Scuttling, yet again, back to the exam room I strip off my pants and find needles in the fourth drawer. Cleaver’s ears are pricked and his tail wags as I move, wincing, to sit up on the comfortable leather. The sanitation paper crinkles as I twist to grab the tiny glass bottles.
“Yeah you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” I murmur to myself as Cleaver begins sniffing around the base of the chair, “SIT.”
“I can’t have you slobbering into my open wound that already has other, more evil slobber in it.”
My stomach shakes with nerves as I finally get a chance to survey my leg. The calf is punctured in places, but the ankle took the brunt of the damage.
Just inches up from bright pink nail polish and childlike toe rings the flesh is twisted in every direction, matted with dirt and dog hair. In one small place on each side I can see the white peek of bone through the wound. I have to simultaneously swallow back bile and subdue Cleaver. Dogs have a tendency to lick their wounds, something I’m sure would feel similar to the embrace of barbed wire right now. I’ve never really been sickened by blood, especially my own, but the hanging flesh is pushing me over the edge.
I unwrap one of the needles and pull out the lidocaine I’d spent an hour and a half looking for. I wasn’t doing this without painkiller. Only imitating what I’ve seen on television, I push the air out of the plunger and insert the needle under the covering, pulling back the sweet relief of local anesthetic with it. Tipping it upward, I tap a few times and squirt fluid out the top. A few years ago, I had had a boating accident and slit my foot open on a stalled propeller as I kicked to swim. Between his multiple scoldings of me the doctor who stitched me up had instructed his resident to “keep injecting until all the skin is white with fluid, and then test the wound to see if she feels pain.” After sanitizing the skin, I follow the same formula, fouling up several times and causing my stomach to churn anew. When the entire area is clean I turn to a large vessel that lies next to me. I pour several bottles of saline into it and slowly lower my foot down into it. Using soft surgical sponges with sanitized and gloved hands, I begin to wipe away the grime from the bloody mess.
“Should I try to stitch it up?” I ask Cleaver, his ears still pricked with interest in my gruesome little project. “I think I might just end up looking like Frankenstein. Besides, it’s stopped bleeding. I could just tape it up, elevate it, and reassess later. I’m getting pretty tuckered. Not to mention I think I’ve hit my gross-out limit for the day.”
I toss the sponges and gloves into a nearby bin and try to right myself, putting no weight on my injured, numb leg. Pulling another needle out from the stack I grab the penicillin, repeating my process from before, but this time in my shoulder. I check my watch. 9:56PM
Time has flown by today. It seems like I’ve only been here a couple hours, not seven. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a life threatening experience.
After tightly wrapping my leg and grabbing some crutches I head down to the Birth Services area, thinking that I might sleep more soundly in a more peaceful space. Plus, the babies almost certainly have the best blankets.
When I arrive I pull together some of said blankets and pillows, and stop to take in the pictures of babies born in this hospital. Luke used to tease me because I always told him I didn’t want children but whenever I walked by a newborn I melted. Now, the comfort of new life brought a different feeling to me. Considering the distinct possibility that no one is coming for me, I have no choices for my future. The wish to be a free and independent individual seems a dark joke to me now.
I hear a distinct cough from another room.
I stare towards the open doorway, opposite the side I came in. Clutching baby blankets like life preservers, I will my feet to move but they will not. My heart jumpstarts from the dead stop it was at shortly after the noise to a desperate, insistent flutter.
Dark silence in the growing shadows is the only response I receive.
“I heard you!”
I suddenly look to Cleaver, who is just watching me, tail wagging.
“Did you hear that?”
He nudges me with his nose and steps back again, panting contentedly.
“I heard something. Didn’t you hear it? You are supposed to have better hearing.”
He just stares back at me. When I look again at the open door he follows my glance and wanders through the door before I can grab him.
“No-“ I utter, but he is out of the room.
Shaking like a leaf that’s been mutilated by dogs and is in no place to defend itself, I follow him.
He’s wandered into a small examination wing with what I assume to be an X-Ray machine hovering above. My eyes dart around the room, in each corner I expect to see another pair of human eyes staring back at me. But there is no one here. Cleaver circles in the corner a few times and sits.
“Oh no,” I say, “Hell no. Tonight we are sleeping behind locked doors.”
I grab his collar forcefully and pull him into an adjacent handicapped bathroom along with more than enough blankets and pillows and begin shoving the door to close it. Although I thought about hiding inside one of the airy exam rooms I want a place where I won't have to hold my weight against the door to deter the dogs should they come around again. Those examination tables bring up uncomfortable memories anyway. Closing the bathroom's heavy door is a struggle to say the least, but the sound of the heavy lock has a new kind of liberty in it for me. The bathroom is what one would expect from a hospital, the floor is probably clean enough to eat off of, and I have no problem resting here for the night. I tuck a pillow behind my leg, which I elevate on a sink and turn to Cleaver, who’s resting his head in his paws and looking about, aloof.
“I know what I heard.”
I look towards the tiled ceiling, "That was a bad day."