I remember sliding onto the operating table and the anesthesiologist bitching about something to a nurse, but then the world faded out to black softly, just like it does on the big screen. Probably one of the few things Hollywood manages to portray with any kind of reality. After it was over, I was in and out for an hour or so before finally coming around and realizing that I was so hungry, I was anxious to eat hospital food, fucking masochist that I am. Tasteless strawberry Jell-o and cranberry juice? Bring it on sister, just top it with a shot of bourbon so I know I’m alive. The plan was to be home by nightfall to celebrate the kid’s 17th birthday (and his brand-spanking-new driver’s license) and nobody was going to piddle on my plans—there was a Carvel ice-cream cake to be cut for the love of Pete.
1st on the checklist was keeping food down…a term loosely defined inside these walls. I laughed off the Jell-o and asked for substance. So I got chicken noodle soup from the café because the kitchen had finished lunch service already. Thank the fucking institution of health for small favors. Keep food down—check. Now pass the percocet please, because I think Ridley Scott has just unwittingly cast me in Aliens in Jersey and something’s about to come busting out of my chest. Pain begins to pass, humanity begins to find its way back into my body, and I’m ready for #2.
2nd on the checklist was walking with assistance. Seriously? Watch me salsa up and down the hallway, bitch. Even a hospital gown designed by a blind monkey and an IV unit being wheeled in front of me can’t hold me back. ONE, TWO, THREE, four. ONE, TWO, THREE, four. Tito Puente was looking down with pride. By the time I made it back to my bed I had a few singles tucked into the hospital gown and the hunger had returned. The nurse had been so happy with my rate of recovery that she ordered a “regular” meal for my dinner. Something solid? Really? Something on a bone perhaps? Something I can gnaw on and suck the marrow out of? In came food service. With a tray of…wait, what the fuck? Beef broth? They had screwed up my meal ticket. Two sips in I pushed it away, just to make sure I didn’t throw it against the faded white walls. Come on sweetcheeks, bring on #3.
Last on the checklist was peeing 100 mL all on my own. 100 mL keeping me from freedom, fresh air and my kid’s face. The nurse didn’t share my enthusiasm, though, and was reluctant to pull the catheter. “No way bubba, my doctor said I could go home if I met all your criteria, so clear it and pull it.” 5 minutes later she returned, phone in hand. “The doctor’s on the phone for you.” Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I ate food…if you can call it that. Yes I wanna go the hell home. “Here, he wants you back.” She hangs up. “OK let’s pull that catheter out. Doctor said if I didn’t, I’d probably come back in an hour to find an open window with bed sheets hanging out it.” Damn skippy. Bring the pitchers of water and keep them coming until I raise my hand or my eyeballs float back into my head.
It’s not water, I kept telling myself. It’s a deftly crafted, perfectly tempered pint of whiskey-barrel-aged stout. And I drank. And I drank. And I drank. You’ve probably had enough, Katie. No, screw that. I was not going to get up and go through the effort of walking to the bathroom only to be disappointed by the inability to meet that mark. If there’s a line in the sand, damned if I won’t cross it. So I drank. And I drank. And then I raised my hand. I, Katie, was ready to pee.
By the time I hit that call button and the nurse arrived to measure my throw, I had (of course) exceeded all expectation. 200 mL bee-atch! Give me my walking papers please, because there is a slice of chocolate ice cream cake and a devilishly handsome kid waiting at home for me. “Are you sure you want to go through the trouble of signing out now? Why not just stay the night,” she asked as my neighbor proceeded to shit herself and the stench of Hell’s fifth circle began to overtake the room like a thick fog. I stared her down. “I’ll get that paperwork, ma’am.” And ten minutes later the “transportation department” was wheeling me down a maze of corridors, to the revolving doors. A spring night’s air never smelled so fresh. A slice of mass-produced ice cream never tasted so delicious. Freedom never tasted so sweet.