Letters Column for August 2006: August’s Story

Posted on September 5, 2006 by Jenna

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I spent most of August going back and forth to the hospital. Not for myself, but still pretty exhausting.

There was a lot of tragedy. For example, one day I discovered that if I got a sandwich at the hospital diner they would give me a free bag of chips and a pickle. They’d also make it exactly as I wanted! That was really cool. Except that most days after that I wasn’t eating dinner until like 11pm. That was after the deli closed. That late they would only serve me cold pre-made sandwiches—and no free chips or pickle! That made me really sad.

Also there was a woman who’d spent nine days in high heels because she couldn’t get a change of clothes and they wouldn’t let her visit her fiance in the ICU barefoot.

She was really nice, I thought.

(We brought in some spare shoes for her but I think the situation resolved before that mattered.)

There was a family that had the TV on all night in the waiting room where I slept. Somehow I can’t even think of that as rude. They were there as long as we were, I think, maybe longer. It wasn’t rude because it helped them survive.

It’s sometimes not clear to me where the line between dissociation and enlightenment is.

I spent a long time in August surrounded by people who couldn’t afford to care about the stuff we worry about every day. People who couldn’t even worry about the normal stuff like what might happen or what they were supposed to do. The constructs of preestablished life were missing in action. There was just a bunch of people under enormous stress making decisions about what they were supposed to be doing right then.

When people talked you could hear control in their voices.

Everything they said was full of the power of all the things they weren’t saying.

The most terrible thing—and I think I’m going to be writing about this for a few years, off and on—was the not letting people out of restraints.

Apparently one of my housemates was walking past one of the rooms in the ICU when the old lady there asked to be let out.

I was lucky in that I didn’t get asked that by strangers.

I was sort of lucky in that my friend had a tube in her throat and was mostly unconscious so she couldn’t ask verbally.

I think I have to say, even so, that it was wrong.

I do not know what I should have done. Right now, I’d still make the same decision—to sit there without acting, while all around me people were tied down against their will, often in pain, sometimes in pain they might have been able, otherwise, to answer—because I haven’t found a better decision to make yet.

But it sucked that I couldn’t find an answer that wasn’t blatantly unethical, and then, when it was like 11pm and I was hungry after all the moral struggle and such and I went down and got a sandwich,

No pickle.

In terms of Hitherby, here’s what’s up. I’m still recovering from about 15 days without functional sleep. I’m also trying to spend a fair bit of time with my friend for three reasons:

  • Just in case;
  • Because I missed her, darn it!;
  • Because you need people around you when you’re recovering from massive ick.

That said, on review, the third chapter of Island of the Centipede is finished, after all. The post that I’d been planning to make last Thursday is in fact the first part of the next chapter, not the third chapter’s coda. So while we are a bit behind, we are not so far behind as I’d imagined.

I’m going to try to get the next five parts done before I finish the letters column, although I might not manage this; this will influence whether I finish the letters column on Thursday or leave some of it for Saturday.

Be well!