Episode 10 — Chapters 10 & 11
The first rays of morning sun filter through the stained-glass windows, into the vast, muraled room. The expanse is filled with plants and elegant furnishings. In the center of the room, I am seated in a floral Davenport a short distance from a man whose face is obscured by a newspaper. The man has one leg folded over the other, exposing his black-and-white checkered socks. What a remarkable coincidence that he wears the same socks my father preferred. But it can’t be my father… my father is dead.
The man closes the newspaper for an instant before turning to the next page, briefly exposing his face.
A flood of emotions course through my veins. My God, my father is alive, after all! How can this be?
My father puts the newspaper down and his eyes turn towards me. But, it isn’t a look of judgment or reproach; rather, it is a look of respect and pride. It stuns me.
My father smiles.
“So good to see you today, son. You are looking well.”
We begin to converse on random topics and I am amazed that my father—this imperious, domineering and obstinate man—is treating me as an equal. Then, as the sun’s rays fill the room with brightness and warmth, my father’s eyes bore into my soul and I hear him say: “I want to tell you how proud I am of the man you have become.”
These beautiful and unexpected words bring me tears of joy—they are words I never expected to hear. Never before have I felt worthy of my father’s approbation. All my life, I have struggled to please him. All my life, I have fallen short.
Slightly embarrassed, and overwhelmed with happiness, I close my eyes and rub the moisture from my face. When my eyes open again, my father’s words, strangely, no longer match his articulation.
Still seated in the chair, my father begins recoiling away, as though pulled back by some unseen force.
“…I’m nurse Menendez…”
“Father!” I call out in desperation as he shrinks from me, then disappears altogether from view.
In my father’s place, there is a light as bright as the noon-day sun.
“…How are you feeling…”
The images began to fade, but the exceedingly bright light remained.
It must have been the sun itself blinding his eyes…
“Are you in any pain?”
The peaceful scene from the glorious room was barely a memory, and the patient realized he was staring into a bright light hanging from the ceiling.
“Please blink twice if you want more pain medication…”
His attention was diverted away from the light to the throbbing in his head. Peculiar sounds and odors invaded his consciousness. He shut his eyes and tried to identify the foreign impressions and smells. There was, at least, relief that the pain was no longer so intense. He opened his eyes and everything in the room was white: the blanket covering him, the walls, the ceiling and the person standing next to him.
He became aware of fabric tightly wound around his face, covering everything except his eyes and mouth. He tried, unsuccessfully to move his lower extremities.
Where am I?
What has happened to me?
Panic overwhelmed his consciousness. With all the force he could muster, he lifted his right arm and touched the fabric around his head.
Suddenly his mind realized where he was. The horror!
I am being mummified! They are preparing me for burial!
He began to pull at his bandages.
“No! No! No!” the woman dressed in white came racing over.
The woman clamped on his arm. “You can’t touch your face!” She then thrust his arm down forcefully and secured it against the armrest.
He struggled to speak, but with his jaw immobilized only a loud groan emerged—and with the attempt came another agonizing stab of pain and nausea.
I cannot endure it any longer.
Soon, the pain began to subside. His breathing slowed.
Then there was no pain at all.
Nothing mattered anymore.
He was at peace.
Nurse Menendez knocked on Dr. Nazari’s door. “John Doe is conscious. He tried to remove his bandages, but he’s calmed down since receiving a sedative.”
Dr. Arman Nazari nodded. “I will go and take look.”
Of middle-eastern descent, Dr. Nazari was short and considerably underweight, with dark skin, short black hair, in his early 40’s. Born and raised in Libya, he had migrated to the United States in his early twenties after graduating from college and then received his medical degree from the San Antonio School of Medicine. He spoke English quite fluently, but with a thick heavy accent.
Dr. Nazari entered the room. The patient’s eyes were closed.
“Good day, I am Dr. Nazari.”
The patient’s eyes opened and began to dart back and forth rapidly; his senses consumed the room’s sights, smells and sounds.
“I hope you feeling better…”
The patient ignored the doctor’s banter and studied the surroundings with a look of bafflement and curiosity. He stared at the metallic and plastic instruments, digital displays, colored lights and rubber tubes, trying to make sense of it all.
“I would like to talk to you for few minutes and help you understand why you here…” Dr. Nazari had difficulty forming a w—it usually ended up sounding like a v; he also did his best to avoid the difficult th sound, whenever possible,because it came out more like a d.
The patient struggled to move, but his left arm was covered in plaster and his right arm belted down. He felt disoriented and closed his eyes. Strange, alien images entered his mind—gigantic, bizarre looking buildings, cars traveling at lightning speed and bright lights coming his way.
“You are in hospital. You have been in very bad accident…”
Claustrophobia overwhelmed him. He was confined! He couldn’t move! His face was covered in bandages! He felt a throbbing ache in his forehead and jaw. He could hear himself breathing.
He tried to speak, but only a groan emerged from his throat.
“Please do not try talk. Your jaw is broken and we have immobilized it to reduce your pain—it will only cause more pain if you try. The bandages on your face are to promote healing and prevent further trauma to face. So, please do not try remove or we will have to keep your arm strapped down. You are receiving nutrients and liquid intravenously right now—you will not be able eat for while.”
The patient’s eyes opened wide with a look of confusion and fear.
“I know it is all disorienting. Try to relax. Many patients do not remember having accident, or if they do, details are sketchy, and they wonder how they ended up in hospital. You were found on street, hit by car. Good news is that your vital signs now stable.”
The doctor paused to see if the patient was taking it all in. “We nearly lost you. We have given you some more blood. You have broken bones in right leg and left arm–that is why they are in cast. Your face was badly damaged and you have multiple fractures to facial bones. Also broken ribs, bruising and contusions. I know it is lot to absorb.”
The patient’s rapid eye movements stopped and his eyes fixated on Dr. Nazari.
“We have some work to do, but you will be fine. Right now, I just want you to rest. Try to relax and get sleep. It will take some time, but you should make full recovery. I will stop by later today to check on you.”
The claustrophobia left him.
He felt as though he were floating in the air.
His eyelids were so heavy…