I don't have a title for this short, short story. If you have any ideas, just leave me a comment.
Heal her and give me the pain.
That was the deal I made with the angel in the hospital.
Relative quiet finally arrived and there were no sounds I didn't recognize. The annoying machine that monitored my wife's health kept beeping when her blood pressure dropped too low. I was tempted to unplug the thing, but that would probably break another rule. I'm not averse to breaking a few rules, but the noise didn't bother her; she slept right through it. Finally I corralled a kindly nurse who did something to the setting and the machine quit squawking. Maybe she was tired of it, too.
Now I sat in the semi-dark room with only that fluorescent light behind her bed shining toward the ceiling. Indirect lighting seems so much softer after all the spotlights in the ceiling are turned off. The nurses let me stay in the room and sleep on the pseudo-leather chair that unfolded into a bed. One even brought me a pillow and a blanket.
Most nurses are nice. I'm glad for that.
I didn't go through the elaborate routine of expanding the chair and extending the footrest part and dropping the middle down to the same level as the other parts - you get the idea. You almost needed an engineering degree just to operate the transformer chair. It was too much bother. I was too tired, half unconscious with fatigue and worry.
I looked at her pale face in the wan light. Fluorescent lights don't do anything for skin color. The lines of pain no longer crossed her face. For now, she seemed quiet and peaceful, able to sleep at last. I held her cold fingers lightly since I didn't want to wake her, though I probably couldn't wake her if I sang songs from Fiddler on the Roof. I was glad they finally gave her drugs for the pain. I was pretty close to tossing a few doctors around after an hour of watching her cry in the bed in this small room. I think they saw the threat in my eyes and that's why they finally gave her something to help her sleep.
Yeah, I was on the brink.
Five hours ago she was throwing up everything she didn't eat, and doing a pretty violent job of it. Then the pain hit her. I helped her to the car, in her pajamas, tossed a friend's serape over her and rushed her to the emergency room. I don't know why our city has two different hospitals on adjacent blocks. I drove to the wrong emergency room and got her into a wheelchair, where the best she could do was rock back and forth, tears streaming down her face. Back and forth. Back and forth. Constant motion, to no avail. When the nice people at the check-in desk couldn't find her in their computer system I was losing it. The kid behind the desk figured it out. A cancer patient belonged in the hospital next door, he said. I was at the wrong hospital, the wrong block on the right street.
So I wheeled her and the borrowed wheelchair into the cold, dark night, through the slight drizzle and pushed her up the hill and across the side street, the hospital kid leading the way so I wouldn't get lost again. He was fast.
The other hospital computer had her information, but they were wall to wall people in their emergency room. Everyone seemed bundled against a chill that didn't follow us inside. When they gave me the paperwork I checked every box that said pain. I think it was the chest pain one that got us immediate attention from staff and angry glares from patients who were still waiting for attention.
On a scale of one to ten, one being the least and ten being the most, what's your pain level?
I answered for her when the nurse asked that. That would be a ten. She's in a lot of pain. The heavy-set nurse scowled at me and asked about the chest pain.
You see her rocking here, I snapped. Every part of her hurts and she needs something for pain and she needs it now. I don't know if she heard my teeth crack as I ground them together, but she said something about cardiac and no longer looked at me. Not all nurses are nice.
She exiled us back to the waiting room. The kid from the other hospital parked my car outside the emergency room doors and brought me the keys. Nice kid. He didn't even try to take their wheelchair back, but only asked how she was doing. I muttered something, but he could tell it wasn't going well. I had to leave her for a few minutes to park the car. I haven't run that much in years.
So we waited. I had no idea emergency rooms closed down for the night. They shuttled all of us to another floor, where we sat and waited for a room and a bed. Back and forth she rocked. I couldn't do anything except ask for someone to give her something for pain every five minutes and murder the doctors and nurses with my glare. I stroked her hair, held her tightly clenched fingers, and whispered encouragement I didn't feel. This smaller waiting room slowly leaked people through a tiny door with no window and a button to make it open.
Back and forth. She couldn't even get a full breath as the pain pushed tears down her tired face. Finally they called her name and we went through the tiny door, down a hallway of nondescript color with a floor that had light blue tiles and into a little glass room where they put her in a bed. She tried to stay curled in a tight ball, tried to keep rocking with the pain, but that was too much work for her. She could only lay there and cry quietly, the tears making small pools of water near her ears.
They stuck needles in her arm. It took three tries to find a vein, but she didn't feel those pinpricks among the other tortures she endured. I felt every one of them. I pleaded with these new faces for pain medication. A doctor can give her something for pain, they said. I pestered them, growled at them, psychically attacked them until a doctor complied.
The room smelled like alcohol and that funny cleaning stuff they use in hospitals. I hate that smell. They keep the temperature low, too. That's to combat germs they say, and it's a good thing, but I don't think it works as well as they want it to.
So I'm finally sitting in the cold, almost-dark room, partly covered with a blanket and smelling that hospital smell and I'm praying.
Heal her and give me the pain.
You don't always see angels. My friend once saw an angel standing guard over her house, a giant Statue of Rhodes with one foot on each side of her two-story dwelling. You have to hope that's a good angel. But mostly you sense them, a quiet whispered voice and the sensation that you are not alone.
Heal her and give me the pain. Unshed tears stung the corners of my eyes. Please.
I really thought I could handle it. I have a lot better pain tolerance than I let on. But I'd rather do the crying and rocking than watch her suffer like this.
I can do that, said the voice.
Do it, then. Just do it.
You're sure, asked the voice. I should have listened more carefully, I think.
Just heal her. Give me the pain.
I dozed off, I guess. Maybe it was all a dream.
The nightmare began when the doctor gently touched me on the shoulder to wake me, a look of profound sorrow on his face. I can still see his lips move as he told me she was gone.
The rest was a whirl of activities.
It wasn't until I got home, sitting in the silent darkness of my empty house, that I realized I had the answer to my prayer.
She was healed and I had the pain.