Welcome To My Nightmare
Today’s Brew: blueberry pomegranate juice…and jelly beans
Last night I had the weirdest dreams. One had to do with giant jellybeans. In another, Julie had adopted a Korean girl just a few months older than her youngest. God, that kid was heavy! I had to wake up to make this one stop. I realized as I tried to fall back to sleep, that it might make a pretty cool short story, so here goes. (DISCLAIMER: I understand there are quite a few medical inaccuracies. I wanted to stay true to the dream, so instead I disregarded science and anatomy.)
I wanted to give something back. The images of people lying alone in a hospital or nursing home haunted me. Where were their families and friends? Why wouldn’t anyone come visit them? What did they do to wind up alone when they needed someone the most? I never wanted to be alone when I felt under the weather. My ailments only lasted days. These poor people might be sentenced here for the rest of their lives. They deserved comfort and some company.
Volunteering at the hospital seemed like a no brainer for that reason. Old people already flocked to me on a regular basis. They knew an ally when they saw one, even if they had cataracts. I couldn’t wait to go spread my sunshine to these people. My friend Sarah already volunteered at the hospital, she didn’t say much about it, but I think she liked it. My other friend Claire actually worked there. She didn’t like anything, so I took whatever she said with a grain of salt.
My heart beat faster putting on my pastel pink smock. Already I was pumped. Sarah worked today too. Today she was quieter than usual. I didn’t think much of it. People act differently at work. I waited in the locker room with her for my first assignment.
My face brightened when Claire came into the room to delegate rounds to the small group of volunteers. She knew my passions well. I’d be put to good use.
“Kristen, you can go with Sarah. She’ll show you where the OBGYN department is.” Claire barked. I’d worked with her before, so I knew to let her tone roll off. But OBGYN? Why not geriatric? Everyone visited the babies. What about my old people? She forgot about them too?
“Claire, are you sure you have that right?”
“Do you work here? No. It’s your first day as a volunteer.” She sneered, discounting my efforts. I bristled, rocking back and forth in my sneakers. “We need you in OBGYN. Sarah knows what to do.”
“Okay,” I sighed. We’d talk over drinks later. I knew better than to challenge her at work. Sarah didn’t say a word as she led me down the maze of hallways that led us to a waiting room full of impatient looking young women. She pushed through the door into the back room, dank and just as cluttered. Tired tables that looked like they got used for physical therapy lined the back wall.
Sarah waited by an empty table. “Take the one next to me,” she mumbled without looking at me.
“What are we doing?”
“They’ll show you. It’s easy.”
Claire burst through the door followed by a man who looked like a doctor. He wore a white coat and carried a clipboard. A group of nervous young women trailed behind.
“Get on the tables.” Claire instructed to the women who just arrived. Her bedside manner left much to be desired. It wasn’t just me she barked at.
A young woman smiled weakly at me before she laid face down on the exam table in front of me. No one said a word. Everyone seemed to know what would happen next, but me.
I must have been on the wrong list. I wanted to bring people meals and flowers and talk about grandkids. I shouldn’t be touching people. Unless they wanted a hug.
The doctor came around the room with a basket. Sarah took an object out and nodded. I did the same.
A box cutter? What the fuck?
“They need their tubes tied.” The doctor announced.
“What?” I began to panic. “This isn’t what I’m here for.”
“Just do it, Kristen.” Claire rolled her eyes.
I looked over at Sarah to protest, but already she concentrated her project. She carved into the back of the young woman in front of her. No one made a sound.
“I can’t do this!” I protested.
“It gets easier.” I don’t know that was Sarah’s attempt to comfort me, but it didn’t do the trick.
“I don’t want it to get easier! I don’t want to do it.”
“Everyone knows how to do it. Here, I’ll start.” Claire snatched the box cutter from my hands and pushed up the shirt of the girl who lay still in front of me. She didn’t even flinch at Claire’s rough touch. Without any preparation, Claire slashed through the girl’s tramp stamp.
She held the box cutter up to me. “Here. Go.”
My shock betrayed me and I took the box cutter back from Claire. She walked away without another word, leaving me there with this poor bleeding girl and Sarah, still hard at work on her girl.
“I don’t know what to do!” I wailed. Why didn’t I just run out of here? I wanted this poor girl in front of me to get the proper help she needed.
“You just do it.” Sarah mumbled. What the hell had come over her?
Still, the girl in front of me didn’t move or make a sound. Did she expect such treatment?
Claire returned, growing more annoyed, with a small TV on a cart. She positioned it in front of the girl and snapped it on. “Here. Watch a video.”
“But I don’t want her to think I don’t know what to do.” I whispered to Claire. She wouldn’t even look at me when I walked away.
The video started. I crouched down next to the girl to make sure I absorbed every detail. There was no room for error. It just gave simple illustrated instruction of the female reproductive organs. I needed to cut the tubes. But where?
“Where do I cut?” I whispered to Sarah.
She shrugged. “You just cut.”
“But I need to do it in the right place!” I still didn’t speak loudly. I didn’t want the girl to know I had no idea what I was doing. The panic rose from my gut. I didn’t want to maim her any more than necessary.
“Just cut. Everyone knows where you do it.” Claire yelled from across the room.
“Just cut.” The doctor confirmed. He hardly looked up from his charts.
“I don’t know what to do!”
“Cut the tubes!” Claire demanded.
I started to sob. “I can’t. No one will tell me where to cut.”
A group of women I hadn’t seen before gathered at a table in the corner, enjoying cocktails while we worked. My friend Laurie sat facing the room. “You cut above the hood, Kristen. God, anyone who’s had sex knows this.”
The group laughed. I couldn’t admit I didn’t know what the hood even was.
I looked at the slice in the girl’s back. The bleeding had almost clotted. There was no way this slit was big enough for me to reach in and do anything to any tube in her body. One last wave of panic rolled through me. I dropped the box cutter on the floor and ran out of the room.