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I Can't See by Maxine Flam

I’m awake, but why is it dark? Am I really awake? Yes, I am. But I can’t see anything. What’s going on? I feel bandages around my head holding two pads, one on each eye. I feel my hands and they’re bandaged too.

Where am I? I smell bleach. I must be in the hospital. That makes sense but what happened? I can’t remember. Shit! What day is it? What time is it? If this is a hospital, where’s the bell so I can call the nurse? I fumble around for something that might not even be there because I don’t know where the hell I am. I am pretty sure I am in a hospital. I feel the bed for a call bell. Ugh! I can’t find it. Damn!

“Dr. Firestone, please call extension 215; Dr. Firestone, extension 215,” the overhead voice says.

That confirms it. I am in a hospital. How did I get here? I continue to obsessively grope for the call button so much that I lean too far to the left and fall out of bed.

“Help!” I scream. I find the bell as I land on the floor. I hear footsteps. A person touches me.

“Dr. Firestone, call extension 215. Dr. Firestone, call extension 215,” the annoying voice says again.

I reach out to grab the arms of a person I can’t see but only touch. Arms of a stranger that make me feel safe.

“What are you trying to do? My name is Joyce. I am your night nurse. Here is your call bell if you need anything.” She places it in my hand.

As she moves away, I say, “That was what I was trying to find when I fell. Wait, where am I? How did I get here? What happened to me?”

“The doctor will be in later this morning and he’ll talk to you about everything. Are you hungry? I’ll have a tray sent up but in the meantime, I’ll bring you some snacks we keep at the Nurse’s station to tide you over. I’ll be right back. Stay put.”

Where did she think I would go?

Before I could say, “Don’t leave,” she’s gone, but her scent lingers. I recognize the perfume as Chanel No. 5. Not a strong odor but just enough to make this place smell better. Anything’s better than bleach.

I hear heavier footsteps enter the room. I am scared by the sudden presence.

“Who’s there?”

“My name is George. I’m the orderly in this section. I came to see if you need anything. I fill up water containers and help patients to the restroom. A person from the lab will be here to draw blood. Don’t be alarmed when he or she shows up.”

“Thanks for the heads-up. Hey George, when you ate recently, did you have garlic?”

“Yes. Can you smell it way over there?”

“Yes and it smells wonderful. Much better than some of the other odors around here, don’t you think?”

“I sure do. See you later.”

“Dr. Firestone, call extension 215. Dr. Firestone, call extension 215.”

Won’t that woman please shut up?

Joyce walked in with some treats. There's Jello, apple juice, and crackers. “Your tray should be up in about twenty minutes.”

“Joyce, who is Dr. Firestone? And why doesn’t he call extension 215?”

Joyce laughs. “Here, let’s start with the Jello. Tell me what flavor it is.”

I take a sniff before she puts the spoon in my mouth. “Cherry!” I’m right. I drink the apple juice. It refreshes my parched throat.

“Joyce, can you stay a little longer?”

“Let me ask my supervisor. Are you in pain? Do you need something to sleep?”

“No, I need answers. I don’t know the time; I can’t see; something’s wrong with my hands; I don’t know where I am.”

“I can’t give you the answers you seek. That’s up to the doctor when he comes later. My job is to make you comfortable.”

“Would you please sit with me and keep me company for awhile?”

“When your tray arrives, I’ll stay.”

Joyce leaves and I’m alone again. Finding the TV remote is impossible so I lay there thinking about every bad scenario that might have landed me here. Since I have no memory of how I arrived, maybe I am unconscious. Or maybe I went insane and this is all part of a hallucination or delusion. Or maybe I died and this is hell. Or the most positive scenario I can come up with is I’m alive and this is a dream just like Season 9 of Dallas.

“Dr. Firestone, please call extension 215. Dr. Firestone, extension 215.”

I can’t resist. I yell, “Jesus Christ, will someone tell Dr. Firestone to answer his goddamn page?”

George walks in and puts the tray on the bedside table. I can smell potatoes and some kind of beef, maybe hamburger. George leaves and Joyce walks in. She cuts the meat up into bite-sized pieces and gives me one. It tastes good. Or am I hungry? The tray has mashed potatoes, green beans, applesauce, and milk.

“I want you to get some sleep. It’s going to be a while before the doctor comes in. Here’s a sleeping pill. If you need anything, here’s the call bell.” She puts it in my hand. “Press it with your thumb. Okay?”

“Joyce, please tell me my doctor isn’t Dr. Firestone?”

Joyce laughs again and leaves.

Is that a yes or a no? The pill takes effect and I fall asleep.

After what seems to be an eternity, I wake up, but this time I'm in my bed at home: no bandages, bleach smell, Joyce, George, or Dr. Firestone. Just like Season 9 of Dallas. Then I look down at my arm and see the hospital bracelet….

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