Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Septoplasty - 4

The surgeon greeted me and escorted me to a place behind the doors. You were born exactly ten days before me, he said. I think I said that's funny. He instructed me to lie on a wheeled bed.

The anesthesiologist was tall and had a heavy accent. Eastern European, I thought. Romanian, Bulgarian. Do you smoke? No. Do you drink? Yes. You don't take any kinds, you know, illegal drugs or what.

Of course not.

To my left a young Asian doctor introduced himself, shook my hand, and plumped up the crook of my elbow for a good vein. You're going to feel a pinch. And I did feel a pinch: the pressure of my entire being escaping into the world at large. Suddenly my circulatory system was connected to the cosmic ether. I felt vaguely idiotic and serene. Whatever may go in me, may go in me. I'm in the blood and the blood's in me.

The surgeon grabbed my bed by a railing at the foot and wheeled me down a series of halls, around corners, through doors, cheerily greeting colleagues along the way. It was impossible to overlook the infantile aspect of the experience. Or a dream where your bed is a car.

At the end I was asked to get up and I felt a vague irritation at this - wasn't I in bed already? I'm stricken, for Christ's sake. I have on backwards-forwards clothes and my body's hooked up to a plastic bag. I stepped gingerly through the swinging doors and into the operating theater. There was a forbidding padded plank in its center, with masked figures all around. Remove the top gown, I was told. Lie down. Put your arms out like this - that's right, like that. It occurred to me that I'd crucified myself - my arms were outstretched on the lateral extensions of the cross and all there was to do was drive the nails.

The anesthesiologist rematerialized. You comfortable? Good. Now we gonna give you something to relax you little bit.

It dawned on me to ask him what it was. What is it? There was a beat or two of pause. This was not a question he was accustomed to answering.

It's valium and, um, morphine.

I said, and I tried very, very hard to focus on the high, to know the high, to get inside of this high now, right here, now, this high right now, I watch the ceiling, feel it, to be high, to feel it, feel it, feel it, feel...

I woke up with a shot and no idea where the fuck I was. Why, what, light, who? OK, surgery. I just had surgery.

Illustration by Louise Asherson