Here I am, back in the Emergency Room of our local hospital.

What a bummer! I slept well, got up, and was sure I would be walking the dogs this morning, at least for a short distance. Get those legs moving, I think to myself. Get your strength back.

But I saw a nurse practitioner yesterday because I didn’t feel good (my doctor is on vacation), they took blood, and immediately called to tell me to go back to the hospital. And when I didn’t listen, they called four more times. The readings weren’t good.

As much as I can figure it, they’re nervous of a pulmonary embolism. They checked this out 6 days ago and found no trace, but here I am to check it out a second time.

I was going to write a different kind of post today, full of life, joy Aussie’s nasty comments and a snippet or two of brilliance. I don’t like to write about illness. It sounds old! It sounds sick!

I’m accustomed to getting quick treatment in the Emergency of this small neighborhood hospital, but not this time, the place is full. I watched a man in his 30s in a wheelchair. He’d been brought in by taxi and told the nurse he passed out today. Brown-skinned, heavily tattooed and bearded, I watched him slide lower and lower in his wheelchair, heard his breath get heavier. Finally, I walked over and asked if he was okay. He shook his head. I walked to the receptionist:

“I think he’s passing out.”

She said she’ll call the nurse. When I walked back to him I saw what looked like the beginning of an epileptic attack, and I hurried back to hera nd told her. A nurse came out and brought him back in.

He looked so vulnerable and alone then, young, clearly sick and afraid. I’m on my own here, too. Lori, my housemate, brought me over and then went back to work, but she’ll be here in a minute if I need her and a dear doctor friend arrives this afternoon. My sister threatens to fly over from Israel, another friend wants to drive up from New York, and students and friends filled the house with food and flowers. I don’t feel alone at all.

And I’m trying to write a blog, for heaven’s sake! I’m the only one in Emergency’s reception with her computer on her lap happily punching keys. Not heaving up like the woman next to me just did, not bent over contemplating the floor in misery. How many years have I obeyed the call to draw words on an empty page or screen? It was the biggest comfort for a scared, unhappy child. Now all I can say is that it’s life.

It’s a beautiful hot day outside but I need to stay here in case they finally call me. Also, I’m hungry. But then, I’m always hungry. I tell people that they’ll know I expired not by checking my pulse but by waving a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream under my nose and watch my nostrils.

My phone makes a decided effort to cheer me up by sending me spam texts about how easily I could “add inches.” All my life I’ve tried to subtract inches. Usually I get these messages at night but today they’re coming in early; do they know something I don’t know?

I’m aware of how much sicker everyone else seems to be than me. One or two complain about the wait, but they’re all stoic in the face of trouble (this is New England). In Jerusalem hospitals the orthodox monopolize all the seats surrounded by 10 children, same for Arab families only quieter, the younger Israelis pace back and forth and EVERYBODY’S ON THE PHONE! In Israel, the way they know you’ve expired is if you’re not talking on the phone. If you’re not listening it don’t mean nothing..

I promise myself that I will not contract here. It’s so easy to shrink into yourself at this time, to think only of your own body and to insist on the primacy of my own concerns. No sirree. I waved at the photo of Bernie and me on the altar early this morning before leaving home, a wave at Kwan-yin, too. I asked her to grow another arm (“You’ve got billions of them, what’s one more or less to take care of me?”) but also to take it easy for the weekend. Everybody’s got to rest sometime.

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