Eva's Playboy-Winning Short Story
My eyes won’t open. I can’t move. I can’t breathe. Everything is black.
“Don’t worry about me,” I tell Mr. Swanson. My voice is feather-light. The sentence breaks apart into single words, then single sounds, until it is just a bunch of particles, floating randomly through the room like sunshine-dust. “Don’t worry,” I say again. “I went inside my body, and everything looks fine.”
Mr. Swanson raises his eyebrows. They are very thick and dark, but the rest of his body is hairless. His arms are smooth and soft like ropes of bread dough. “Oh you did, did you?” He smiles, and his teeth melt together like mozzarella cheese.
“I did. I’ll be back to work in no time.”
“You just need to concentrate on getting better.”
“I’ll take care of it,” I say.
Earlier in the day, I went inside my body. I sat in a comfortable armchair down at the bottom of my left lung. All around me the walls glowed orangey-pink and pulsed slightly. I reached out to touch them, and they felt like the slippery flesh of a cut-up nectarine. The room was warm, with high ceilings and a sweet scent like honeysuckle in the summer. I looked up at the domed ceiling and saw a patch in the peachy plaster: the place where the rib had punctured my lung. But the doctors fixed me. Just a little leak in the ceiling. All better now.
“All better now,” I tell Mr. Swanson, except that Mr. Swanson is no longer standing by my bed. Instead it is a fat nurse in Garfield scrubs. Garfield is dressed as a doctor. He has a stethoscope.
“Not quite, but you’re getting there, Miss Rebecca,” she tells me. “I’m just going to take your blood pressure now.”
I’m getting better. Instead of being on a constant morphine drip, now I have a clicker. It’s a small box that fits in my hand, and if I press the button, a big old wallop of morphine will shoot directly into my wrist. I don’t know how much. The nurse on duty just used the term “big old wallop.” Then she said “Aren’t you lucky?”
They tell me to click the clicker every time I feel pain. That seems like a dangerous thing to say to a person. I haven’t clicked it at all. I’m in a lot of pain, but I can deal with it.
I’m trying to lie perfectly still. It doesn’t hurt as much if I don’t move. I take in tiny breaths and blow them out slowly because it hurts to breathe. I also have to pee, but I’m holding it in because I don’t want to use the bedpan.
I squeeze my eyes closed, and think about a big field of grass. This is what I do whenever I ride a roller coaster: just close my eyes, grit my teeth, and wait for it to all be over. I think about a field because grass is neutral and non-threatening. Mountains, you can be buried in an avalanche. Lakes, you can drown. Deserts, you can dehydrate. But a field of grass? Nothing stressful about that.
The nurse who thinks I’m lucky clips something onto my finger, and I open my eyes. “Measuring the oxygen in your blood,” she says. She looks at me strangely. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I manage to say.
“Why don’t you click the clicker?” she asks.
“I’ll take care of it,” I whisper.
I’m trying to concentrate on an infomercial about the ab roller. I’m probably going to need one after I get out of the hospital – all this lying around, my muscles getting soft. Normally I get up at five a.m. to go running before work, but who knows how long it will be until I can do that again.
One of my doctors enters the room. His name is Doctor Mc-Something. He’s the one who cut me open and patched up the hole in my lung.
“The nurses say you’re not using your clicker.”
I close my eyes and pretend to be sleeping.
“You’ll feel better if you click the clicker.”
I can sense him moving closer to my bed. He picks up the controller, and I open my eyes. “No thanks,” I say.
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