(Thanks to the author for permission to publish)
I am moved from the room full of “sleeping- crates” to a “half-way house for patients.” It is a dormatory-like building, with beds in large open bays. TVs are playing everywhere and people are talking everywhere. My bed is next to a staircase. The place looks a lot like my old Navy training battalion building back in Pensacola. In fact, it has the same Navy gray paint job.
A nurse asks me if I want something different on TV. Everyone, including me, has their own TV, and they are all on different channels, jabbering away. This seems strange, but I don’t say anything. I chose a Disney movie about a dog and a bear who had an adventure together in Canada in the early 19th century. ‘Not too bad,’ I think, getting more comfortable on the bed. The movie proves fascinating ...
I am on a morphine drip. It doesn’t take the pain away; it just makes it seem like it’s too much trouble to complain about. The pain in my arms and legs is stabbing, intense, and makes it hard to sleep. The external fixator on my right arm keeps getting caught in the sheets. My chest is tight (“You broke some ribs and had a pneumothorax”). My nose is always full and running. When someone helps me blow it, globs of stringy clotted blood come out. My nose was apparently first at the scene of the accident and was smashed flat. My hair is horribly dirty, but when someone sponges it, the sponge comes out bright scarlet with re-hydrated blood from my scalp lacerations. My back and crotch are covered in some sort of fungal rash. I have three IV lines running out of a junction in my chest and two others in my arms. There are four different bags of liquids on stands, dripping and gurgling down into different parts of me. The “three-fer” junction line in my chest is infected. I have a fever and they are running broad-spectrum antibiotics into me. I feel nauseous and my stomach hurts.
On TV, an actress is in tears because her character can’t fit into her favorite dress...
One night in the half-way hospital I find that gravity is playing tricks on me and I have become “misaligned 90 degrees from down,” so that a wall is the floor to me and I am “stuck on the wall.” I ask some other people who are doing construction work to “help me off the wall and down to the floor,” and eventually they do so. I remain with these people as they refurbish a large, empty room, and once again, they have to “help me down off a wall.” A woman enters and tells us that someone has shot-out her tires and she needs a ride into town. We go out into a scrubby countryside to investigate and find a man with a pistol who tells us that he shot out her tires and now he “has to kill her to keep her from discovering what he did.” We break into a run and manage to outdistance the gun-toting man and make it to a small, dusty town, where we enter a saloon like that in a TV western...
I’ve been eating gloppy “shakes” and a little solid food for a few days. I am now constipated and have developed painful hemorrhoids. My jaw is still in the hurt locker; it feels badly warped; the teeth don’t meet correctly anymore and several are chipped, so I chew cock-eyed. During the crash I bit through my tongue, so I also have that issue to deal with. My tongue is perforated on both sides and the holes catch some of my side teeth when I chew or talk. Every time my tongue catches on a tooth. it feels like a needle is being pushed through the tongue from top to bottom.
Eating again has jump-started my bowels, who had been taking it easy for the past five weeks I was on an IV drip. I find when I need to go to the bathroom, I need to go *now*. And here comes the train again!
I push the ‘soft touch’ call button. Actually, I _try_ to push it; with both arms broken and my hands idle for so long, all I can move are the second and third fingers on my right hand, and just barely.
“Unghh!” It’s _hard_ pushing that damn button.
“Yes?” The intercom responds.
“I need the... the... I need to go to the bathroom.” Why can’t I remember the name of that damn thing?
“Do you need a bedpan?”
“Yes! A bedpan!” (THAT’s the word.)
I find myself in a theater, auditioning for the part of a vampire in a play. There are a number of people there, some auditioning, others watching, several giving orders. The theater is large and the huge stage curtains are heavy with the smell of dust and age. I get a small part and am told to report to a location to begin work on what is now a movie instead of a play...
“Someone will be right in.”
(Oh, no! Too late!)
A PCA (personal care assistant) comes in with the pan.
“I’m sorry; I couldn’t hold it.” Total shame and uselessness wash over me. A grown man crapping in his own bed. I can’t even roll out of the mess.
“OK. Let’s get you cleaned up. ‘Help lifting,’” she calls into the intercom. Another PCA comes in. Together they get me rolled to one side; the pain is intense; lying on my side and my shoulder send bright red lances into me. I cry out, helpless to move on my own and full of shame.
“This will only take a minute.” One of them rolls the fouled sheet up while another one sponges the feces from my butt. I am a retired Officer of the United States. I have led men in war. I just crapped my bed. I am utterly helpless and completely humiliated.
Soon, a clean sheet is in place, I am back in place, and they leave.
“God, I hate this!” I think, over and over. “Why? Why?”
When I arrive at the movie sight it is a house remotely located in the woods. I discover to my shock that the people there are _real_ vampires who also belong to an organized crime family. I am quickly bitten and made into a vampire. Thereafter I am sent on small “missions” to procure blood or to bite other people and make them vampires, too. I hate everything about it except for the ability to fly, and look for ways to escape the gang and become human again...
“You were giving a lesson and you were hit from above and behind by someone named -------------."
“You were flying with a student named --------. Do you remember any of it?”
Martha is sitting by the bed, talking. Several other people are standing behind her.
“No.” I remember other lessons with this student. She’d asked to fly with me when I was available. She’d told me I was the “best instructor” because I never rushed and never got impatient.
“There were a lot of witnesses. There were dozens of people at the airport watching the planes land. They say you never had a chance, Honey. You had the right of way. He just ran you down from above and behind.”
There are no side-view mirrors on airplanes.
I try to imagine it and can’t. No images come to mind.
An earlier conversation is leaking back.
“She died, didn’t she?”
“Yes.” Martha gives me a few more details. “There are several people here to see you.”
The other people come forward.
“This is her sister and brother-in-law,” Martha explains.
“How are you?” the sister asks. “I’m ------...” She has a kind face.
“OK. I’m sorry about ….” Tears coming again.
“We know. We know that it wasn’t your fault.”
The man introduces himself. “I’m ------.”
I start crying and can’t stop. Overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss.
“She’s in a better place now. We just wanted you to know we are praying for you every day.”
I thank them. They leave. My chest feels as if it has been scooped empty. Can’t catch my breath. God killed my student and left me here all broken?
I cry myself to sleep. Or pass out. Not sure.