"You figured what? You'd just get out of there and bounce right back?"
I shrugged, wiped away my tears that seem to always be threatening to fall and said that I just thought I would feel better.
"You probably feel better than being dead. It's been a little over a month. A month. Think of that."
"I think of it too much, I think."
"You're a carrier. You carry things. Some people might be able to go through what happened to you last year and go on like nothing happened, but I don't know any of them. Some people carry things, some people don't. Nobody would walk out of what you did unscathed."
"I feel assaulted. By everything. Like a layer of protection has been shorn away and now I feel like I have nothing left to protect me."
"Then protect yourself."
I think of the first surgery.
I think of that first moment, a cold shroud of dread being woven over me as I sat and listened to a doctor and nurse talk outside of what they thought was my earshot as they reviewed an X-ray. "Yes. Right there. Solid. She'll need to be referred out."
I remember how cruel I thought the surgeon was; irritated that I was asking questions.
"Look, it's this simple. I cut out the roof of your mouth. I hopefully cut out all of the tumor. I sew the roof of your mouth back on. If I can't get it all then we will have to reassess. Your questions don't answer anything that you want to know."
I nodded. And cried. That's all that I did.
I think of the second surgery, eight days later. 45 minutes and it would be over, they said.
I was woke up in recovery over five hours later.
"Massive bone deterioration. Did you have an infection? You'll need a new hip within a couple of years. We are going to hope that this works."
I was supposed to be back running in a couple of months, instead, I wasn't cleared to move for a month. Then I was allowed to swim; the irony of it--all of my nightmares of drowning; how even in the shower when the water splashes my face I startle and now, my only solace was getting in the water.
I remember one day, I finally put on a face mask and went under, pulled myself down to the bottom. I watched the bubbles rise slowly to the surface and I thought, "I could let go". But then Little A jumped into the pool, her goggles on, eagerly swimming over to me. I broke back up, panting for breath.
I remember looking at my leg when I stood, how blue it got. "It's not working right," I said. "You're paranoid," he said. "I am," I thought.
It's easy to think you are something when you don't know who you are anymore.
So I let it get bluer and angrier. The third surgery happened after that; when they opened me up, looking for a tied off artery or vein.
"Nothing, I'm sorry," my doctor said as I wept. It was obvious something was wrong, but they couldn't find it at the hospital close to home, so again, I had to leave home.
After the fourth surgery when they replaced my hip so many things happened. There was paperwork that wasn't signed so when I got to my room, I couldn't have any medications or food. I remember screaming in pain, screaming, literally. I ripped off the covers and stared at my leg; the bandage was oozing; there was fluid everywhere. It hurt so.fucking.bad.
"Why can't another doctor sign the paperwork so I can get some medicine? Why can't you fax it to where he is now?"
After a couple of hours, a stony silence settled over me and I refused to talk. The pain had settled in and I wasn't going to beg again. It was then that I realized I had a roommate. I heard her coughing. I covered my leg back up.
I remember the face of the resident that told me it was his fault that I hadn't been able to get any food the previous day. His face was smug and he was fat. He wasn't sorry in the least. I remember wanting to punch him. I remember thinking, "I bet you ate last night when I couldn't get a goddamn ice chip."
I remember actually trying to raise my good leg just to see if maybe I could kick him.
"You're irritated," one of them said. "No shit." I answered. None of them knew what to say to this crazy person with the wild eyes and wild hair who was cursing at them. And I laughed. I laughed until I cried.
"Up her pain meds to 1.5 and get her some Ativan," he told the nurse.
My roommate and I soon pulled the curtain that separated us and began talking. I worried about her too much to not talk to her. She had few visitors and she would be taken for tests and not come back for hours. Before I ever spoke to her, I would wait until she was back to fall asleep.
She came in for pneumonia and found out that additionally she had breast cancer. We were close to the same age. I quit complaining to her about my leg, but I kept reminding the nurses about the fever that I had and they kept feeding me Motrin.
"I just don't feel right," I said when they told me I was going home.
The next thing I knew, I was almost dead, but I was still alive. It's a weird place to reside.
It's hard now. My body doesn't fit me. I stare at myself in the mirror, hard, and try to find something that I recognize or like. I keep going through the motions because it's too hard to explain to people why I don't feel like going through the motions. I try to reach out to those that I wanted to see before I thought I was going to die, but I don't blame them for not having time. We always think we have time.
I want to yell out to everyone; to tell them how close we all are to being or not being, but I stay quiet, mostly; trying to save my energy for what I do know: The A's, my work, my favorite books and I figure that one day I will adjust my rearview mirror and recognize myself again.
"The wind shows us just how close to the edge we are." Joan Didion