It explains why I didn't bring a book, my phone charger, a change of clothes, a toothbrush, or enough diapers for sleeping Solo, coming with us because he always needs to be with me.
I had no idea that we would be sent from one hospital to another. No idea that I would wear a labyrinth into the floor with my aching feet, there in the trauma ward with people in varying degrees of pain all around me. Broken leg, broken arm, someone hurt enough to need oxygen. All on small hard hospital cots. I was thankful that Kid A's hand was only cut, not broken.
I had no idea how angry I could become, feeling trapped and marginalized in a hospital where no one was nice to me or my brother or my son. Or how angry I would feel when too many doctors prodded (no less than eight) and hurt him, already hurting. Matty stayed with me, and I was so grateful for him as I sat, woozy and exhausted. Eventually one of us had to go home, and Kid A wanted me to stay. So Matty reluctantly left.
I had no idea what love I would feel, what great shining love, as I lay with my two sons on one of the cots, finally able to rest, waiting for the operation to repair Kid A's tendon. Solo lay between Kid A and I, my hand rested on Kid A's curly little boy head, and my love swelled up like a great shining bubble, golden and filling the room, blocking out the dirty ceiling, the terrible hospital smell, the hunger that I was feeling, the exhaustion. I waited until he was asleep to cry.
(They gave him some anesthesia, and he spoke sweetly to me as he drifted off: "When you smile with your lips closed, you look like a stranger with lips... you have three eyes...")
I padded out of the cot every half hour or so, asking when he would be operated on. Finally, at 4:00 AM, they told me to put him on the gurney. It had been twelve hours since he cut himself playing with a glass bottle, something that threatened to flood me with guilt every time my brain skittered back to the moment that he ran up screaming, covered in blood.
I was asked to wheel him to the place where he would be taken into the operating room, and it was not a nice place. Unfortunately, he woke up, and he was afraid. I kissed him and prayed for him and then they wheeled him away from me as he wailed for me.
It was my least favorite night so far. Give me childbirth anytime.
I returned to my labyrinth, walking quietly in circles past sleeping forms on beds who were still and quiet. Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. The Jesus prayer seemed to be all that I had brain power for, that and the occasional, Oh God, help. My boy my boy, which really means the same thing. It was enough.
We had ended up at the wrong hospital, sent there because there might have been a plastic surgeon there who could do a better job. I have since been told by a man who has lived here with his Indian family for ten years that he would NEVER take his children to that hospital. The question is not of the work that they do, but the way that they treat the patients. It is a world away from how I would suggest treating hurt people, but I was the foreigner at the hospital. It was not my place. I was lying beside the goldfish bowl, gills quivering in futility.
Eventually I lay down, again, beside Solo, and I think I drifted off a bit, because the next thing I knew was Kid A being wheeled out to me. He was naked under a blanket, and I lifted him from the gurney to the bed. He smelled, incredibly, like his newborn self. We were all reborn.
The morning was old and tired, but we made it through. I ran back and forth trying to find food, carrying Solo in my baby carrier which made everyone stare, occasionally crying which made everyone stare, sitting in silence which made everyone stare. Staring is a way of life here, which I don't usually mind. But everything is different at the hospital.
I have never hated any place as much as that hospital, with its hardness and mosquitoes, the abandoned IV next to the sink on the floor in a bathroom which smelled like the bathroom at the Delhi train station. I don't usually rail about hygiene here. But this was a hospital.
He was groggy, and didn't want to eat, and after hours and hours of sitting (trying anything to keep myself occupied, even reading the scraps of newspaper that were used to wrap my food) I decided to get us sprung. He was coming out of the anasthesia just fine, I told the nurses. We needed to be discharged. It was a teary process. They wouldn't send for a doctor to discharge us.
But I have children at home. I've been up all night. I'm so very tired.
You'll just have to wait.
I'm going to pick him up and take him out of here.
I'll call the doctor.
Finally the doctor came and we were all set free, like birds. The taxi that we took home had carpet on the ceiling and fake fur on the dash, as well as a very glitzy queen of heaven display on the console. It seemed heavenly, and the trees had never been so green. I didn't even mind the heat that pounded away all around us.
Kid A will be fine. He has a cast to wear for six weeks, to keep his thumb still while the tendon heals. He has analyzed it all to little microns, and as usual, his analysis is surprisingly accurate and intuitive. I like to see him solving problems, figuring out how to eat, whether or not he can play cricket, how to get dressed. When to ask for help and when he would prefer to do it himself.
Chinua arrived home yesterday and got all caught up on all the news. We spent some time just being together, and then all seven of us walked home last night along the dark beach, our feet in the water, tired and yet content.