Immediately after I entered the hospital, my doctors spewed their quarter-assed diagnosis at my parents who passed it along to my grandmother. She (like most people) regarded the conclusions drawn by white male doctors beyond reproach. News of their—and in fact everyone’s—irresponsible speculation prompted her to write a letter to me, her ill-bred wicked grandson. In it she expressed her hope that enduring this stroke fiasco would somehow “save” me. The correspondence caught me off guard because though she counted herself as a devout Catholic, she had never impressed me as a woman inclined to use what amounted to a popular catchphrase.
* * *
After I’d emerged from the coma, I remember lying on some sort of stationary gurney in the ICU of an urban hospital.
A post-coma murk had enshrouded my perceptions while a zealous nausea overwhelmed my body. A cleaning woman working the graveyard shift parked her maintenance cart in the hall and wandered into my room. She hovered over me, scrutinized me from head to foot while shaking her head and clucking her tongue. In a Spanish accent she solemnly informed me that Jesus still loves me regardless of my “terrible sin.” Then she gently grabbed my hand and suggested that we pray. Since I could neither talk nor move I didn’t resist. I had no idea what the fuck she was trying to convey as she blathered; I don’t think she really knew either. But she seemed convinced that lacing her petition with thee’s, thou’s, and plural pronouns would win God’s approval.
* * *
A few days after I’d arrived at the rehab hospital
an unkempt CNA possessing an ass the size of Canada protruding from the frame of a lapsed body builder trudged into my section of the room. Like the cleaning woman at the ICU she towered over me (though this time I sat in a wheelchair), examined me from head to foot while shaking her head and clucking her tongue. Unlike the cleaning woman, she didn’t bring tidings of love; actually she seemed pissed.
Her eyes bulged and she sneered: “You gots a real bad attitude. I seen peoples like you in here all the time. I feels real sorry for you. I’m gonna pray for you ‘cause my mama, she raised me to pray for peoples like you.”
* * *
During my stint in warehouse I developed a severe pain in my upper-left pubic area. An ambulance whisked me to the hospital where incompetent nurses and an arrogant butcher doctor fucked up surgery as basic as removing my appendix
—I emerged from a nine-day coma to learn that I’d suffered toxic shock syndrome. After a battle fought via many phone calls from my parents, the wonderfully accommodating state government allowed me to stay in the hospital a couple weeks and recover. One late afternoon a clearly unsophisticated CNA rushed into my room to change the sheets on my bed. It seemed late for such a chore but given the hospital staff’s dependability quotient thus far, the inefficient schedule didn’t surprise me. The botched surgery and ensuing coma had rendered me phenomenally weak, so the CNA helped me transfer to the chair beside the bed. Frazzled, she complained that a colleague had phoned in sick forcing her to shoulder twice the routine duties.
The CNA continued to prattle while she made my bed. She started to stuff a pillow into a freshly laundered pillowcase and then froze, made eye contact with me and asked, “Are you married?”
I managed to slowly shake my head and mutter: “No.”
She frowned and resumed her task: “Well, it’s probably just as well. Maybe God doesn’t want you to get married.”
She finished cramming the pillow into the pillowcase and tossed it onto the mattress. She fluffed it up, then helped me transfer into my ostensibly clean bed. As she hurried out of the room she promised: “I’ll pray for you.”