Somebody take those damn fries out before the whole place goes up! Huh? Wha…? Oh. Not at the Wendy’s. Uh..oh…this looks like a hospital.
Looking around things begin to unblur and I see the sterile non-color walls of the room around me in a dim half-light. Something must have happened for me to end up here. Last thing I remember was sitting at the bus stop waiting to head home from work…can’t think. Head pounding.
“He’s awake!” an unfamiliar voice announces. Female, Southern. “Mr. Stone?! Mr. Stone?!”
God. Stop yelling lady…can’t seem to make the words come out of my mouth. Firm nurse hands shaking me. “MR. STONE? CAN YOU HEAR ME?! We need to put him under his BP is going back off the charts!”
Ah good, darkness again…
“Oh! the clothes need washin’ and the fire won’t start, kids all cryin’ and you’re breakin’ my heart…” , a rusty old voice, like someone rolling a tin coffee can full of nails back and forth, drifts into my ears. “Whole darn place is fallin’ apart, maybe things’ll get a little better, in the mornin’ maybe things’ll get a little better…”
Even this old rag beats that beep beep beeping. “Meeruuhh…”, I barely croak.
“Work your fingers to the bone – whadda ya get…?” the old voice sings on. “Whooo hoooooo! Boney Fingers – Boney Fing-gers…Oh! Say! You’re up!”
“Meer uhhmph.” ,my throat is like a desert in drought.
“Uh huh. Yeah exactly. You’re meered umphed all right! Heh!”
There’s a bit of shuffling as the owner of the voice moves across the room; I feel a shadow fall across me as he leans over to look blearily at me looking blearily at him. I get the smell of soap and peppermints as he shuffles away before talking to someone just outside of earshot.
A bright light hits me, “Mr. Stone! Are you awake?” the familiar Southern voice from earlier asks.
“I’m looking at you ain’t I? Get that light outta my face.” I manage to grumble.
“Well! You’re just fine and sassy. I’ll send the doctor in here in just a second to give you the talk.”
Some undeterminable time passes, the old man in the bed next to me whistles and hums and after a while a white coated man enters the room with a clipboard. We go through the cordial how are you today chit-chat, more lights in the eyes, listening to all my gurgles, and the standard do you know your name and what year it is questions. I pass them all with flying colors except for what happened between sitting down at the bus stop and coming here – and the last three days – and of course the small detail of insurance and who was going to pay for my fun ride from that location.
Whitecoat goes on his way flipping pages and a few minutes later a short stocky woman in dark blue scrubs rolls in with a laptop on a standing three wheeled cart. Ah, the money man! Er, woman. Dealing with her proves to be even more violating than the knowledge that at some point in my recent adventures some poor soul has had the terrible task of dressing and cleaning my unconscious self.
“You simply must have insurance or some means to pay for these services Mr. Stone!” the bean counter in blue exclaims.
“I simply must have a cigarette. Do you have a cigarette, lady?”
“The doctor will be in later to talk with you further!” , she informs me with an exasperated sigh.
My head is absolutely throbbing. I’m not about to ring the bell to ask for anything to help with the pain – just more of what I already can’t afford. My roommate, the old man, sits facing away from me on the edge of his bed looking out the window. It’s a beautiful clear day, with not a cloud in the blue sky, but somehow everything feels like rain. I lay back on my bed and stare at the speckled tiles overhead. I don’t even realize that I’ve fallen back asleep until the nurse wakes me to take my vitals. A moment later Whitecoat returns.
“Now, Mr. Stone, we’re going to keep you for a few days for observation but I’m afraid I have some news to tell you that may be concerning…” , Dr. Whitecoat begins. “In the course of your initial entry we discovered a large mass at the base of your skull putting pressure on your brain; that is likely the cause of the episode that ended up putting you here.”
Wait. Wait. This isn’t something I need to be hearing. Why is he starting to talk faster?
Don’t talk faster!
“There’s no need to get upset, we’ve stabilized you with medicine to help with the pressure on your brain and we still have some more exams to run before we can confirm anything, and some time to consult with the surgeon, but with no insurance available we don’t have much recourse but to discharge you until you’re able to arrange something…you may want to begin contacting family or love ones to…”
“I don’t have anybody.”
“Pre…prepare…Uh, oh. I’m sorry Mr. Stone. Please, get some rest. We’ve still got some looking to do.”, he stammers, already beginning to back out of the room. “The nurse will be back in to check on you in a little while, try to get some rest.”
“Heh. Hell of a thing ain’t it?” ,my new roomie chuckles through a toothless grin. “You can’t pay enough to live, I can’t give them anything to let me die. Wanna play checkers?”