Mother, dead eight years, was there today. I lie face down on a table, under a bright light. My back exposed and wrapped in white paper with a big hole where the needle goes.
I can’t see the doctor’s face. He can’t see mine. He’s getting the needle ready, the fluids, drugs. In the quiet, he rambles about twisting our ankles as kids, and how it swells like a grapefruit and goes down in a month. See – when we were kids everything was easy. He says this to explain inflammation, like I don’t already know. How an injury swells and pushes onto nerves and pain radiates from the spine to pain anywhere and everywhere in the body. I respond with silent tears and if I spoke I’d say just get it over with. Stop talking to me like I’m a child.
He never knows that I’m crying into my wrists folded under my head on the white table.
He never knows, how could he? That I’m five years old again, at Egleston Hospital. Encephalitis. I’m rolled face down, my naked back waiting, not knowing not knowing, not knowing, not told, that a cold needle will sink into my spine in this spinal tap. My parents aren’t allowed to be here, except in visiting hours. They aren’t allowed with me now. Nobody is.
People die alone or with a doctor and that’s worse than alone.
Bodies stack up, in vans, in morgues, in ice skating rinks. Now the needle sinks deep. The doctor says I’m doing good. He doesn’t know that the pain in my back is not the main pain. And it never was. Everything wasn’t easy when I was a kid. And I’m crying to mother, again.