I’ve spent the past week in the hospital, felled by my own body in an ongoing flare, the severity of which pride would not let me admit. Though I have been drifting in and out of a haze of anti-nausea drugs, there has been some time for reflection, mostly on how much I hate being here. This is not my first hospitalization, nor will it be my last, but it is my first stay at this particular hospital. All hospitals are different, and yet, they are all the same. Infection lurks around every corner. Objects in the room are simultaneously sterile and tinged with sickness.
There is little to remind you of your humanity here. Your bodily waste is carefully collected and measured, you are clothed in a one-size-fits-all gown that somehow manages to simultaneously be formless and leave little to the imagination, and you are identified by a QR code on your wristband, which is scanned every time anything new is put into your body. Really, your body is no longer solely your own. It is filled full of tubes, connected to pumps and bags and a machine, which trails behind you, wherever you go, an unwanted, mechanical companion.
I should say that I am grateful. I have a good medical team, attentive nurses, and a private room. I believe I have been receiving excellent care. However, the hospital is not meant for comfort, but safety. It is cold, and lonely.
I will not be leaving the hospital alone. Instead, I will be adorned with a tube in my arm, further distancing me from my humanity. A weapon with which to stave off my death that still brings me closer to my mortality. It is more than a mere tool, but also a symbol: a permanent notice of my body’s fragility, whose occupation leaves me feeling partial, incomplete.
Yet, in the midst of the aseptic and the hygienic and the impersonal, I am granted a few last vestiges of personhood, of existence as anything but bleak and stark and soulless. Of all the reminders of my humanity, there is one that is the biggest, the brightest. And this is the one I now await.
An unnecessary curtain hangs over my doorframe. I wait for the door to open, the sound of the curtain pulling back. I live for the sight of his shoes under it, foretelling his beaming smile, his comforting presence. I bask in it, and for the meantime, I am human. For the meantime, I am whole.