Hospital Time

I’m in the waiting room at a hospital while someone I love undergoes a minor procedure. Shouldn’t take much, just my friend’s sedation, which is why I’ve come in as the caretaker. It’s weird sitting in the beige waiting room, trying to trust strangers who have taken custody of the body of a person I care about. I’m not going to witness much of anything, except the groggy end of this short odyssey in medical world.

I’m sitting here, remembering my own minor procedures, and what they call the “twilight” sedation, which is a total joke, there’s no twilight: no beautiful blue sky, no bright moon, no twinkling stars. There’s a giant grey hole in your memory and the associated events are utterly irretrievable.

They try to neutralize the presentation of the experience as much as possible. There are forms to fill, a medical bracelet to wear. The forms, the pen, are soothing. This is something you can take charge of, this is an activity at which you excel-—filling out forms, giving your details. People are polite and efficient. There are procedures and rites of passage, all bureaucratic. Staff and nurses and the doctor will ask you your birth date at each step of the way, and your ability to say “yes, that’s right,” calms every body down. You are who you are supposed to be, you are supposed to be going through this–it’s agreed. And you strip off your clothes and they put the I.V. in and they wheel you into the procedure room, and you remember nothing.

The process is part brutality and part civility—they will be polite and then they will probe you, sample your tissues, look inside, evaluate your body’s secrets on a giant screen.

But this time, I’m on the safe side of the door. My tension, like the risk to my friend, is slight, but it’s quite real.

One thought on “Hospital Time

  1. I had my first experience with twilight sleep last summer and loved it for precisely the reasons you describe above. The grey memory hole quality makes you realize just how much of our awareness persists in regular nightly sleep. Sure you were unconscious, but you still wake up with a sense of having been somewhere for the past eight hours. Whereas twilight sleep is pharmaceutical time travel: one minute you’re telling the nurse that you don’t feel a thing and the next you’re forty-five minutes in the future. The complete obliteration of intervening memory is unsettling: the record skips, and you get a little taste of death. But when once you get back it’s a thrill. Oh, I thought, that’s what nothingness is like.

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