I didn't expect the security guard to let me in at 8:30 in the night. I thought, I might talk to him and find out what the visiting hours are so that I could go and see her the next day. The normal entrance was closed and they were letting people in through the emergency ward. Just as I braced myself to talk to a monster of a man, rehearsing my lines to ask him politely and walk off - he called for me, asked me the name of the patient I wanted to see, asked me when she was admitted and directed me to the admission counter.
That was unexpected - I didn't want to tell him that I wasn't quite prepared to go see her tonight and that I will see her tomorrow. I can't put my finger exactly on what's the problem. It's just that hospitals unsettle me. I am scared I would catch sight of a terrible wound, of someone in pain, of a woman in labor and lose my night's sleep. I am growing older now. I have do this someday. I walked on. Just as I crossed the first corridor was this woman, shrieking and beating her chest with her fists. Right then, I knew I should turn and walk away. I closed my eyes and walked straight to the Admission counter. Matter of fact answer. 4 digit room number. A dozen floors to cross. An empty lift and a sleepy assistant. A life size mirror. I close my eyes.
The notice on the board asked me to knock. A feeble voice, like that of an old woman said I could enter. Uncertain whether it was the right room, I walked in and switched on the lights. She was there alright but gave out a cry once the lights were on, covering her eyes with her elbow and asking me to switch it off. It was pitch dark once I switched it off. I groped for her bed and found a seat next to it. She looked drugged, extremely tired and very sleepy. It probably wasn't the right time - I stood up to leave. but she asked me to stay. She was scared of being alone. Always has been. She gave me a faint smile as I took my seat. I reached for her forehead and asked whether I could touch her. She said it was ok. I slowly caressed her hair and asked how she was feeling. She said she was tired but there was no headache now. She hasn't been vomitting - That was good news.
I asked her whether the doctors have been taking care of her well. "If not, just let me know. We will set up enough men to size them up". A smile broke through the corner of her lips. I felt better. Then, it stuck me that she probably shouldn't talk for too long, and that I am disturbing her sleeping time. By now, I was accustomed to the light inside the dark room and could spot her silhouette reclining in the bed. I let my eyes wander across the room, waiting to find something to catch my attention so that I can stop talking.
As if she read my mind, she said it was ok if I talked, and that she's had enough sleep already. I asked her what all happened since morning. She still didn't open her eyes. but somehow her face became brighter as if she was waiting all day to explain everything in detail to somebody. She went to tell me about every doctor who came, who was smart and who was dumb, about the one who had all the answers and the other who ran to the phone for every little detail. She then came to the technical details - "They put me through so many tests Rathish. First they took a CT scan.", there was a pause as if she was recalling something, "I don't remember what CT stands for. but it's a two dimensional image of your brain. doesn't say much. Then they took a MRI scan - magnetic resonance imaging", she enunciated clearly. "They put me through these equipments they show in science fiction movies, took a 3D view of my brain and it was then they saw a tumour".
I flinched. It was hard to believe that the same exuberant girl I talked to a week back, was down with a tumour in her brain. It doesn't happen like that. It happens to heroes in movies, or heroine's brothers when they have to die and people have to cry. It happens to bunty's second cousin whose distant aunt lived 3 streets away from where I had stayed when I was a kid. Doesn't happen to someone who you live, breathe and laugh with.
"You know, tumors are of two kinds. Benign and malignant tomors. The malignant ones are bad terrible ones. Benign tumors are very common. Many don't even realize they get it." She paused as if to take breath, "I think once this operation is over, all the weak cells in my brain would be removed and I will become super intelligent and become the next einstein or something". Despite the pall of tension that hung around, I broke into a mild laughter. She was taking it much better than I had expected. She wasn't putting her head to one side, flluttering her eye lashes and giving a coy smile trying to be cute. This was how she was - pristinely innocent imagining neurons swimming inside her intergalactic thought rivers of her brain.
There was a period of silence that none of us tried to break. We had known eachother well enough to feel comfortable in such bursts of silence. Finally, I was the one who broke it.
"Are you scared da?"
"Hmm.. she added.", By now, I could see her face clearly and those thin contours of anxienty that formed across her face. "Have you been operated before Rathish?".
"Yes once. Very minor. Never realized when it happened"
"Is it very painful?"
"Not even half as painful as so many other things we have to go through as adults". I said and smiled.
I wasn't sure she was reassured. But she didn't ask any more questions. A knock. A nurse in white. Honey mathew - definitely malayalee. I go out and ask her a few routine questions, call her "Chechi" (elder sister) and she gives me a mischeivous smile. I smile back.
"I heard it", she said as I entered.
"You proposing her!".
"And you heard the slap too?"
She laughed. A phone call. Her friend was to come back at 11. I promised to wait till then. Don't know when, drifted into a state of semi consciousness imagining her as mithun da in a movie I once saw where a bullet removed the deadly tumour from his head. I imagined her in a black leather jacket with guns in hand, and a beedi between her lips. I laughed softly as the door opened, to let a ray of light and a tall affable figure inside. I saw her sleeping like a baby with her fingers curled and placed beside her face. Something told me everything is going to be ok. Wishful thinking - isn't faith always!
If you have a minute - do pray that all goes well in the tomorrow's operation. Will you? Thank you!