Wednesday 13th April 2011

by Megan Beth Koester

I am led out of my hospital bed and brought downstairs to the radiation quarantine area. A nurse with what can only be described as an incredibly loose grip on the English language taps my vein and begins to draw blood. My blood is thick and beautiful. It emerges from my veins in great spurts; droplets of it proudly suspend themselves to the walls of the test tubes. It is teeming with virility and strength. I cannot understand how it emerged from me.

The nurse injects me with a radioactive substance, holding it as far from her body as humanly possible. I take this to be a bad sign. As she’s injecting, she asks me, “You’re not pregnant?” I respond emphatically in the negative, perhaps too emphatically. I am so vehement in my response I feel as though I am fabricating my answer.

I go to the bathroom. The American hero that used the restroom before me didn’t flush the toilet; he also left a present of blood and vomit in the sink. I go to the bathroom again. This time the urinal has not been flushed. What is wrong with (i.e. is the major malfunction of) these animals? It’s no wonder their country abandoned them! Visiting the bathroom is a near-constant occurrence; I’ve been instructed to keep drinking water in the interest of pissing out radioactivity. Every piss screams, “I want to live!” A not altogether insignificant part of me wishes I could stop pissing. As I leave the bathroom, I notice a permanently red, mole-like man wearing Crocs sitting in the hallway. He makes a grand display of avoiding my gaze. I am almost certain he is the asshole who vomited blood into the sink.

It takes eleven seconds for the nicotine in a cigarette to reach the brain. I am told this fact by a soft-spoken, disquietly bald gentleman who then proceeds to tell me, in minute detail, the neurological specifics of the experiment I’m participating in (the experiment studies nicotine receptors in the brain). As he speaks I can feel my eyes glaze over. The last thing I did before entering this room is watch “TMZ” from a hospital bed; I was able to pay complete attention to that. This, I realize, is a perfect allegory for the situation in which I currently find myself.

I walk down the hallway and gawk at the veterans. Everyone here has been broken in some regard, either by time, injury or a combination of the two. Elderly men open their mouths and expel syllables, not words—the twists of flesh their faces contort into perfectly impart their feelings of helplessness. A stout old man with a bandage where his nose should be gives me a pained and pleading look that suggests I remind him of his dead wife. He vaguely resembles Mickey Rooney.

I can hear everything that happens in the rooms surrounding me. A nurse patronizingly yells at an old man, “I WANT YOU TO GO TO THE BATHROOM AND COME BACK. GO TO THE BATHROOM AND COME BACK.” Soon afterward I see her in the hallway; though I don’t hear her speak I can tell by her haircut that she was the offending party. After she walks by I mutter, “Fucking stupid bitch” under my breath; I consider this to be a show of solidarity for the old man even though I doubt he’d be willing to make the same statement. He is a card-carrying member of the greatest generation. I am not.

An overhead announcement, delivered at ear-splitting volume, informs us all that the bus to Bakersfield will be leaving in five minutes. I rack my brain but can’t imagine a more harrowing scene than the one which surely takes place on said bus. I envision the driver dropping a busload of drooling veterans off in a field, leaving them to mutter and stumble around for days until nature takes its course. I’d rather be dropped off in Iraq than Bakersfield.

I am led out of the hospital to smoke; in the process I pass by the Autopsy Center. It seems appropriate. I smoke on a loading dock while a radio blasts “Hotel California.” I can, indeed, check in any time I’d like, but I can never leave. I smoke one cigarette while the soft-spoken bald man stares at me with an uncomfortable amount of intensity; once I finish my cigarette the affable brunette asks me, “Would you like another?” I shake my head no; the intense bald man and brunette share a look of grave concern. He motions her over. He speaks to her with quiet passion, as I can tell by now he is want to do. They periodically look back at me, standing on the loading dock with an IV streaming out of each arm and an intermittently beeping machine on wheels keeping me company. Eventually the quiet man sighs and motions me over. We leave the loading dock as Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” begins playing.

Time has passed; I am now lying in a PET scan machine. Something goes awry. My veins are rebelling against their temporary masters; they refuse to continue giving blood, which is being removed from my veins every thirty minutes by my now-enemy the nurse. Lying in the machine I can feel blood run down my arm; I look down and see blood. Blood covers the bottom of my sleeve. I seethe with rage. My eyes fill with angry tears; I find myself unable to dry said tears, however, because the mere act of moving my arm sends waves of pain throughout my body. My head is also strapped down to prevent movement. If the researchers’ machinery could measure it, the revenge fantasy receptors in my brain would sparkle like diamonds.

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