In the hospital afterward, my mother staid nights, my lover days. I remember writhing and weeping, ice chips on my lips, wet washcloths. My voice was shot. Not permanently (blessedly), but as part of the temporary tug and tear. The narcotics came in staggered six hour rotations; timed right I could get an injection every three hours; but I had to ask for it. How? As I remember it, my mom woke in the night at my barest intention toward her. ”Breathe Darling, 1, 2, 3, 4, that’s right, on to 12. I know it hurts. Keep on. I’ve ordered the pain meds, but it’ll be seventeen minutes before we get them. Seventeen minutes, love, we’re almost there. Yes, here’s the washcloth. You’re going to be sick? I’ll call for the pan. Hold on, Sweetgirl, 6, 7, 8, 9.” All the while, my lips barely closing, the mere pucker and suck of some high-tide-hung sea thing; her comprehension total and perfect, immaculate.
It was like that with my lover, less desperate if only for the light flooding the room. He has always called me Babe, but now he cooed, “Sweetheart,” “Sh, sh, I hear you,” buzzing for the nurse, reaching for the pan, though I had failed to make a sound. The nurse would speak and I would flare my fingers, grind my teeth, flash my eyes, he translated. In the worst of the pain he wrenched his whole body ’round me to set his forehead against mine. We cried together.
I wanted the catheter out. And the fluid drip and the drain. But the catheter first. He understood and called for the nurse. She came: “Look, I can take it out, but that means she’s got to pee in the toilet on her own by six o’clock, okay? In the toilet, on her own two feet, with her eyes wide open by six, or it goes back in.” He looked to me; I blinked, “Okay.” She took it out. I winced, and fell asleep. My love slept in the chair beside me. The nurse woke us up at 5:45, asking, “Has she gone?” ”Hmph,” she remarked, peeking in on the washroom and it’s still-empty trap marked “LOWE.” My love wiped the sleep from his eyes, the sleep from my eyes. I tried to ask, “Will you help me?” He set about turning down the bedsides and swinging my legs down. I got there neither on my own two feet, nor with my eyes open, but I did pee in the toilet, ungovernably, pathetically, my head low, my breath shallow. My love squatted before me, folding a long sheet of toilet paper in a thick quilted star, offering it to me. ”Whenever you’re ready, babe.” I batted at it, looking up at him finally. He smiled, nodded.
When at last we made it back to the bed, the chair, I pursed my lips and tapped his wrist. He bent towards me, listening. ”In sickness and in health?” I nodded. ”In sickness and in health,” he said kissing my hand.