In A Lonely Place
By Robin Crane
When she regained consciousness, Elizabeth’s mind was working, but her body, her mouth, still couldn’t move. She heard her parents, who were standing at the foot of her bed in her room at the ICU, speaking to her. They weren’t speaking of her in the third person, the way two people might be expected to when they think that someone is unconscious, but they also weren’t talking like they thought she could hear them. It was more like they were speaking to her superstitiously, as though this one-sided conversation ensured the definite future of conversations she would soon be able to participate in.
When she finally regained control of her body, the first thing she did was try to speak, even though her parents had left hours ago. It was an effort embarked on solely to hear her own voice, but it wasn’t possible because there was a plastic tube obstructing her throat. Still, she wouldn’t stop trying to say something, and finally the attending nurse snapped at her, “You’re the only patient I’ve had who has been this bad. Stop fidgeting and go to sleep.” So, one of the first thoughts towards another person Elizabeth had after her surgery was “Fuck you. I just got my heart cut open.” This didn’t seem to bode well for life from this point on.
Her parents brought her eyeglasses after day three in the hospital, allowing her to see the images on the TV screen and to henceforth watch TV practically constantly. TV, as always, was like a person who was unconditionally kind to her. The morning she’d gone in for surgery, while in the waiting room, she’d been watching the morning news and had seen a story about a monkey in a zoo that, just out of nowhere, had begun to walk upright. She would remember this serendipitous nudge from me forever.
At night, with only a little bit of the light from the nurse’s station outside her door creeping in, the bluish glow emanating from the screen made her room look like a movie set, and the idea of her being observed by an unseen audience made her feel less catastrophic. There was a Humphrey Bogart movie on one night called “In a Lonely Place,” about a man who is powerless to stop his own violent urges, purposely staying on the fringes of society as a way to protect people from himself, as though he could become possessed by his uglier self at any moment. With an IV full of Valium warming her, the character’s plan of self-exile struck her as the safest, most noble option for survival she’d yet come across in her twenty five years. It suddenly seemed almost worth it having that singular, new scar of hers running down her chest (it would never heal correctly), if it meant she had an excuse to set herself apart from the nice but luckier people who surrounded and loved her.
She left the hospital on a Tuesday afternoon, still wearing the terry cloth hospital slippers and shuffling along the bright, white hallway. The nurse from her first day in the room in the ICU happened to be exiting the elevator as Elizabeth and her father were boarding it, and in passing, Elizabeth looked the woman in the eye, and said, definitely loud enough to be heard, “Bitch.” It was an enormous relief.
I know all this because I am the Goddess and the entity that sees everything all at once and reads your thoughts. I am wonderfully kind and have an empathetic, bottomless sense of humor. I love you all. There is no such thing as hell.