I have no problem differentiating between hallucinations and factual events that occurred in my post-trauma surroundings. Though I had a flimsy grasp on reality immediately after I surfaced from the coma, the fleeting moments of lucidity proved themselves wildly enhanced. And my intuition had kicked itself into ultra-high gear.
A silent ambulance obeyed speed limits while it carried me from the intensive care unit of a standard hospital to a rehabilitation hospital where the thickheaded staff would try to subjugate me for the next three months. My faceless doctors had assigned me to a high-ceilinged three-bed ward. (During the course of my stay they would twice order me transferred to another room.)
My bed sat with its head against the wall to the right of the entrance, between the other two beds situated across the room from me. (At the time, this layout struck me as inefficient; a nurse later informed me that my doctors considered it important that they be able to access me from either side should I stop breathing or otherwise indulge in uncooperative behavior.) Though I stayed in the room only a few weeks, I experienced an ongoing parade of mostly wheelchair-bound roommates. The medical staff evaluated each patient upon admission and assigned a team of doctors to treat them as needed. Doctors constantly scurried in and out to briefly converse with their patient.
I couldn’t help but overhear the updates that my roommates and their doctors exchanged. After a couple days of unconsciously piecing together bits of information, it became apparent that each of them had sustained injury intentionally inflicted by members of rival urban youth organizations. The violence had been provoked by any number of grave blunders like walking down the wrong side of a street, wearing clothes of a certain color, or dissing someone’s girlfriend. Conversation among them almost always concerned their associates who had previously been patients at the rehab hospital, associates who were presently patients, and associates who would likely become patients.
One of my roommates suffered from brain damage. His girlfriend happened to visit once while his primary doctor gently questioned him; he answered using a softly shattered voice. She introduced herself to the doctor, they chatted for a bit and he advised her that the boyfriend needed support and patience now more than ever. She seemed to listen attentively and even nodded her head a few times. But when he left the room, she and her boyfriend giggled while they mocked him. After a few minutes she got into bed with her boyfriend and burrowed under the sheets. My bed was a good fifteen feet away but still the pungent intimate scent of an unwashed female, though sheathed by a bed sheet and a blanket, wafted across the room and intensified my post-stroke nausea.