I have logged more hours
than I could ever want
in this hospital
over the past weeks.
The smell of it
even follows me home, like…
a stray animal slinking through my
I find it amusing, when I cautiously float through
the maze of hallways
(floor two to main elevators,
main elevators to floor four—
or was it five?), that
they’ve tried to mask the antiseptic with innocent smells
like vanilla and berry
(and something citrusy?).
“It works for the most part,”
I assure my mother.
But I won’t say that sometimes it does little to stop: the
tightening in my chest,
my hands growing cold,
my head feeling swimmy,
that elevator sensation:
like the floor’s bouncing
and just as likely to carry me
safely to my destination
as it is to fall
slamming into the earth
(the safety certificate posted above the buttons
expired last year?).
I reach my destination,
but I am not prepared for what’s there.
So, I practically run away from the ICU
and all the other rooms with
too many tubes
and strained respiration.
I attempt to ground myself by generating rhymes
(hallways, always, stall a ways?)
but then the only words I have are words like:
orange (and month?).
Until I get to the coffee shop,
(toffee stop, money drop, caramel-macchiato-for-me pops?)
where, for a while
I forget the hospital smell,
and stop the obsessive flipping through
social media and countless open tabs as a distraction.
I just sip my coffee with my mother
talking about anything else in the world
(maybe about the frazzled, red-haired lady
who stabbed the up and down buttons
exactly 14 times each;
or the man who conned my grandmother
out of three bucks for “parking”
in the SICU waiting room?)
anything other than Dad being hooked up to a hospital bed.