There I lay: In yet another cubicle, for yet another procedure, with no family or partner beside me. I had undressed, donned the over-sized hospital gown, and held fast to my glasses even as my clothes, shoes, and purse got tucked into a paper bag. Now a perky woman settled into a rolling chair for a series of intrusive inquiries into my medical and social history.
After the usual drone about my current medications, any Covid exposure, my vaccination status, and my habits (bad and good), she raised an eyebrow. Now I have four questions about suicide, she calmly informed me.
In the last two to three weeks, have you thought about harming yourself?
In the last two to three weeks, have you thought your family and friends would be better off without you?
In the last two to three weeks, have you considered suicide?
Have you ever attempted suicide?
I answered every question with the same firmly intoned response: No ma’am. Four times. No ma’am, no ma’am, no ma’am, no ma’am. I focused my eyes on hers, noting their clarity, the slightly hazel tint, and the fine lashes. She didn’t look at her computer screen; she had these questions committed to heart.
The only trouble is, they are not the right questions. Ask me this one: Do you feel invisible?
Every goddamn day of my life.
A cheerful doctor followed her into the curtained area. He acknowledged our prior meeting via video. He signed his name on my right calf, sketched the size of the sample that he intended to remove, and patted me on the arm. Another doctor took his place, and explained that they had nixxed the idea of general anesthesia. Nurses circulated. Someone wheeled me into the operating room. I lay on the table, surrounded by figures in green. I closed my eyes for a second and then, opened them again to see a woman bending over me. She said, You’re awake, good, how do you feel?
An hour or so later, my friend Jim and his mother pulled to the outside door. An orderly helped me from a wheelchair. We went to breakfast; and then, Jim and Mary said goodbye at my hotel room. I drew the shade and lay under my wool jacket on the fresh sheets. I slept for several hours and woke with a pounding headache and a throbbing leg. Twenty hours passed, while I huddled in that room, eating delivered food and pieces of chocolate sent by Jim’s wife. Shortly after dawn, I dragged my bags to the car and headed for the ocean. I did not stop until I found a parking space on the shores of my Pacific. I stood for a very long time while the fog lifted and the waves broke against the rocks below me.
It’s the twenty-second day of the one-hundred and sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.