Is there going to be another dawn?, I wonder.Then, as if struck by some divine realization, I cringe at the bare thought. I feel disgusted with myself, by my utter lack of hope. It is me who is supposed to provide the emotional strength and support, but I cannot even satisfy my own unsettling imagination. My mind is going places I cannot even began to comprehend.
The hospital lobby is brightly lit, the walls painted in a shiny uniform white. The slippery tiled floor sparkles after being thoroughly scrubbed moments ago. I am sitting or to be more accurate, shrinking inside my own feeble body on a sofa that is the most uncomfortable one I have ever settled in. I keep shifting and adjusting but remain a tad bit disoriented by my position.
I glance at the clock hanging on the wall and it seems to be stationery. The time, I deem is in no hurry to pass. It says 0148. Even past midnight, the hospital is as busy as ever. People with oxygen tanks, weird tubes hanging down their nostrils and genitals, in blood-stained clothes or otherwise, either moaning due to the incredible pain they’re in or completely unconscious are rushed in and out of the operation theaters constantly. I am numb to their misery. I can barely cope with my own.
I feel dizzy so I walk out of the lobby into the lawn, to breathe in some fresh air. There’s not many people around so I take out a cigarette, light it and drag in enough nicotine to numb down some of my senses. Then, at a mild pace, I puff in and out the rest of the cigarette lying in that wet green grass. There’s a light ache in my belly that I began to notice. Probably due to the prolonged fast I have been on for the last couple of days, I assume. But I don’t feel hungry, not in the slightest, just tired. I close my red burdened eyes and soon after, my exhausted brain retires for the night as I drift off into another world in my clouded subconscious.
I am shaken to wakefulness by a stretching hand attached to a nurse standing at a meter’s length. I open my eyes. It’s still pitch dark. My minds begins to function, receptive to the situation and my heart sinks deep into the ocean of the horrible possibilities that might have metarialized into reality while I inconsequentially hibernated. I look at the nurse’s face which is equally overcome with concern and worry. Oh God, Let this not be bad news, I pray silently in my heart. I quietly stare at her face wondering what might have happened.
“The surgery ended 30 minutes ago. We’ve been looking for you since.” She says in a light whisper. I try to rub the drowsiness off my eyes and stand up on my feet. My heart beats at an unprecedented rate. The struggle with my thoughts is so consuming, I forget to even ask how the surgery went. Maybe I haven’t forgotten but want to delay knowing what I will dread so damn much. Whatever it is, I’m gonna find out soon enough. There’s a 30% survival chance, not the safest bet, the Doctor’s words hang in the air, ringing in my head. I wonder what the time must be, for how long did I doze off because my head is still spinning, not yet fully rested. The moment I escape my thoughts for a mere moment, I notice the nurse staring at me. She has pity in her eyes, the kind that somebody would feel for a handicapped dog.
I try to contain my overflowing emotions, relaxing the distorted expression on my face. The nurse leads the way as I follow her back inside to the lobby. A cold breeze hits me just as I step in and I shiver ever so slightly. The nurse walks past the surgery room. Of course, she’s been exported somewhere else, I realize. They can’t afford to keep a patient in the OT’s a moment longer than necessary in hospitals as crowded as this. We walk through a double-door entrance into a long corridor lined on both sides with innumerable doors. The whole place looks a laboratory where illegal experiments might be carried out and not a place where people are healed. I don’t know where I am being led, to the morgue or the discharging papers, but I am absolutely terrified with one of those prospects.
Midway through the corridor, we come upon an elevator. We step in and she presses for the 7th floor. Right before the doors glide towards each other, I ask, “Where is this taking us? Emmmm, the lift?”. My voice is in a terrible, unmended state. It cracks and I have to use all my energy to keep it steady. I cross my fingers and stare down at the floor. There’s a loud buzz in my head, like the static sound in television and I can’t seem to shake it off. “To the Intensive Care Unit. Miss. Alveena was shifted to ICU No.4 at Dr.Kareem’s orders shortly after her surgery.”, she explains while tapping her red, unfashionable shoe, anxious for the lift to come to a stop.
The piece of information she has just revealed is neither reassuring nor devastating. Honestly, it’s hard to decide what to think. So she’s in the ICU, that makes one thing crystal clear, that she’s critical. But she was that even before she went into surgery. Actually it is exactly why she went into surgery in the first place. Has the surgery been unsuccessful then? Is that why she is still critical? Has the 70% chance overpowered her right to a longer life? Is it only going to get worse from here on?, all these troubling thoughts flood in with immense force, breaking down my already shaky composure.
I feel weak in the knees so I lie back in the corner and slowly slide down to the floor. The nurse baffled by my sudden break-down closes in and asks me to breathe loudly. Her drowning voice, it feels like is coming from a 100 miles away. I stuggle to make sense of her words but when I do, I concentrate on inhaling large volumes of air deep into my lungs. I release my breathe in a long sigh-like motion. I repeat the process a few times and finally, my mental state stabilizes.
We arrive at the seventh floor. I grab the nurse’s arm and stand up. She is awfully strong, her arms more muscular than even my own. Maybe her hectic, energy-consuming job has enabled this strength in her or maybe it’s a requirement in this line of work. We step out of the elevator. The floor is terribly quiet, not a single sound is to be heard. I see that the rooms are numbered starting from last or the elevator opens in the very end of the floor because we begin with 15 and make our way to 4.
The doors have a small glass window and a long metallic handle. I peek through the glass and all I see is a table placed in a corner right straight ahead in my line of sight. The bed’s view is blocked by what I can only assume is the bathroom. I pull the mettalic handle that has no locks, and without making any noise drag myself inside. I look back and realize that the nurse is gone. Alone I walk past the bathroom rambling prayers under my lips.
There she lays, in a white hospital gown. She’s sleeping, her body blue as summer sky. Weird machines lay all around her, monitoring her breathing and heartbeat. The repeating patterns in the screens, those mean she’s alive. She’s so thin, no flesh under the skin. No blood either, that’s why she’s so amazingly pale. Her chest rises and pulls back inside very slowly, her breathing a low whisper. Her bones are so obvious, she may as well be a skeleton hiding under brown wet tissue papers. Her cheekbones and jaw are so strangely apparent in her face, for a minute I fail to even recognize her. She’s become so weak, I think. The disease has eaten away at her, leaving nothing but a barely living alien-like creature.
I grab a chair and sit at her left, slowly placing my hand under her’s. I intertwine my finger with her’s. Her hands are so chilly, I feel the heat crawling and entering from my body into her’s. She’s wearing an expression of deep calm. Probably because she knows that either death would release her from the pain she’s endured for so long or she’ll recover and live a life better than the one she’s lived up till now. Either ways it’d be relief, escaping or surviving.
“Don’t die on me. Please don’t. You can at least try to fight harder. Life will be better soon, I promise.” A tear slides down my cheek and I’m able to taste it in my mouth. It tastes like blood. “I wish for so many things that could’ve happened different. Maybe, I could’ve met you much earlier in life or maybe you weren’t diagnosed with this disease at all. But most of all I wish for you. For life. A longer one. Please don’t leave me. Not yet.” I sob loudly and lose control of myself entirely. Stricken with grief, tears roll down my cheeks continuously. I wonder if she’s heard me, if my empty promises could be any consolation to her, if my words draw in her the will to strive and survive.
An hour goes by. I am still by her side. I’m expecting the doctor to barge in any second now and explain it all away, in a cold tone, in a detached voice, with an unsympathetic look, the fate that lies ahead and stares us right in the eyes. I hate hospitals. I always have. They are places one visits in the worst turmoils of one’s life. I’ve laid awake in hospitals for a million nights, waiting and hoping. Whenever father’s been ill, or a friend from college’s had an accident, or when Alveena’s condition has worsened. It is this god-awful place that signifies the pain and suffering of humanity, it reminds one of the imminence of death, of our own fragility, of the separation of the deeply beloved and of the cruelty and ache that thrives within our society.