surgery

There is one dream I have over and over again but can never find what it means.

I am laying on an examination table like at the doctor’s, with that flimsy sheet under me that makes annoying sounds when I so much as breathe and the meager pillow under my head. Usually those rooms are cold and quiet except for the buzzing of the ceiling light, but this one is warmer – not warm like my favorite kind, like the sun shining on your legs in summer just before the skies open up and pour rain, but warm enough. I am sleepy, because when am I ever not? Yet my eyes are still wide open and I feel I could almost see what’s behind me if I really, really wanted to.

There is a redheaded lady in the chair next to me, and she’s talking. I don’t even know what she’s talking about, and it changes every time, but she talks quickly and I have to concentrate to pick out words between the flurry of sounds coming from her lips. She is pretty, but no one loves her. I wonder then if that will be my fate, too, and that’s why I feel such an attachment to her.

Then the door opens and a nice-looking man walks in, nearly bald and old but not awkwardly so, and he puts on those latex gloves and he reaches for a cotton ball and he walks towards me. It is not an aggressive walk or even threatening and I don’t really feel anything besides intrigued, like what the hell am I doing here?

And then I see darkness but with little swirls of color, just like that scene in Ratatouille where Remy is trying to explain to his brother what happens when you mix the different flavors of foods to create something better than they would be alone. When I finally can see anything else, I see myself. I am being cut open in half, and the scene looks completely unreal but I can feel them doing it. I feel my chest tingle and then I see my heart, and it is pumping quietly and minding its own business but I see bruising just the same. And then my rib cage feels the tingles and there is a yellow bird there, like in a cage, and I think of Emily Dickinson and wonder if she ever saw it, too. My stomach is next, and butterflies slowly flutter out and fly around the room and the ginger girl giggles, amazed. They look at me curiously, as if these things are my fault, and I open my mouth to speak but the words come out of the places they’ve cut. The words spill out onto the table and coagulate like blood and stain the sheet with inky blackness. The doctor grabs a notebook and dabs it on the words and they appear on the pages, but there are too many to collect at once. He asks the lady to help him, and I watch as she runs to the drawers on the far side of the room and pulls out notebook after notebook after notebook, spiral and composition and then just pieces of paper and then just sticky notes and then just scraps, but they can’t stop the flow, I am bleeding out and the words are running over the bed onto the floor. A butterfly lands in one of the puddles and falls over, dead, and the bird stops singing from my body and my heart starts pumping more weakly. I close my eyes because it hurts to keep them open and it hurts to watch. The doctor and lady stop trying to save me. I hear them sink down into their chairs and watch me as I lay more and more still. They gather up the notebooks and straighten out the bent pages and they read, but they do not understand the words. They read for days, until there is nothing left but the words that linger around my dying body, and then they stand next to me to read those, too. I force my eyelids to open because I am dying to see what is in their eyes. In the doctor’s, I see confusion. I see him struggling to understand, and he grows frustrated when he only gets himself even farther from the truth. In the girl’s I see sadness. She is closer to understanding, but she too is frustrated because she knows she can’t change anything and she can’t find the answers to her questions. She hugs me, and the doctor holds my hand. They don’t say any words until I smile at them, and then they whisper we’ll miss you and leave. I carefully sit up and survey the room. Then I begin the slow process of cleaning up and stitching myself back together.

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