Published on April 3rd, 2014 | by Boris
THE PRICE – Part Two
“Excuse me, nurse. Nurse! Excuse me, nurse. Would you tell me where the bathroom is? I need to go to the bathroom. Nurse! What is going on? Why is no-one answering me? Nurse? Nurse! Someone! Why are those cats there? Who is that? Why won’t you answer me? ”
I was wondering that myself.
Someone should really answer the crazy lady opposite me.
But I was more than a little crazy myself on drugs and pain and the struggle that was taking place between the two of them, so my views were all over the place anyway.
Still, at this stage of our relationship, Florence’s requests, delivered in a beautifully enunciated, but very imperious and somewhat whining tone, seemed perfectly reasonable.
As she continued to squawk, I lay flat on my back and peered at the ceiling.
Earlier, I did try turning on the ancient black cube-like TV that hung above my bed, but apart from a live feed of the deserted chapel on the ground floor (yeah, I can’t work that out either) and a warning that any use of the TV would need to be paid for, there was nothing else being broadcast.
So I was watching the ceiling when Florence woke up.
Happily, the ceiling was moving again. Not all of it, mind you. Just the two ceiling tiles directly above my head. Their pocked surfaces would begin to slide each time I stared at them for a few seconds. It fascinated me. I knew the ceiling wasn’t actually moving and that it was the drugs rampaging through my system that were responsible for what I was seeing. But that did not make it any less intriguing.
It certainly beat the hell out looking at the only other thing my position allowed; my smashed arm, and feeling it throb and burn and itch with every heartbeat. It also beat wanting to tear out the searing, awkward, catch-on-every-bastard-thing cannula hanging out of the top of my right hand, spit it onto the floor and lurch screaming through the hospital with my gown flapping wildly and my body spurting blood and plasma at everything.
I hated that cannula. I have hated every cannula ever jammed into me each and every time it has ever been jammed into me. I hate it from the second its thick, hollow spike is dug into a squirming vein by a nurse or doctor who is apologising insincerely the whole time, until the second it is pulled from my body and I am out the door and going home. There is nothing on this earth that I could possibly hate more that the whole vile, intrusive and galling cannula experience.
My cannula was attached to a drip-machine that kept my veins open with saline solution so they would stay plump and veiny and eagerly absorb the feral cocktail of uber-antibiotics that needed to be hosed into me for the next 72 hours non-stop.
Gentomicin, Metronidazole and Cephazolin took turns being hooked up to the squeaky, hard-to-push, decades-old stand which housed the drip-machine and the antibiotic solutions, and which I would have to wheel squealing to the shitter each time I wanted to pee.
But we shall speak more of my various bodily emissions in the fullness of time. They are not yet pressing or paramount.
Exposing my shattered bones and steaming marrow to the outside world is what the doctors were most concerned about. The repair of the breakages was, in real terms, just a fiddly carpentry-type job. The neck fracture just needed to be not-aggravated. But when your body’s most sheltered, armoured and protected gloop, your bone marrow, is allowed to whore itself about the place, people pay attention. Infection was what everyone was worried about.
Everyone except Florence, of course.
The only things Florence was concerned about that afternoon when she woke up and distracted me from enjoying the moving ceiling were:
- What was going on?
- Where was the toilet?
- Where was the nurse?
- Why was she (Florence) there?
- Why was the nurse not there explaining things to Florence?
- Whose children were these?
- Why were cats permitted on the walls?
- Why was she not permitted to get out of bed?
- Why was she being forced to get out of bed?
- Who was that over there and what were they doing?
- Why did she have to take these pills?
- Why could she not go to the toilet first, then take her pills?
And, as I subsequently discovered, these were the only things Florence was concerned about – and she was concerned about them not only that afternoon after she woke up, but on a continuous basis from the second she opened her eyes until unconsciousness claimed her at about 8am the following morning.
Of course, I was unaware of this at the time. I had only just arrived in the ward. Its particular dynamic was still a mystery to me, but Florence’s strident pleas were very difficult to ignore.
So I didn’t.
“The toilet’s just there on your left, lady,” I croaked hoarsely.
“Who is that?”
“I’m the patient opposite you. You asked where the toilet was. I just told you.”
“I want to go to the bathroom!”
“So go,” I said.
“What’s going on?’ she demanded imperiously.
I may have been smashed, and my insides may have been a spicy melange of chemicals, pulped bones and bruised organs, but I was not retarded. I could certainly identify crazy when it was waved in my face.
The ward’s dynamic started to make sense to me.
But Florence was just as confused as she was before.
“Nurse! Nurse! What’s going on? I need to know whose children are over there. Why won’t anyone explain things to me?”
I buzzed the nurse.
A few minutes later Afternoon Shift Nurse appeared. She was a bland-natured creature who seemed to view the patients under her care as temporary inconveniences to the peaceful flow of her shift and whose mewling requirements would be met in the fullness of time.
“That lady needs a nurse,” I said, gently swaying my bandaged appendage in Florence’s direction.
Florence was now muttering unintelligibly to herself, which was her default position when no-one responded to her demands and imprecations.
“Florence? No, she doesn’t.”
“She keeps asking for one,”
“So why are you buzzing on her behalf?”
“Because her pleading is getting on my tits.”
Afternoon Shift Nurse blinked at me, clearly unused to the kind of brutal honesty I am happy to provide at the drop of a urine-bottle.
“Look, she’s…a little confused. She really shouldn’t be in this ward…” the nurse said quietly.
“So why is she here then?”
“She’s had her hip replaced.”
“And that replacement takes precedence over her madness?”
Afternoon Shift Nurse looked confused. And when nurses are confused, they will seek to change the subject.
“Is there anything you need?” she asked me.
“Yes. I need you to unplug this thing from the wall so I can go and have a piss.”
“Would you like me to bring you a bottle instead?”
“So that the stench of my piss can sit by my bed and flavour the atmosphere of the ward for the next few hours?” I growled. “Nah. I’ll use the toilet.”
I levered myself upright, all tubes, bandages and throbbing, sat on the edge of the bed while I waited for the ward to stop orbiting itself, then shuffled the three metres to the toilet.
“Excuse me!” Florence piped up as I moved into her line of sight. “What’s going on? Where is the toilet? What are you doing? Why am I here?”
In retrospect, I should have just kept on shuffling with my trusty drip-stand squealing beside my thrombo-stockinged feet. But I didn’t. I engaged. Hell, if Florence wanted questions answered, I was her man.
“I’m going to the toilet, that’s what’s going on. It’s right there. If you keep watching, you’ll see. I will be doing number ones in there, and eventually, the Road Gods and good hospital-grade laxatives permitting, I shall do number twos. And you’re here because you’re sick. Are we all clear on everything?”
I might as well have spoken to a wall.
“What’s going on?” Florence demanded. “Where is the nurse? Whose children are they and why are there cats here? Why won’t someone answer me? Nurse!”
I looked at her. My heart broke a little. Florence was very old and very frail. Her skin was the colour of dust and her eyes were bright with madness. She was propped up in bed in a sideways fashion with her head resting on her shoulder. And she was crazier than a Cardinal justifying sex crimes. Right then, I felt very sorry for her and I wanted to help her and put her obviously troubled mind at ease. In the early hours of the following morning, after having listened to her endless wheedling demands for the last six hours, I wanted to push a pillow over her face and demand she go towards the fucken light.
But right then, I had more pressing needs. And that was coaxing some urine out of myself, then examining the aftermath of my accident in the mirror.
The urine part was harder than I thought. My left arm was a thudding log of pain and if I didn’t hold it perfectly still it would send agonies lancing through my body. My right arm was fine, but it had a cannula mounted on top of my hand, which was hooked to the drip at the top of the stand I was wheeling. I could not move my head because it was locked in a massive brace, and my neck and shoulders ached like there was an axe buried in the top of my spine. It hurt to move and it hurt to breathe.
I managed to find my penis, which was thankfully where I remembered it to be, pointed it sightlessly at what I hoped was the toilet bowl and flexed the wee-wee muscle. That hurt too. I used my gown to catch the drips (yeah, like there’s any dignity in hospital, and like I gave a shit at the time) and shuffled through 90 degrees to peer at myself in the mirror.
Oh dear, I thought. This is going to take some healing before the bitches get their fizz on again. I looked very much like what I was, a large tattooed man who had faceplanted into an SUV.
I could not stand upright, and my hunched body described a shallow-curved S as it stood before the mirror beside the drip-stand. I was wearing the hospital gown a la Sheena of the jungle, ie. off the shoulder, and rumpled and stained with primate ejaculate. My left leg was purple-black with bruising from the knee up where the VROD’s tank and ’bars must have slammed me in passing. My left arm was bandaged to the elbow, swollen to twice its size and the tattoos that ran from my elbow to my shoulder had all been submerged beneath another vast, dark bruise. I could also do with a haircut and a shave.
“What’s going on!?” Florence wailed as I opened the toilet door.
“The Ukrainians are very unhappy,” I told her. “And I have a headache.”
Florence absorbed this in contemplative silence, but as I gingerly lowered my battered body onto the bed, she started up again.
“Who is that? Where are they going? I want to go to the bathroom! Could someone please tell me where the bathroom is…” etc.
A short time later a male nurse arrived and began his daily evening ritual of cajoling Florence into taking four pills.
This took the best part of an hour-and-a-half, and since there are only two nurses allocated to 16 patients, the other 15 patients had to make do with one nurse, except when she was needed to assist the first nurse in pleading with Florence to take her pills.
I remain humbled and amazed by their patience. I would have shoved the pills into Florence’s mouth, then clamped my hand over her mouth and nose and used my other hand to strob her wrinkled neck like a bison’s cock until she either swallowed the drugs or died. Which is probably why I would make a crappy nurse.
But not so the nurse who sat with her.
“Come on, Florence,” he would plead. “Just one at a time.”
“I can’t. Please don’t ask me.”
“Yes, you can. Just try.”
“No, I will take them later.”
“Take them now, Florence.”
“I will go to the bathroom first and then I will take them.”
“Why don’t you take them and then go to the bathroom?”
“I can’t. I just can’t. What’s going on? Why won’t anyone tell me what’s going on?”
And so on and so forth until I wanted to scream: “Take the fucken pills, you crazy old cunt! Take them or I’ll shove them down your throat and ram them into your belly with the cleaner’s floor-mop!”
But I didn’t. I just lay there and watched the ceiling crawl. I knew that eventually I would go mad and that nothing, least of all crazy Florence, would matter. I’d be just like her. I’d just lie here squirming in my own filth, asking questions, demanding answers an not giving a shit about anything or anyone.
It sounded like a bonny plan.
I had no access to a clock and my watch had been torn off my wrist by the bones that came storming through the meat where it normally sat. But it must have been around 10pm when the nightshift nurses came on. I do not know whether Florence had taken her pills, but at some stage she had been placed on a commode-chair (a process she howled about with great vigour), but before she could be wheeled into the toilet, she just let it all go right where she was sat facing me between the foot of my bed and the foot of hers.
I had managed to raise myself a few degrees up from horizontal with the electronic bed control an hour earlier, so I had a front-row viewing of Florence’s noisome bowel-emptying. Fuck, yes, that cannot ever, unto the ages of ages, be unseen.
Florence was facing me, less than two metres away, her hospital gown was rucked up around her hips, her thin and wasted legs yawned apart and from the shadowy age-mangled recess between her legs, twin streams of piss and shit came pouring out.
“Florence!” one of the nurses screeched as she heard the filth splattering on the floor. “You could have waited!”
“What’s going on!?” Florence responded.
From where I lay, frozen with pain and disgust, I got the impression that old Florence knew full well what was going on. I also got the impression, as the jagged stink of her gut-mess forced its way into my throat, that if I threw up, I would probably explode something important internally. So I closed my eyes and tried to breathe through my mouth as the nurses rushed to clean up the mess.
Throughout Florence’s evening performance, the Spanish lady and the Turkish lady had been silent and dignified. Both were clearly from racial stock that suffered in stoic silence and dignity.
Once the chattering village that visited the Turkish lady each day from 9am until 9pm departed, it was as if she was not there. The Spanish lady only had two or three visitors a day, and the visits were invariably quiet affairs. I was yet to have any visitors, and Florence apparently required none, but if I was to survive this night, and however many more nights I had to spend here, then I would need to change things.
It was now midnight (I knew this only because the nurse had told me) and Florence, freshly cleaned externally and massively voided internally, was dialling her crazy around to ten on the stereo.
Because the nurses would not respond to her endless demands, questions and calls, she had taken to banging her food tray against her table.
I asked her to stop it.
“Lady, please,” I moaned. “Have some consideration. Can you not do that?”
“Who’s that?” she demanded. “What’s going on? Where is the toilet?”
Then she went back to banging her food tray.
Around two am I decided to murder the mad cunt.
No court would convict me.
The world would be better off and I was certain that even Florence would be happier.
I made a deal with a Jesus I did not believe in.
“Jesus,” I said to the crawling ceiling tiles. “If I press the nurse’s buzzer and she comes and she does something about Florence, then I will not kill Florence. But if she does not come, or she comes and does nothing, then I will kill Florence in your name and with your blessing. Amen.”
It was out of my hands now.
I pressed the buzzer.
A nurse appeared just as Florence was taking her drum solo into Phil Collins territory.
“Do something about her,” I pleaded.
The nurse’s eyes were full of concern.
“Ees very difficul’ for evrivun,” she sighed in broken English.
“No,” I said pointedly. “It stopped being difficult a long time ago. Now it is impossible. I made a deal with Jesus. Either you do something about her, or Jesus is going to do something about her.”
There must have been something in my tone, or the way I referenced Jesus, but the nurse sprang into action.
She went over to Florence’s bed, kicked off the wheel-brakes and started wheeling her out of the ward.
“What’s going on?!” Florence demanded.
“Joo are been very noisy,” the nurse said. “So joo can spend di nigh et di nurses’ station vid mi.”
“But where are you taking me?!” Florence wailed.
“Away from the tender arms of fucking Jesus!” I shrieked.
Florence’s voice faded until it became a sibilant muttering far from where I lay.
A peace suddenly reigned in my ward.
“Teşekkür ederim,” said the Turkish lady quietly
“Buyrun,” I replied.
“Grazias,” the Spanish lady whispered.
“No es nada,” I whispered back.
A few minutes later, a doctor with massive weight-lifting arms and shoulders swept back the curtain around my bed and asked me how I was.
“Sleepless,” I said. “In pain and sleepless.”
“Have you ever had Temazepam before?”
“I will prescribe 40mg for you now.”
“Make it 60. I lift.”
“Sixty it is,” he grinned.
The next morning, Florence was back across from me, but sleeping peacefully.
I was made ready for surgery, which was basically making sure I did not eat or drink anything, and wheeled off to theatre.
Surely, once I had been surgeoned up, my lot in this life would improve.
TO BE CONTINUED