View from Room 826

I have no denial about the age I am, or what it means. People start to get sick at this age. The body fails in all kinds of ways. I’m aware of that. I’m conscious of my own mortality. I get it. We’re here for a certain number of years.

In our prime, we allow ourselves to feel powerful for a time. It’s not even that we “allow” it. We just do — feel powerful for a time. We think we’re just living and we take all the connectedness and intuition and flow for granted. It just IS. But later, it changes and we slip out of the flow. It’s natural. It happens to everyone. Like illness.

This was the view from my hospital room, the first one, when I woke up. Two days later, I was moved to another floor because I no longer needed to be connected to so many machines. The woman next to me was older and sicker. Still, she was working hard to get better and I know she was disappointed when I got to lose the nose tube first and the catheter and then was moved to the ninth floor. Goodbye, Anne. The sound of her oxygen monitor had kept me awake all night, but she was a sweet lady. I hope she’s doing well.

On the ninth floor, I met a girl who had had skin grafts. She’d had fake silicon injected into her hips a couple of years before and it had gotten infected. She’d spent a month, the previous year, at the hospital. She knew every item on the menu. She told me some of her friends loved hospital food (hard to believe) and they came to visit her and she shared it with them. She was twenty-one, which meant she’d had the silicon injected (in Brooklyn) when she was just nineteen. She asked me if I had any candy and I shared my lifesavers with her. I couldn’t eat anything. At first, I wasn’t allowed to — nothing for four days. A portion of my small intestine has been removed. I was getting my nutrients through the IV in my arm. The other IV’s were for an antibiotic and other drugs. Even after I was allowed to eat, I couldn’t because by then I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to be hungry. I had lemon ice. I got out after five days. My seventy-nine year old mother came to pick me up with her driver, Sal. He took us back to her house, where I slept and slept. The hardest part of being in the hospital was not being able to sleep. The machines make so much noise. They have alarms that go off. Some are just inherently noisy. I dreamed the sound of one was a horrible song that I was forced to listen to over and over. It began its pattern every thirty seconds. (I’d watched the clock and timed it.)

The illness happened so suddenly and though I have no denial about my own mortality, I was shocked to find myself in an ambulance and then a hospital room. It was five in the morning by the time the results of my MRI came back. It was an emergency. I was given papers to sign and was in surgery by six. I remember asking my surgeon if he had ever performed the procedure before and he laughed. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in room 826.

It lifted my spirits to see the cityscape and the blue sky and dramatic clouds. Such a beautiful view.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been reading. (Karl Ove Knausguaard, books one and two, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.) Doe was freaked out at first. She’d been rescued by Jen, my sometimes dogwalker, who stepped in and took over, took care of the cats and Doe without notice. Bought supplies, took Doe home with her. I’m so grateful to her. All of my friends have been great, just generally wonderful and generous and kind. I’m lucky.

Meanwhile, I wait for my agent to read the new book and get back to me. She has had her own emergencies and life takes precedence. If I needed a reminder of that, I don’t now.

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