Originally written in 2004.
It’s just a little after five o’ clock in the morning and I’ve come to see you. I ask if I can perform a pelvic exam on you; you reluctantly say yes. I try not to think about it too much as I insert my gloved fingers into your vagina, feeling your body tense with pain as I try to hasten my examination. I withdraw my hand from you, the fingers glistening with millions of particles of HIV.
It’s just a little after five o’ clock in the evening and I’ve come to see you. You’re not in the room, but your vomit is. Bright, chunky, thick red stuff that has splattered all over the white tiles of the floor. You didn’t even have to stick a finger down your throat. You’re 19 with a variant of anorexia and bulimia. All you have to do is think about it and you can make yourself throw up. You’re thin, almost too thin, but you think you’re terribly fat. You’re also terribly lonely, terribly empty, and terribly beautiful, but never beautiful enough.
It’s just a little after one o’clock in the morning and I’ve come to see you. You’re ignoring me but you roar to life when I dig my knuckles into your chest. You shout at me that you f—ing have respiratory problems and that you have a f—ing difficult time breathing and that you f—ing just want me to leave you alone, goddammit, because you’re in the f—ing hospital and why can’t you just f—ing be left alone in the f—ing hospital because you just don’t feel like you can f—ing breathe, goddammit. So why don’t you f—ing just go away, goddammit. And then you ignore me completely, pretending you are asleep.
And then you assault the nurses and we put you in three-point restraints.
It’s just a little after two o’ clock in the afternoon and I’ve come to see you. There is only one thing left to do before we can send you home. You’re doped up on morphine because your back is killing you. Your mother died last year, your wife died this year, and you live alone with your seventeen-year old daughter. Alcohol helps take the pain (which pain?) away. Neither you nor I are pleased about what I need to do, but we get it done quickly: You roll over, I pull down your pants, you shift slightly, I put on the glove, you breathe in, I insert my finger, you tense up, I withdraw my finger, and we both exhale in relief.
No blood in your stool, sir. Now we can send you home.
It’s just a little after two o’ clock in the afternoon and I’ve come to see you. Your feet are purple, your face is red. Chocolate brownie is in your hair and tears stream down your face. You lean forward, I try to sit you up. You keep leaning forward, choking on your tears, drowning in your love for methadone. If you don’t have it, surely your heart will break. You’re acting weird, why? Your body is acting weird, why? I want you to get better now, now, NOW, because I want to go home. I’m tired and I can’t think straight. And yet you look sicker and sicker and sicker.
It’s just a little after four o’clock in the morning and I’ve come to see you. The water reflects the slightly orange lights of the city. Layers of grey clouds coat the horizon. I see the trails of lights of the city streets. It is a different world, a silent world, a world where people aren’t sick. It seems so far away, even though the realms are separated only by a plate of thick glass.