It was actually snowing a lot here this afternoon – big snowflakes that made me feel like I was sitting in the middle of some sort of magic Canadian cauldron. The snow reminded me of something I wrote a while back, named “Winter Afternoon”. It’s based fully and completely on a true story, which is this:
When I was 5/6/7 and basically from the moment I was born I had a disfunction in my urinary tract and, by extension kidneys, called vesicoureteral reflux. This basically means that the pee that was in my bladder didn’t just go one way, but went back up to my kidneys as well. One day I had a horrific temperature, was throwing up and generally was about to die (literally), when I got rushed to the hospital. The thing was that my mother knew I had this condition and for the past year had been all over Moscow hospitals getting consultations on it, but the only hospital she hadn’t checked was the only one with space that I was rushed to.
The doctor, Valerii Cheskis, who passed away several years ago, basically scolded my mother (who was about 26 at the time) for not coming to him sooner and doing something. Anyway, he did the surgery for me and all was well. I spent a good month in the hospital in the children’s ward, where I got daily injections, pills and watched my first porno. Nobody was allowed in to see me because outside germs could give the recovering kids infections of massive proportions and we could all have died.
So, what my family did to see me and talk to me is stand on old, beat-up chairs and crates outside the enormous windows.
Breath like hot air balloons floated out with each contraction of her lungs, frenzied and unsure. Laugh lines plenty, but frown lines more. Eccentric and 60 years old, tinged purple hair and rough hands from hand washing clothes for 50 years. First her brothers then her husband. Bright blue eyeliner and an aircraft engineering degree later, she was standing on swollen feet on the ledge of a giant window.
This building was light blue, and the sun was out, situated in the middle of a complex of trees and other light coloured buildings in the middle of urban Moscow. The only hospital they hadn’t checked – the only one they forgot about. It was just luck taking her there. Just coincidence. Such thin divisions.
She tapped her short fingernails on the musky glass window, stretching her sagging bones into the necessary height. Somewhere behind the glare of the sun and the sunshadows on the linoleum floor inside, was a bed with her granddaughter in it. Lying right under full sunlight lay her 7-year-old, pale, emerald eyes closed and hands slowly drifting their way down the white hospital sheets. Toys arranged methodically beside her bed, probably by a nurse, bags and bags of toys and games and a notepad lying on the table, pencils strewn. You would’ve guessed it was her birthday, were it not here.
Despite the -27 degree weather, tears rolled down the woman’s rosy cheeks, barely staying soluble. She could smell the chlorine from a mile away, the sterility to prevent infection, accumulation of bugs and viruses, to prevent circumstances beyond the nurses’ control. She tightened her grip on a piece of paper ripped out of a binder, with pencil-crayon words blurring in her eyes.
It is horrible here, grandma. And everything hurts, but I want to be strong. I know I should be strong for this. I miss you and love you and when can I come back home? The doctors say soon but also that the stitches are coming apart. It hurts when I move, so will you make me pelmeni when you bring me home? I love you, A X.
Her uncle brought a transistor radio last week, but the nurses wouldn’t let it in. Her father shed his first tears since puberty when he was asked to help bathe the girl, frail in his arms, almost breaking, translucent.
She came back every day, shoes straining against the pavement, joints aching in her swollen ankles, straining against the wind-chill, holding the letter in her hand like a bible. Praying for anything. Praying for her daughter be spared from burying hers. Praying for no more letters, just windows, thawing and opening.
This isn’t poetry, but it’s writing. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it.