(The images in this post are all gargoyles--protective monsters--on the cathedral of St. Vitus in the Czech Republic. St. Vitus is the Saint one calls on for protection from disorders of oversleeping...)
Fiction by Zoe Jordan.
Then I wake up in the hospital. My head is nodding, an act which seems purposeful but doesn’t have anything to do with me. Everything is bleary and super-white at the same time, and I can’t really tell what’s going on, but there’s a definite hospital-vibe, and some major part of my psyche seems to just accept that.
“There’s absolutely no reason to get so upset, dear,” comes out of my mouth. I rub the gunk from my right eye and cough, suddenly, and violently. Solid hands lift me and pound my back, and I get a fleeting moment of déjà vu.
“Thanks,” I rattle. I clear my throat.
A man in a white lab coat appears in front of me with a glass of water.
“Better?” he asks, as I tip the glass up.
I take a few careful sips and set the glass down gently in his hand before I nod and thank him. I try to pretend he isn’t gazing at me intently. He doesn’t seem to get the hint.
“Yes?” he prods.
“Um,” I manage. My throat clears a little more.
He smiles, his eyes crinkling up. “Good morning.”
I close my eyes.
“No, let’s stick with this for a moment, please.” I feel him standing over me and open my eyes to see him waving a mini-flashlight around in little circles. He clicks it on and guides it towards my eyes. “Follow the light. Good...I’m Dr. Vukovic. Can you tell me your name?”
“Very good, Ms. Oaks, do you remember what happened?”
“I think...I fell?”
He straightens up, slips his flashlight into his pocket, and smiles again. “Fell asleep, it sounds like. Your friend couldn’t wake you up.”
I try to sit up too quickly, and the entire back of my head complains. “Oooh,” I moan.
“Yep, you’ve got a really good knot there,” he says, a little more cheerfully than I would have. “Apparently, you weren’t seated properly when you fell asleep. Have you ever been treated for a sleeping disorder?”
I hold my head still. “No.”
“Anyone in your family have diabetes?”
I pause. “Is Liv...here?”
He waves towards the space behind him. “She just went to check on her brother. She’ll be back by at some point.”
“Her brother’s asleep,” I say quickly, before he can continue.
He pauses, his expression changing slightly. Somewhere, way back in my animal brain, I am already praying. Not the words, but the rhythm. I can feel it, waves lapping at the shore. If I can just get out of here and get home, I will figure out a way to fix this.
“Family diabetes?” he tries again.
“Not that I know of,” I tell him. “Is he going to be Ok, her brother?”
He writes something down on his clipboard. He has dark hair, with just a few streaks of grey, and it’s just long enough that it slides down slightly when he dips his head to write.
“We certainly hope so,” he answers, after a moment. “How old are you?
“I’m 18. Are you his doctor?”
“I am,” he says brightly, looking up again. “I’m going to need a phone number--mother’s, father’s?”
“Why?” I scrunch up my nose, trying to look simply annoyed. “I’m an adult.”
“And very responsible, I’m sure,” he responds, still smiling. “But I need a medical history, and it looks like I might have a hard time getting it from you.”
“What for? I’m Ok, I just need to go home and get some rest. I’ve been studying too hard. Scary exams,” I brush it all off with one arm, carefully keeping my head still.
People who are new to prayer have to concentrate on it in a way that makes them unable to do anything else at the same time. Or they feel it’s disrespectful to do something else while you’re talking to God. But for me, it’s like breathing. The worst thing about waking up in these strange places, not understanding how I got there, is those first few, extra-long minutes when I really don’t know who I am, and there’s this yawning silence. Nothing belongs, the ground isn’t solid. When you first come into the world, and your heart isn’t beating, and you’re enveloped in this over-bright sensory overload, that’s what I’m experiencing in those moments. I don’t walk right if I’m not praying. It’s a groove, a path I fit into. Right now, I can feel that rhythm, starting somewhere inside me, but for some reason, it’s still not connecting with the outside world. This man in front of me, he nods his head, and it’s completely out of sync.
“Waking up hugging a filthy toilet doesn’t scare you?” he asks pointedly.
Traitor. “I’ll lock my door and hide the key,” I smile at him winningly. A wave of nausea threatens.
He sits down on the edge of my bed. “What is the problem, exactly, with the subject of diabetes?”
I start to shake my head but think better of it.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I don’t know my parents. So I can’t tell you any family history. I’m sorry.” I try words, starting with Our Father. Maybe if I do focus on the words, they will take me back where I belong. This strange rhythm, it’s making me ill, I’m afraid I’m going to be sick everywhere.
“I see.” He pauses. “An orphan?”
“Yes,” I answer quietly, my eyes closed. “St. Vincent’s, from the age of six. There’s no record of my parents, so.” I shrug mentally, but keep my body very still.
He’s silent for a moment. “I’m going to get you something for your nausea,” he says finally. “Is there someone at St. Vincent’s you would like me to call?”
“No--” my eyes snap open and I reach forward to grab his arm, missing and heaving at the same time. Luckily, nothing comes out.
“Ok, Sophie? It’s Ok. Is there a problem at the orphanage? Are you still living there?”
“No,” I almost pant, my eyes closed again. “You have medicine for this?”
“Yes, it’s--” his voice turns in the other direction as a nurse enters the room. He says something to her and turns back to me. “Sophie, Liv says you’re not a drinker. Is that correct?”
“Regular stuff, like aspirin, birth control, vitamins?”
“No, no, nothing.” I heave again, and again nothing comes out. I realize I am still gripping his arm, but I can’t seem to let go.
“It’s Ok, the Phenergen’s coming. Just hold on. Can you tell me, have you lost weight recently?”
“No.” The world swings completely to the right. “Did you give me something?”
“We gave you some Flumazenil, a while ago, to help you wake up. Do you have any drug allergies?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t taken anything.” There’s some activity in the room, which I hope is the nurse with the drugs, but I keep my eyes squeezed shut.
“Any unexplained headaches?”
“No,” I whisper.
“Ok, Sophie, we’ve got something in your IV, you’re going to be feeling some relief any minute now. How many times would you say you’ve woken up somewhere other than you expected?”
I try to concentrate, but the queasiness has somehow worsened the head-pain, and vice-versa, and I can barely hear him. I try just listing the images as they come to my head, let him count.
“I don’t know, toilet...door...cupcakes...library...bench...” I take a few deep breaths. “Car--”
“Were you driving?” he interrupts.
“No, no. I don’t have a car.” The world seems to choose an angle and agree to stay there. The pounding in my head starts to slow.
“No car,” I repeat. I take another breath.
“When was the first incident?”
And there it is. The one question I’ve been avoiding, with every level of my being. This, all of this, is what the prayers promised to protect me from. Somewhere, I did something wrong. Something fell out of sync. I forgot a Hail Mary, I forgot to put something away, I ate the wrong beans on Wednesday, I didn’t keep the order. What did I do wrong? Where was it? How do I go back to fix it?
by nite tripper on flickr.
(All images copyrighted to their respective owners, fiction to me...)