bad night poem 2

The excesses and diseases of the soul manifest in and are reinforced by the excesses and diseases of the body. So said Proust. So may have said Dostoyevsky. And when I lay there rolling my head, the pain delocalised, I saw around me the excesses and diseases of people.

The ED admissions room was filled, hot, breathing. A man near my feet banged his foot rhythmically against the metal of his hospital bed: a sound made all the more pathetic for his inability to find any rhythm in his stupid, anti-social pursuit. A middle-aged man was hacking to my left. My left eye was closed over, so I only saw him whenever my see-sawing head — seeking an escape from the bath of hot-pain — strained towards him. The treble was filled out with the steady, high-pitched wheezing of an old woman on my right. She had the unfortunate condition of having only developed one mode of communicating her displeasure to the nurses: whenever they did something, she yelled at them.

In the corridor outside admissions, patients were lined up waiting against the wall: stacked. One young boy had a robot toy which played robot sounds — that I could still hear as I lay in a small side room and watched a nurse insert an IV line.

All the nurses had, before my eyes, donned gloves to attend to me. But now, I watched as they removed their phones and ran their gloved fingers all over those grimy screens. I reflected on what a revolution it had been when handwashing was introduced into hospital routine.

In the ambulance, the men helping me on my way all had large dark patches beneath their eyes. They coughed and hacked and sniffed: making the ambulance sound more like a school bus than anything medical or hygienic. I wondered if their contracts allowed them much sick leave.

I took many drugs, and things started to get better. I lay there, in my ward, listening as the three men at the other beds chattered on their phones, watched DVDs, streamed television — a torrent of in-your-face noise pollution. My only respite was that it was all Italian.

I drifted away from the advertisements, the movie climaxes, and thought admiringly of how my body had looked after me in my room when I had been alone. My strong, 22 year old body: getting me out of bed, washing me, trying to feed me, trying to give me drugs, trying to help me sleep.

But there, too, I recalled opening my window for the restorative cool air of the outside, only to find my head hurting from the cascade of noise: the jabbering of voices, the crash of rubbish, the passing bus-train-car. In the end, I closed my door — raising myself carefully from the bed, my head splitting, my feet swaying — filled with hatred. Why should I get myself better, when everything is deeply and terrifyingly ill?

auerbach sketch from titian.jpg

(Auerbach)