Please excuse grammatical errors or otherwise - this is ripped straight from my zero draft an is largely unedited. Also excuse the weird spacing - wordpress can be a bitch with formatting.
I was pretty banged up after the accident. Brendan said I’d fractured something or other, but “nothing to worry too much about”, and that “I’d only be in for a few days”. Brendan’s the kind of doctor you can trust. One should always, have faith in the honesty of the Irish; with all they’ve been through over the years, they’ve little time for duplicity. I only had minor bruising around my eyes and the obvious places, so I wasn’t concerned. All I could really think about was my Destination.
Nurse came in with my travel case around 3pm I think. I wasn’t keeping track of the time. “How are we feeling today Mr. Giraud?”
“Fantastic, nurse. How are you feeling today?”
She laughed a little, probably at the oddity of the response. “Just fine, Mr. Giraud, just fine.” She said it with the glimmer of a smile. She was young. Beautiful. Brunette.
Her lips moved, exhaling softly before she spoke, “I’ve got your case here Mr Giraud. Where would you like it?”
“Anywhere is fine, nurse.”
“Down by your bed here?”
She placed the bag down. “We should only have you out of here in a day or two. We’re just keeping you in for observation for the moment.” Our eyes met at the utterance of the last syllable of her sentence, and stayed that way for what felt like a minute or more, but in reality a second or two. I looked away first. As she left the room she rewarded me again with that glimmer of a smile.
I rifled through my case to see if anything was missing, but it all seemed in order. It was a shame – I wouldn’t be here much longer.
I’d rather enjoyed my stay at Christus Santa Rosa hospital. I had everything I needed: a good bed, mediocre food, the exceptional Dr. Brendan, but above all, time. Time worked to be the niftiest feature of my medical insurance plan. It had afforded me the previously unknown luxury of planning. The Mexican border would be my next destination.
Dr. Brendan knocked on the already open door “Hey ya, buddy how’s it going? Look, we’ve been trying to get through to Jan these last couple days but still no luck. We’d really like to speak to her – let her know about you here.” I pointed the black remote at the TV, “this thing got cable? There’s this thing I’ve been watching on National Geographic – Alaska State Troopers, it’s fascinati-”
“-Robert” He was frowning now. “Where’s Jan? We called her work and she’s not been in for the last two days. What’s going on here?”
I stared him dead on in the eye. We held like this for what was at least a minute or two before I broke away; looked down at my sheet, “She’s dead.”
“Dead to me. I found her fucking some guy in our marital bed. She said she was leaving me, to be with him. Said they were running off to paradise together. They’re probably in Cancun by now.”
“Ah jeez, Robert I’m sorry about that.”
“That’s why I crashed. I was chasing after her. I wanted to convince her to stay. It was stupid.”
“Crap, well that’s just, annoying. Look, if you need somewhere to stay or anything, Rachel and me got that spare room. The kids are off at camp. I’m here for ya buddy.” It was a sappy response, I thought. But Brendan meant well.
“It’s fine Doc. I’m good. Just aching to get out of here is all. I’ve got some things I need to take care of.”
“Well there might be a little problem with that, buddy, turns out we might of misread one of your X-rays. We checked a couple of the scans and it seems the fracturing to your collarbone might be more severe than we previously thought. We’re gonna keep you in a little while longer. At least for a few more days, for observation. That ok, buddy?”
“Well, you’re the boss, Doc.”
He gave me a thumbs-up and turned to leave. I asked after him “Oh Doc, National Geographic?”
“I’ll send nurse in to help you with that.” He turned again to leave but stopped this time, “Oh, and, Robert, the thing with Jan – it’s a phase, probably. Rachel had this thing, couple years back. She came round in the end. I’m sure Jan will too.”
“No problem, kid.”
The nurse came in again around 3pm wearing that same glimmer of a smile. That smile could tease the demons from my bones. Charm the red serpent that now consumed my soul. I could take her with me, maybe? “Good afternoon, Mr. Giraud, how are we feeling today?”
I grasped my collarbone, “Sore, actually.”
“Dr. Brendan said you needed help with your TV?”
“Yeah, I need National Geographic. I’ve been watching this thing on the Alaska State Troopers.”
She frowned at me, “You’ve barely touched your food.”
“Oh sorry, I’m not really that hungry.”
“Well there’ll be no television until you’ve eaten, Robert. How can you expect to get better if you don’t eat? You need to build your strength.”
“You can’t be serious?”
“I’m deadly serious, Robert.”
“Just put the damn TV on, please, nurse.”
“And that’s enough of that attitude too, Robert. I’ll be speaking to Dr. Brendan about this.”
“What the fuck?” She turned and left. I called after to her but she didn’t respond. “I’ll turn the fucking thing on myself then.” Her glimmer had faded.
It was round about 10pm and the evening staff were just clocking off. I was watching Alaska State Troopers. I could see the nurse at reception just down the hall leaning over talking to an orderly. I called for her.
When she got to my room she was dressed up and wearing lipstick. “Hey, nurse, I just wanted to say, sorry for the way I acted earlier. I was out of line.”
She sat down beside my bed, “That’s ok, Robert. I understand it’s tough being stuck in hospital and all, but you need to eat your food if you want to get better, ok?”
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry, nurse.” Her smile crept back, but it was different somehow. It was gentle, comforting maybe. “Hey nurse, would you mind switching channels for me? I think the batteries in the remote are dead.”
“Sure, Robert, no problem.” As she got up to change the channel she left her bag on the chair beside me. It was open. Inside, silver keys glistening with Elysian-light shot lightning bolts from Zeus through my retinas: an offering from heretic gods. I snatched and hid them under my pillow.
“What channel d’ya want?” she asked.
“Anything, really. I’m just sick of fucking Alaska.”
“Ok, you’re all set.” She picked up her bag. Our gaze met again, for a moment.
Her eyes were warm, ochre. In the multi-second interval between polite exchanged words, those warm ochre eyes spoke to me in a million languages from across the galaxy, solar system, simultaneously, with different words, genders, grammar rules, phonetics, frequencies, but they all seemed to say exactly the same thing. I can’t quite place what that was right now. But on that day, when the universe stopped for the meeting of our inky irises, it seemed so very clear. I felt like I’d known this anonymous nurse for a thousand years. Or at least my whole life. Like the absolute trust you feel with a nurturing family member. Like a bond from the womb. We wrote a contract in those fleeting seconds, and signed it with the indelible ink of our irises. A sacred covenant could survive the End of the World – the ‘Anko Tuluta Riaaka’
I decided to break the silence. “You have plans tonight then, nurse? Look at you, you’re all dressed up.”
“I do actually. Tonight’s Nurses Night – me and the others get together once a month and go for dinner and drinks at Bohanan’s. It’s like a ritual thing we do.”
“Don’t drink and drive.”
She smiled. “I won’t.”
I’ve always been a firm believer in the tenet ‘a sharp suit makes for a good man’, and I’ve tried to live by it. I’d never been able to afford anything tailored, not on my office salary, but always found that with a discerning knack for colour-coordination, combined with a fitted pinstripe ensemble, the workaday suit-wearing man could at least pull off the semblance of that spirit. I didn’t have my pinstripe with me in the hospital that day: in the maelstrom usually associated with vacation packing, I’d forgotten it. But I did have my navy one. You match a navy suit with a white shirt, black tie, Phil’s Rolex, and mahogany brown brogues, and then my friend, you have the sartorial solution on what-to-wear on an impromptu trip to the Mexican border.
As I left the hospital I didn’t bother checking out, what good would that be? Instead I tipped my proverbial cap to the orderly at reception and he didn’t even call after me. Getting out was easy – if you look like you know what you’re doing, then you can pretty much blag your way through ninety percent of life – the hard part now would be Sherlock Holmes-ing nurse’s car. But I’ve always fancied myself the investigative type, with a keen attention to detail. I probably should’ve been a detective or a journalist or something, but the working-all-hours vehement work-ethic requisite for a job like that would’ve conflicted with fastidious family building aspirations. Nothing could get in the way of that. I made my way out to the car park.
So lets start with what we know about the young nurse: she’s a beautiful middle-class late-20-something from the suburban North East, possibly Long Island, maybe somewhere in Connecticut. She’s an intelligent, registered nurse, who doesn’t mind being away from home in a hotter climate than she’s used to – so I’m guessing she studied at Berkeley or maybe even more local: Texas. From her attentive, nurturing bedside manner she’s most probably a liberal. With all that considered the car will be a hybrid, definitely. If she’s a registered nurse at her age she’s probably on about 50K starting salary, so the car won’t be too flashy. Unless of course her folks are rich, but even then she’s not the spoilt type. So I’m guessing a smallish coupe, maybe a Volvo C30 or even a Smart. The decisions indeed. Lightbulb: I could just auto-unlock it with the key and see what lights up.
It was a Toyota Yaris hatchback. It was a hybrid. Thought so.