Chapter 19 Hospital days.
Then the night came when the ward was silent, apart from the background hum of various life monitoring or body function sustaining machines, the nurses in their station had their heads submerged in the reams of paperwork which accumulated during their daily shifts, the fellow residents either slept freely or in their coma’s and I silently put my foot on the ground beside the adjustable bed and the other one followed and combined they tentatively discovered they had regained the strength to support the rest of me. I stood up straight, and my eyes wandered around the ward and took in the view from this new higher perspective where the ancient cracks were subtly hidden behind the building’s sterile yellow paint, the oxygen bearing tubes stood out from their rotating connections, the sacred heart looked down upon the broken and battered, the injured and sick, the virtuous and the sinner. I breathed deeply, slowly testing the first step, feeling it give but not fully, then the next gave as well but didn’t disappoint. I looked back to the distance of a foot I had travelled and knew the road lay ahead of me once more. I took one sloping step after another until I found myself circumventing the separating curtain between my isolation and that of the man with the loud snores and pungent flatulence, who I had only saw in my imagination on account of his determination to grasp the final strand of his privacy via a blue and white striped retractable screen. I was aiming for the toilet, a noble destination for my first excursion unaided. The blood drifted from my brain as I rounded the bed of my hidden companion who looked at me with concern and a worrying curiosity as I leant against his mobile food table for support, trying to reconcile the withered specimen in front of me with the rotund grease-ball image I had imbedded in my visual cortex.
“Are you alright there buddy?” the old timer’s accent revealed a long forgotten hint of the old country behind his strong New York tones. It was always the Irish condition to retain deep inside of one’s soul the country’s accent for the benefit of fellow citizens of the land of leprechauns, irrespective of the length of time since its rhythms had dominated the person’s linguistic charms. It was a powerful sort of secret code capable of resurfacing the deepest held fears and feelings of inadequacy from years of religious based sexual and moral repression, in the most successful and confident of emigrants. Its malignant purpose was to restore the natural order of the Irish way, where no one was ever allowed to indulge in the audacity of stepping above their predefined station in life. A station based on parental roots, primary school inadequacies and level of skill with a hurley or football held in the hands of red faced youths who were expected to retain the national drive for homogenise behaviour and to avoid stepping beyond the safety of the proverbial rails.
“Yeah not a bother, just a bit of a head rush” I said looking down at his prone body sensing the danger in the way his eyes fixed upon me and in the look he had about him of a man who retained an interest in the goings on of the land in which he was born and raised, despite having lived longer away from its green fields than in them.
(c) Francie McGivney