The first wealth is health. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses. – Hippocrates
At the clinic we spent two days entwined: her, operated upon, me, healthy and compassionate. The innards, a complication that needed fixing and got one, by hands of 71 summers, mind you.
The space was strange, unsettling: the soft-sounded lobby was populated by occasional patients and visitors, all, it seemed, septo- or octogenarians. Once I suddenly heard strings hammered on softly and, turning around, I did see an in-the-flesh piano player. Who looked back at me morosely, surrounded as we were, by so many moribund folk. Even all of the doctors and surgeons were old; an odd thing that, statistically, I thought, having been to more other hospitals than I wish I would‘ve been by now.
The love of my life was in and out of fugue states. Sometimes I confused a wide-eyed, focused stare with wakefulness and tried to address her but the words slid right off her high wall of medication. However when she was up, we speculated on whether she‘d been overmedicated, we speculated on the exact nature of the post-surgical sutures/scars, we had conversations that doddered on dadaism, medically induced.
Still, in the clutch of our plected hands, love pulsed and throbbed.
Polite, mildly pretty nurses showed up at high frequency [a private clinic, remember], to check the convalescentee‘s progression: pulse, general state of well-being, blood-pressure, intake of painkillers, meals, etcetera. All the metabolic ins and outs that make a patient‘s glorious days at a hospital.
You come in knowing it is a place of life&death and but then it‘s just more like a hotel, a hotel for elderly people. A hotel where people by some outlandish agreement all walk around attached to IVs. And the staff in the lobby is absolute hotel-ish and you wonder what-on-earth they will do if, as must be the case eventually, a medical emergency happens right there in the foyer. Then again, in the wilderness of our age, terrorrism has already made one or two hotels more hospital-like, strewn with horrifically injured people and corpses.
The room itself was dark but elegantly pannelled. Wifi gratis. Each patient has a big screen TV. Each has a safe for the valuables because this is a place where robbery would indeed pay off: the helpless patients, the old-fashioned preference for cash, elderly ladies‘ bijoux. In fact, the clinic‘s sigil is a diamond, the connection of which to health is impossible for me to reconstruct [e.g. In particular, diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Those properties determine the major industrial application of diamond in cutting and polishing tools and the scientific applications in diamond knives and diamond anvil cells. ]
And then, as if to contradict my coagulating cliches, a freshly-baked mother strolled into the lobby, pushing her freshly-excreted baby along in a wooden crib with a mosquito-net-type of tent to protect it from the new world. She walked around the lobby with the little human being as if to spray vitality all over the lounge‘s ailing atmosphere.
Back in the room you can do no wrong. You can press the staff-button a million times an hour without getting nurses in a sour mood. In fact the staff is supremely solicitous. You get a bill for the coffee, which is weird considering how much the stay there costs to begin with [you‘d think a coffee, two coffees, ten are diddly-squat in that grand total]. But I needed succor to stay fresh & caring, to provide TLC.
Our hands lay curled on the linen, the pulse on our palms touching. We went to the toilet together, to be safe, to guard against fainting. I pushed her around the corridors and the lobby on a wheelchair and we would stay „outside“ [it was still inside the building] until another spell overcame her: sickness, nausea, vertigo, fatigue. The four horsemen of the post-surgical götterdämmerung.
Eventually I returned home, one night before her and found myself falling asleep in bed alone. What a strange, amputated feeling that was. In the middle of the night a full bladder woke me and as I shifted out of bed I realized that I hadn‘t a clue where I was. And it didn‘t matter either. Later, as I slunk back into dreamterritory, I vaguely realized what I was missing. The zero-point of my coordinate system, the nucleus of my signifying system: sweet Nomhle 😉