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Topic: Promises (02/09/04)
TITLE: CAN YOU SHOUT THIS TIME?
By Kathy Pollock
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I sit beside you, watching the rise and fall of your chest, listening to the whirr of machinery. Your hand feels clammy as I examine the work of the doctors and nurses who have treated you. A thin trickle of blood has dried below your nose, visible under the clear plastic of the oxygen tube. Powdery charcoal stains spot the faded blue and white hospital gown tied hastily behind your neck, and add a smudge to the smeared eyeliner on your cheek.
How many hospitals has this been? I try calculating this briefly, but decide itís too late and the answer is not exactly encouraging. Weary of sitting in the plastic molded chairódo these things actually contour to any real personís bodyóI rise to examine the treatment room. Wadded paper towels in the trash can are marked with your blood. Latex gloves of various sizes are present also, some with the fingers turned inside out. Your clothes lie discarded beside the bed. The silver beaded necklace has slipped from the pile of clothes and is half-hidden below the crash cart. I wet a paper towel and gently scrub the blood from your face. Is the smudge really a bruise? After more careful examination, I discover it is indeed charcoal and wipe that away too. Your head is propped at an unnatural angle to prevent you from chocking on your own vomit, and I wonder that you can sleep like that, even drug-induced. I wish I could lie on the bed beside you, but thereís no room. This is the third night without any sleep and I no longer trust my reflexesóthey seem to be slightly behind or ahead of any stimulus that occurs.
If I donít sleep soon, the shadows in the room will startle me. Iíll be braking on the way home, if I go home, for animals that arenít there.
I am so thirsty, but I left home in such a hurry that I have no change. You donít focus on your future thirst after another overdose. The change machine wonít help with a five, and no one at the nurseís desk has any money. Your boyfriend of course has no money, and in fact, has raided your cigarettes because he has none. Heís outside smoking the third or fourth, and Iím glad because his presence unnerves me. The charge nurse, who is competent and human, finds me a couple of Sprites and a glass of ice. Itís not the time to remember I donít like Sprite. He offers me food. Sure, I think Iíll order a pizza while Iím here. Hold the anchovies.
My thirst satisfied, I pull out the wrinkled piece of paper from my pocketbook. Of course I remembered the pocketbook because it has your insurance papers in it, of preliminary concern when your child has overdosed. ďI know the thoughts that I think toward you,Ē I read, ďthoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.Ē I think of all the pieces of paper Iíve written that promise on. The times when you were packing up to leave again, the times you were hospitalized, the times when you were on the road. Iíve tucked it into your suitcases, in your boxes, in the glove compartment of your car. It has been my promise. I didnít write down verse 13, and I struggle to remember it, my mind fuzzy from exhaustion. I obviously neglected to bring my Bible also, the hospital chaplain doesnít know the verse, and apparently the Gideons havenít made it to the ER. ďAnd you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.Ē I know your search has been sporadic, but mine has been constant. ďDoes that count, Lord?Ē I whisper.
The clock hands creep on in their endless journey. I try to remember other promises God has made, but the insistent sound of the oxygen machine is lulling me to semi-consciousness. Even the constant chatter of the nurses outside the room and the moans of the old man in the cubicle next to us arenít sufficient to rouse me.
I know that You usually speak to me in whispers, Lord, but I canít hear you over all these sounds. When you remind me of your promises, can you shout this time?