Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When my sick sense of humor looks back.

The other morning I opened my cell phone to find a Twitter Tweet from my friend Scott, who was taking a tour of a Tulsa hospital. I couldn't help but hit "reply."

When I was 19, I got my first "real job" at a different Tulsa hospital; and though I'd taken a little "tour" amongst my little group of new hires, there were certain areas that I didn't get to see until much later...

The Summer that I was 25, I saw more than I'd ever wished to see.

There were a few weeks of hazy blur with only bits that stand out. The morning of the tenth of May was a Friday, and I'd spent most of the previous night stumbling back and forth between a king-size waterbed and a blue tweed couch. Sleep was essentially out of the question, but I was alternately trying to lay down on either one so that I might stare at the ceiling and wonder what the hell I was going to do. Those were the days when I could take a shower at night, go to bed with wet hair, and get away with it; but I don't remember if I showered or not.

I do remember going out to the garage that Friday morning and sliding behind the wheel of the SHO, the schweeet green Ford that I'd pushed easily past 125MPH, left hand around a spoke of the wheel, right hand on the gearshift; flyin' up US75 coming home the night before, just to remind myself that I was still me and still here.

I closed the car door and put my seatbelt on, then I hit the remote and watched my mirrors as the garage door rolled up. There was sunshine, but it wasn't the same anymore... I pulled my black Coach bag, the one I still refuse to sell or give away, out of the passenger seat and into my lap; and I took out the other piece of my bridal set. I figured I'd about as well wear both rings since there wasn't going to be a wedding anyway.

I don't really remember the drive to Dave's sister's house, but I do remember sliding into the shotgun seat of that buttery new Lincoln Towncar, and I vividly remember going to the airport to pick up his parents. I remember taking them back to the hospital to see him, even though it had been nearly 24 hours. I remember how his dad held my hand and told me he'd help me keep racing if he could. None of his family helped me with anything but learning how the worst comes out in people sometimes, but that's a whole different post.

A hospital employee, possibly a social worker, met us in the main lobby, out front where everything's pretty with polished wood and well-kept flowers. We chatted a bit while we waited for Dave's sister to make her way back in from parking the car; yes, I've been here before, I used to work here. No, I don't think there's anyone from my old floor I'd like to see, I'm pretty sure none of 'em give a shit about me, so no, don't call up there...

I had already decided I wasn't going back in -- I'd gone back into that little room in the ER more times than I could count, and everyone close to me told me that he would only look worse and it would only be harder on me, so my mind was made up, I wasn't going in this time.

She led us through a maze of hallways, some familiar, some not; and the further we went, the less "well decorated" the building was. We took an elevator down to the basement and around turn after turn, past the laundry, past the bulletin board with the job postings on it, around corner after corner, back toward the employee parking garage, and into the cafeteria.

The Cafeteria. We went through the exit door past the steamy conveyor belt where a few people were leaving their trays, around the cashier stands, and past that turntable where the special of the day was displayed plate-by-plate... When I was working, the "Margarita Chicken" was one of my favorites. We followed the social worker across the cafeteria and over to the wall near where the fruit and cereal are, and she opened a door into another small hallway where she said "here we are."

I stayed in the hallway with his aunt, and she held me while his parents and his sister went in. I got back in the car. I took a few phone calls. I answered questions at the funeral home, yes, we'll have music, no I don't want to leave him laid out for people to gawk at. That night, we had salty fried chicken from some place in Southeast Tulsa; the containers were unmarked, but it was good, and it was the first thing I'd had to eat since lunch the day before, before everything changed.

Late that night on the blue tweed couch, I stared up at the ceiling in the spill from the TV, and in a rare break from wondering what the hell I was going to do, it hit me. The Cafeteria.

The morgue was right next to the cafeteria.

They didn't show us that part in the employee tour. I'll bet nobody knows the dead folks are right on the other side of that wall. Somebody's probably standin' there right this minute tryin' to decide between corn flakes or bran flakes, somebody's probably reachin' for an apple or an orange, and I'll bet they have no idea who's just mere feet away, lying cold in the very next room.

Looking back, it's one of those situations that's hell when you're in it, but almost humorous when looked back on.

Oh bullshit, who am I kidding, there's no "almost" to the humorous there. In a sick-ish sort of way, it is kinda funny, and I've no doubt Dave would see the humor in it as well.

When people ask about the hearse, and say things like "You know it's had dead people in it, right?" With a couple drinks in me, I just might say something like "So? So have my hands, how'bout that?"

Look for the humor, Love for the loving, 'cause ya never know what's lurking around the next corner.

Or just on the other side of that wall.

More later... _\,,/

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