I brought Sophie with me to the hospital very late last night. Our time there (for a medical issue that looked scary but ended up less so) is incredibly sweet; while we await the physician my daughter reads National Geographic and travels to the bathroom and then the vending machine (where she reads my mind and purchases evil, evil Chee-tos) and when she returns we cuddle (tired) on the narrow exam bed and somehow we get to talking about my lone previous surgery: gallbladder removal. She wants to hear every detail of the process, the anatomical ins and outs. I can’t believe what good company she is, a child but in some ways invested with more clarity than any adult I’ve met. She asks after other family members, other surgeries. She listens to the account of my mother’s hysterectomy. She is putting it all together.
The emergency room is an odd place; at night (which seems to be the only time I visit) the atmosphere pulses with an inexplicable mix of contradictory emotions and activity; some would-be patients or family huddled in bruised exhaustion and some, conversely, pacing in revved-up displays of energy, eyes active, their bloodstreams racing with “fight or flight”. There was something different last night, though. Something worse in the air; as it turned out, two men admitted for gunshot wounds (very rare here). It was a family I knew; long ago I dated the cousin of the admitted.
And when we left I knew the boy had died, just knew by the aura of everyone who was there.
I’ve taken my daughter swimming a bit over the last few days. Her official “lessons” resume tomorrow. Sophie likes swimming more than anything else; I know this because she will consistently eschew other activities she loves – video games, reading Bone comics, or watching LOLcat vids on YouTube – if only to get a few minutes in the pool. She grew out of her last swimsuit and is now in a bikini I found in the Free Clothing Exchange, her belly long beneath the comically-unneeded tiny top. Tonight I watch her dive and stroke under the surface, flip over and glide backwards, splash, look up every now and then in goggles and her little perfect mouth to find me and wave. Afterwards as she gets dressed two older girls clamor around me, wanting to know my name and where we live. She’s made friends just by her time in the pool and her good nature. She flips her slick wet ponytails out of her longsleeved shirt and pulls the duffelbag over her head. She looks skater-chic, completely at ease hugging and saying farewell to these new friends and then pushing her way out the door to run ahead and greet another family friend. But her hand slips into mine down the hallway and my heart leaps with gratitude for her displays of tenderness.
My hair is now green, but in a subtle way that people stare and say, “Is your hair green?” thinking it’s a trick of the eyes. Today I realize that I wear that color quite a bit, which may contribute to the illusion; a sartorial reflection, like mountains visible in a lake.
Ralph received his new and long-deserved latest music toy today (an Epiphone Valve Jr tube amp) and he plays as I type here.
Life goes on. For us.