(Untitled)

(Untitled)

A Story by Ookpik
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyhkQzPLjcA

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When people suggest that they find hospitals unnerving - that it somehow irks them in that inhuman and artificial way - they indicate so after having only experienced a small portion of the dissociative quality inherent in most hospitals.
Suffice it to say, I think there is no denying their instincts - that the sterility of the floors, the colorful, bleach laden strips or the whitewashed ceilings somehow rub the cells of their anatomy in an invasive and almost predatory way. And yet it remains my contention that most people have only been subjected to an otherwise harmless exterior - only walked the innocent hallways or suffered the impatience of a waiting room.
I also believe that it is encoded in the vast majority of humanity’s genetics to avoid hospitals - that somehow the simple act of being present in one is representative of some vile omen and that the demand of human survival insists that if we are forced, even just to cross the threshold, that we do so promptly and waste as little time as possible on whatever purpose had invited us in.
It is my belief that this holds true for most, though, I can’t deny my own biases on the subject.
As a child, it was in my experience that hospitals were exciting - I had always associated them with candy or with childbirth, with compassion and with love. Although I admit, this is a rather beautiful way to look at such obstructive and labyrinthine places, my presumption now is that my reason for doing so is not at all dissimilar to that of Blakes’s Lamb, either strolling too close to a crocodilian river or wandering too near the Tiger’s tail.
As children we had yet to develop the immediate impetus of self preservation, and so, like most, we saw the striped floors as an impending race and the boredom behind front desks as a practice in patience before receiving our suckers, mints or lemon drops.
Like others I’m sure, in youth I had no idea what kind of horrors were hidden tightly behind pale curtains, or what kind of ineffability could exist beneath gauze and bandage; though again, like others, I’m sure I wasn’t immediately clueless.
It is only for those that know the condemnation of the children’s ward that none of this would ring true. Of all the places in all the hidden houses of horror, theirs is one that suffers like none other.
It is a place coated in false joy, decorated with an optimism not yet deep enough to pierce the aseptic plaster of the drywall; and housed within are those souls whom, unlike all others, have been forced to endure the precise torture of pain and idleness without the assistance of experience.
They are those whose innocence have been pulled from their chests like a blanket belonging to another; and they are those who now hear the laughter of their peers and grimace at the sting of what they’ve been forced to leave behind.
Like other hospitals, it too houses the bite of antiseptic; it too contains the needles and plasma, the bandages, scalpels and steel. And for those who have come to know intimately the true nature of places like that, you have my sincerest regards.
It is not my intention to describe to you that which must cut the deepest and if it is at all any consolation, I’ll simply resume talking about myself.
I have never known what hospital must be like when covered in stickers and superheroes, and though I imagine it might provide some small comfort, I know all too well that there is very little to compensate for what occurs behind their walls.
Although, to say that I know hospitals intimately would be a lie. For me hospitals are an uninvited neighbour or a disliked acquaintance, and as I have alluded prior, I am one of those who have categorically fallen alongside the rest that ‘seriously dislike being within them’. In part this is probably due to the sudden match with mortality that the smell of disinfectant forces me to confront, and in others because I consider myself one of the lucky few who was somehow able to escape one.
Though again, to say I escaped intact would also be a lie.
It wasn’t the hospital that had cost me a limb (in fact it was the opposite) it was the hospital that saved my life. Albeit, to say that I was thankful would be as dishonest as declaring my intimacy, and if it were otherwise this entire narration would instead be an ode to the altruism that hospitals and their staff represent. No, I was only thankful when I was released, and though I had paid penance with five toes, a tibia and a fibula, it was passing the other side that eventually compensated for the loss.
You see, hospitals are less salvation then they are a toll booth upon the soul. To enter one is to relinquish some part of yourself to the hand of fate collecting from the other side. Whether a leg, a childhood or the soul itself, whether a sense of dread, knowledge of mortality or the sufferance of waiting in an uncomfortable chair - all who enter are forced to pay and none that leave do so feeling entirely themselves.
Understand, that if hospitals were churches they would have a liturgy upon taxation and their catechism would be ‘none may egress whole’.
It is a shame to believe it, but none the less I have learned that it is true.
Even now as I write this I am at my great-uncle’s bedside, and I am watching him die. Before you jump with immediate sympathies know that we were not close, and that the hairs on my forearm remain kindling beneath the proximity of this ceiling. And yet I am watching him pay a price - in these the walls of the valley of death - that I of now, never have.
I am watching his chest rise and fall, I see his mouth hang open and his teeth revealed to the intrusion of fluorescent light, and, believe it or not, I can hear children playing through the window beside his lamp. I can hear my own laughter through them, I can hear the sound of my own breathing as I once lay upon a mattress-pyre of sterility, and I can hear the hand of God as he places twin coins of silver upon the eyes of my uncle.
I believe it is the nature of this place to take that which isn’t ours and as I sit here, I am growing ever more certain that it is precisely this penance that hangs so heavy upon all our heads.
Though it may be a shame to feel it, I know my eyes await those coins the same as any other, and though I am ashamed to admit it, I expect I will always be afraid to pay.
Such is the nature of being alive - for some of us, the knowledge of life’s temporality is so acute, that stepping into a hospital is no different than the act of crawling out of bed, of pouring water into a coffee pot, or stepping outside a front door and onto a welcome mat, in an exhibition of the courage required to truly face death; and all while doing so completely unencumbered by its proximity and while actively engaging in all the mundane facets required in most our days to day. Those rare few who understand, deeply, that unto dust our days waste because unto dust we are destined to walk - and those few, though rare, who accept this turn of fate, be it after a long, arduous reconciliation or as trivially as if they had cut their hair, are truly, the ones I expect we should follow.
I am not one of those people.
Though there are many moments in which I wish I could personify the Kierkegaardian virtue of ‘that individual’, I am not one who can walk through death’s tunnels without at least feeling discomforted by the fact that I wished I didn’t have to. If I could, I imagine I’d be sitting here, across from my great-uncle, feeling either a deep remorse for the indiscernible step he’s about to take - that walk into a thing that all of us know, yet none of us understand - or instead, perhaps, nothing at all.
I imagine only a psychopath could feel nothing at all, and though in that expectation I realize I’m only comforting myself by stating that, though I don’t feel much remorse, at least I still remain in complete discomfort instead of suddenly being imbibed by the urge to smother his face with a pillow. For I believe that’s how psychopaths really view death - they see the dying as an off-chance opportunity to perhaps feel something, and upon expediating the process they find themselves either disappointed by the fact that they didn’t, or excited by the fact that they almost did.
But I digress, and I apologize for how off putting a train of thought like that may be - be aware, I’m as uncomfortable having it as you likely are listening to me voice it. The truth to hospitals is that they are, at once, houses of death, faculties of repair, intimate reminders of the fragility of our separate existences, and places from which children are thought to be best brought into this world. And though I found it difficult to reconcile that such antithetical phenomenon would occur, or even be conducted in the support of, such the same kind of bleached, porous buildings - I understood after a while, that this is because the two are so very intimately dependent on each other.
They are the beginning and end to the same circle - the same ring that so many of us dance in benign ballet, and so few others march with the severity of understanding that becomes a monk, or perhaps a Siberian war criminal. They are in turn each other’s opposites because without one the other would seem malignant, and without the other there would be no reason for the first. It is the nature of such things, to begin, and to end - for one, in whatever dance they so happen to perform - and for another, to begin, spin and end again.
In that perhaps, hospitals represent as much the weld between the links as they do the catalyst for my sublime discomfort, but I see it as the truth of such places. And though I feel affected, moved by the profound, sad, simplicity of such an occurrence - I expect for someone like me the thought will fly from the space between my temples as quickly as it might take to purchase a cup of coffee before departing for the exit.
For I, like so many of us, prefer not to have to consider such things unless immediately prompted by the necessity. And the shame in that is either that I will again be forced into the same revelation upon next entering a hospital, or that when my time eventually comes, as we all know it will, to feel the touch of silver above my eyes and step into something I cannot truly conceive, my response to what lays beyond might be just as asinine as it was to step into this very room to begin with.
It would be more a shame to die feeling uncomfortable with absolution than it would be to feel discomfort when walking in death’s presence, however, so the thing is, and so a shame I think, I’m liable to expect.
As it were, I have to leave now - as visiting hours are almost over and I don’t think my uncle will be able to regain consciousness before they inevitably are. He was always a very polite man, and he reminds me very much of his mother, my great grandmother, whom I loved very much. I am sorry, in a sense, that I did not know him better, but again, such is the way of the thing and I hope, at least, whatever waits for him on the other side is not wanting for a sense of welcome - if not more so than this hospital has for me.

© 2020 Ookpik


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Added on March 19, 2020
Last Updated on March 19, 2020

Author

Ookpik
Ookpik

Vancouver Island, British Columbia , Canada



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