*This post originally appeared (magic!) on my now-defunct blog page ‘Compulsions, Neuroses, And All my other Charming Qualities’
What. The. Ficketty. Fuck. Is that noise?
It’s not quite a grinding, and not quite a squeaking. It’s like a combination of hard plastic and 3″ Styrofoam, slo-o-o-o-wly being dragged against each other.
The terror this sound evokes has officially put me into bunny-hiding-under-a-bush mode.
I’m on my hospital bed, in this room I’ve been jettisoned into, arms clinging tightly around my knees.
Rocking ever so slightly, the beat of my heart a metronome to the rhythm.
Breathing shallowly. Imperceptibly.
Like maybe if I make myself small enough, quiet enough – still enough – I’ll disappear.
It doesn’t really matter that there’s a pause in between each grind, because the sound continues to reverberate, through all 4 of us in this room.
It bounces off of piss-smelling floors and mint green walls, off of stained ceiling tiles and metal bed frames.
It is no coincidence that this bed that they’ve ‘found’ for me, for my roomies, is two portals away from the Palliative Care ward.
Zero Stars. Would Not Recommend.
It is also not a coincidence that this grind/stop/grind/stop/grind/stop is a physical manifestation of my neighbour’s shifting of gears; brakes on, skidding, not willing to make that final stop two doors down.
When I muster up enough courage to actually look on the other side of the curtain (on return from one of my recon missions to the washroom), I feel weak-kneed. A sadness like none I have ever felt before washes over me like a tsunami.
The effect of this vision is as physically unnerving as the sound.
Besides me lies a man.
I use the word ‘lies’ loosely, as he is constant, writhing motion. His body has begun its ultimate evil, cruel betrayal, and now he resides here; every single muscle and sinew in his body in an involuntary, convulsive, slow contraction.
I use the word ‘man’ loosely, as he is – to my mind – simply spirit, encased in a flesh vessel.
That grinding sound?
His jaws. Grinding down his teeth. Micrometer by enamel micrometer. They will not, blessedly, get pulverized down to nubs; he will complete his journey before that.
“The medication may give you some mouth sores.”
This statement, factual and crisp, is delivered to me by one of the nurses prior to my first chemotherapy treatment.
I’m not too stupid to realize that this jumble of words is purely a cover-your-ass offering. Not unlike a pilot, who, when steering the plane through a hurricane, calmly tells his passengers “Sorry for the interruption, folks. It might get a little bumpy for the next few minutes.”
At first, all is well.
But then again, I have portioned my after-treatment existence into small segments of time.
The first half-hour is good.
The first two hours are good.
But then, despite all of my shadowy optimism – they surely do come.
Despite all of my misguided, dispassionate semi-belief that nothing bad will EVER happen – as predicted, the mouth sores do come.
Zero Stars. Would Not Recommend.
One moment, nothing; the next, they’re everywhere: palette, sides of my tongue, throat.
Swallowing saliva is like gargling with broken glass.
In an ‘unusual’ reaction, I start producing so much saliva, I can’t keep up. I’m drowning.
I vomit. I swallow. I drown.
“This is a very bad reaction” says my oncologist. “You must think I’m trying to kill you.”
I give him my best dehydrated wan smile. Really, you sonofabitch? You really said that? Fucking gallows humor. It never gets old, until it’s about you.
So here I am.
In a ward, getting wa-a-a-a-a-a-y ahead of myself, mere steps away from where all this might eventually lead me.
And here I sit, with more fluids pumping in to me to stop the drowning.
Oh, ho, ho. The irony.
I sit, listening to my room mate.
Listening to the stupid nurse trying to force-feed him. Willing her to stop.
Willing him to stop gurgling, sputtering, drowning in his food when the nurse leaves, feeling all smug and accomplished that she’s ‘gotten some food into him.’
Willing him to go back to Griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind.
Willing him to make it through the night.
Willing him to keep me company.
Willing him to not lead the way.
Just willing him.