Posts Tagged ‘ptsd’

17 Days: Day 4

There was a lot of driving for me to do,
with Mom in the car, between Arch Rock and Lebanon,
and of course we got lost the first time,
Mom’s directional accuracy not even close to being a broken compass,
just off off off, in the spaces where I’d have to
interrupt her Buddha sermon and ask her,
foolishly, LEFT?, RIGHT?, STRAIGHT? MOM?
ending up having to go backward to the first point
where we got lost—and let me tell you,
all red and brown barns look the same, so
thank goodness I remembered the one that had
“Jesus Saves” painted on the roof,
near the McDonald’s with free wifi so I could
Google-maps-screen-cap the rest of our way to where Dad was.

There seems to be no end in sight when you’re driving
through trees like that, and your mother is barrelling at you
with her reasons as to why your father has cancer,
like how he was shovelling snow a couple months ago
and hurt his shoulder, which was the same time he had
a big fight with your sister and her husband about what
was supposed to have happened at Christmas
or around it but did not—
all that combined was why your Dad has cancer.

It was then when I said, “That’s not how cancer works, Mom,”
that I missed the left Google Maps told me to make in 0.2 miles.
As if I knew better how cancer works.

The last five miles of the drive are the longest
because you are almost there, and the road is so wide
but the speed limit is a snaily 15 miles per hour
for no other reason than to honour the sacred drive
through the sacrifice of many young people
who probably barely understood how they were being used
before they couldn’t be used anymore.
As if you know better how war works.

Finally, we pulled into the handicapped parking space
I eventually stopped feeling guilty about parking in
because Mom said we were just as injured as anyone else anyway,
and we got there first, or at the right time,
so park there, take the spot, hang up the tag,
we won’t be here for long
before we have to drive back again.

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My whole body hurt. The pain thundered in my head.
Writhing, pulling pillows over my eyes, trying to lay
softness over the inner beating I was taking
like a mother trying to soothe a child with hushes
and hugs when the child’s knee is torn open,
bloody and full of pebbles,
my head—my bloody fucking head crowded with
so much pain, I had to give it an 8.

Back to the Pain Scale. How familiar I am
with this “universal” scale of measurement, yet
how perplexing it is, still. The Pain Scale.

“How much pain are you in, on a scale of 1-10?”
I’m in pain, and I’m supposed to give you a computation/
quantification of this pain. “I feel a 7.”
What’s a 7 anyway?

Three babies, one cancer diagnosis, ten surgeries,
and I’m-not-going-to-count-how-many friends I’ve watched dying—
none of that made me understand The Pain Scale until Day 2.

Were we truly on the cusp of spring, or still courting it to fight
past the stubborn frigidity of mid-March? I know it was that
fickle overcast in-between weather that Mom and I walked out of
and into the hallway of the first floor,
a first floor unlike normal hospitals that are new, sterile,
adorned with plaques announcing the names of the big donors
who made possible their disaster-ready modernization.
This hallway: a grey cement vein through a building
that hadn’t been touched since the 70s.
After all, it was, it is, one of those hospitals of the forgotten
in a country that always claims to never forget.

Around the dimly lit corner, Mom and I took the elevator up
to Camp Courage, to Dad’s room where he lay against all wishes,
shackled by tubes and tanks.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your pain?” Dr. Rachael asked.
And there it was, the gesture I myself have made so many times:
the shoulder-shrugging, wrinkled-nose expression made during
an exercise of best-guess approximation, like we’re suppose to
rate Miss America on her talent portion, that is to say,
beauty (and how she walks) is in the eye of the beholder.
Isn’t pain as well?

Then she showed us a picture.
Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 8.59.35 AM

“Forget numbers,” she said. “Which face is you?”

Dad reached out his shaky finger to the sad face next to the teary one.

“So about an 8,” she said, ordering meds accordingly.

I scribbled on the back of Dad’s breakfast menu:
FullSizeRender (1)

Dad nodded and smiled. “Nice try, Dad,” I said.
Dr. Rachael said Dad could go home when his pain was a 6. Just 2 points less.

But 2 points. This wasn’t basketball. This was cancer. And there was the faulty nature
of numbers and pain.

Still, Dad was shooting for a 6. Or the less orangey-yellowy, less frowning face.

We’d start to understand The Pain Scale between us, when I would ask
and he would answer, until he couldn’t say numbers anymore,
when for all of us, it became a pain without faces, without numbers.

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When Souls Go Somewhere

The rain, the soul of the world crying with me,
made me feel more hollow,
an unending blackness of WHY
sighed like that last breath breathed out,
an eternity of last sighs.

The light turns red, and our car stops by
a homeless guy in a mud-splattered poncho
with a warped cardboard sign about
being homeless and having a terminal illness.
“Hey Buddy!” I shout inside my head.
“Life is a fucking terminal illness!”

And it sucker-punches you in the gut,
the light turning green and how things are still going,
but he is not.
He stays glued to that hospital bed, head still beading
with cold sweat, breath shallow,
aggressive cadence on the chest until the last beat,
he stays there, and he can’t feel you touch him anymore
but all that is in you washes out so fast you can’t breathe,
just like him, you want to choke on that last breath, just like him,
you want to stop moving, just like him. But you can’t.

The car pulls up to the curb. The rain keeps on.
I open the door. I steady myself
because this is today. This is one foot
in front of the other.
This is me, and how he used to be.

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Buy these pieces of my brain.

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