I realized I'd never really visited a hospital bed.
I'd been once for the birth of my sister,
but all I remember are the boxes of krispy kreme doughnuts
and my aunt, who'd not yet had a child of her own,
scolding and snapping at my brother and I
just four and five
to stop playing with my mother's adjustable bed.
And I remember the face of my grandmother,
joyous, though not quite smiling;
but perhaps I remember her that way
because I was always a little bit afraid of her,
and still was when she died six years later.
But it was sudden, and she didn't even make it to the hospital.
I don't even remember my sister herself,
or my mother,
just her bed and trying to climb into it.
But now here I was,
filing past the numbered blue doors
in the halls that didn't smell like sickness
or loneliness or anything poetic at all--
just cafeteria food, close and a bit dirty.
In the room, there are two women
lying on their beds, each watching a TV.
They are watching the same show,
but they are each wearing a set of headphones
and watching separate screens.
It looks a bit lonely
and I wonder if maybe they'd like to watch it together.
I kiss her hello
and her eyes are watery, her voice broken;
but I am assured this is not her normal state.
but it's the only way I've ever seen her,
so it's hard to imagine her otherwise.
There's a kiwi and an empty yogurt cup on the table
and I start to zone out,
probably wondering whether they're from her lunch
or already her dinner.
But I let my mind wander
and soon I'm picturing everyone I know in turn
lying in a hospital bed.
One is missing all her hair,
another has an IV,
and I ask myself which ones I would visit.
The woman in the bed is smiling crookedly;
I've been told the tube in her arm is morphine,
and she's speaking about the dinner she had at our house
while my french sister assures her that we'll do it again
when her four days of rest are up.
And I go back to my game.
It's a bit cruel, maybe,
but life, I think,
is all a story of sickness
and who would visit you,
brave the stale air of your hospital room
and tell you stories of the future.