She lays there, clothed and surrounded in hospital white, body battered, soul shattered. Arms are at her side, one leg is resting peacefully flat while the other points to the ceiling, held up by nylon rope, forcibly kept straight in a hospital white cast.
How she got here she doesn’t remember, but all she sees now is her limp body in front of her and all she feels is the lack of her own presence in all joints bones muscles. She’s utterly motionless, at peace everywhere except inside, where it really matters.
He’s with her, quiet as she is but for the rare remark on the benign, the unimportant. (The weather’s been overcast for a few days, the relatives are calling and feeling snubbed, coworkers the same…) She stares at the ceiling directly above her and asks the hospital white to pass the time rather swiftly, but when she looks to the clock only two minutes have passed. So her day passes in mental agony and the physical numb.
It’s late in the evening, time again for her to relieve herself. She can’t move and he must help her. He knows what to do. She feels his hand on her crotch (at least there’s still sensation there, she thinks). Staring straight up still, her eyes swell at the thought of her own helplessness. She’s looking down on herself now from above, the devil of her soul hovering in stark contrast to the hospital white ceiling, laughing at her condition of shame and disgrace, a scalpel in hand cutting at her pride without anasthetic.
Abruptly she turns her head to the side, closes her eyes to swallow the tears she feels are coming. (They come anyway, she can’t stop them quickly enough.) His gentle hands feel what his eyes do not see, what she is feeling inside but cannot bring herself to say, even to him. He feels her shame, and although distressed by it, smiles that childlike smile. He moves his hands away and softly touches her arm. After a few seconds delay she brings her dilated eyes to look into his, and hears him say these words:
“Some day soon I’ll be lying there and you’ll be standing here in my place. Tell me, how would you want me to feel then? I’ll be entirely in your hands, under your care, at your mercy and exposed. Will you want me to feel ashamed and my pride slighted? Am I not you and you me? Aren’t we one and the same? Then why these tears, this sad loathing for yourself?”
He doesn’t know whether his words can or will reach her, but he means them just the same. She sees his smile in a blurry picture through the tears, and although they don’t change how she feels, his words warm the temperature of her consciousness just enough to turn her head once again to the side in peaceful resignation so he may continue where he left off.