“Teen Titans Go” blaring on the cartoon network. the smell of urine overpowers everything in me. my intentions to be present get caught up in the bitter smells and endless sounds of a facility called home to so many.
he is lying on his bed – covered with a thread-bare sheet, unshaven face, grey hairs pepper his chin. dirty, uncut fingernails. his hands are cold; picking at sheets or face or hospital gown. old abrasions on his forearm, a clear bandage covering fresh blood. protruding ribs above his sunken belly. His chin is dropped, mouth open and his breathing irregular. one knee is bent as he carefully rocks back and forth, soothing himself.
i feel a pulse but am aware of his changing breathing. quick breaths … then periods of stillness, a permanent frown between his eyes, his head reaching up, throat arching.
bedside table…half eaten chocolate cookie, an open can of squirt, smudged eyeglasses and two hospital plastic drinking cups, one milk-of-magnesia pink, the other clear with a dirty straw. a box of Honey Graham Oh’s and a tipped bottle of cologne, empty plastic trash bags and a denture holder. a single fly circles.
periodically his body shudders. his eyes open and he points into the air with his left hand. he is comforted by a gentle hand on his chest. eyes roll back, sinking into his head. he looks into the distance and said his mother visited this morning.
i ask if he is in pain and he says yes and is agreeable for the first time to pain medication. an aide stops, asking if he wants to go out and smoke. hand on heart i wonder if he wants to go out … he shakes his head no.
hand resting on his chest i ask him if he is afraid and he clearly says no with a shake of the head.
the man sharing the room has a three foot high plastic statue of an elephant with bracelets on each ankle and a lavender lei around its neck sitting on his dresser. mint green curtains dividing the room move with the timing of the dusty desk fan. he watches as he wheels past us, leaves the door open and does not flush
something is happening to me right now. pay attention. light headed. unfocused. buzzing. disoriented. time: 1532
meditation. why am I here? what about my productivity numbers? maybe another facility and other patients? what keeps me here? what do I need to learn from this man?
my cell rings, interrupting death. my daughter has been rear ended and the other car left.
Be present in this moment.
This is it.
This man is alone.
Maybe for his last breath.
We are all really alone.