" corridors set, bluish neon-lit, zigzagging into the general holding area before the surgery. The same blue light reveals a comfortably large room, and thank god, life in it. Several nurses with “shower caps” on, are busy preparing patients for their surgeries. I observe everything with wonderment. It is my first time and I cannot imagine what will happen to me. There is no time for the primordial fear of the body to seize me. When my surgeon comes in to see me, I joke: ”No time for cancellation now!” Unsure how to take it, he maintains, whether in jest or seriously, I can always cancel. Meanwhile, a nurse is attaching me to various tubes ending in dangling plastic bags attached to the bed. Everything is named, explained, sounding sensible and indispensable. In comes anesthesiologist, a pleasant, jovial person, rubbing his hands, complaining of the cold in the operating room, as we shake hands. I offer to warm them. He starts fondly reminiscing about a girlfriend from Czechoslovakia. He must have been quite taken by her. I hope someone somewhere in the world moons over me that way. I omit to ask what had happened, not for the lack of interest, but out of discretion. He prepares to give me the epidural in the back of the spine. The needle doesn’t hurt.

When I open my eyes again, I am still or again on my bed, in the same place in the holding room, feeling no pain or any different from normal; it is after it has happened, yet I have no sense of how much time passed. I am in a suspended time-space, peaceful amidst activity. The male nurses are scurrying around other patients, monitoring each one’s condition, recording. Every few minutes another nurse comes by and sticks a thermometer in my mouth (just like at the dentist's, I wonder, do they disinfect those things), wraps velcro around my arm for blood pressure, or pricks my veins to check on the blood itself. I play along.

Across from me is a fiftyish man, naked to the waist, salt and pepper hair, a Victor Mature* look-alike in “Samson and Delilah”. Like the chained Samson in the temple, every now and then he raves, wanting to get out of bed, shaking himself free of the attached tubes, while the nurses swarm around him, waiting for the sign from the “super” whether to knock him out or inject him for sedation. He groans like he is in pain, but it is the pain of boredom, when he articulates his groaning. I don’t mind being in this room, although with this raving neighbor, I’m looking forward to my own. The nurses and the anesthesiologists ask me to wiggle my toes. I don’t know where they are, I don’t feel my legs. One of the nurses shows me a plastic container with neatly sawed off bone cubes, supposedly my knee. I wonder whether they show the same container to every patient. Finally the rowdy Samson is wheeled out, but so am I, as soon as I can wiggle my toes.

*Jose Saramago is a contemporary Portuguese writer and a Nobel prize winner for his life's work. Currently a movie is coming out based on the "Blindness".

*Victor Mature was a film star in the 40s and 50s, best known for the Western “My darling Clementine” and the filmed version of the biblical story of “Samson and Delilah.”

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