A vignette.

It’s all quiet when I wake up after the procedure. The room is blush pink, like my hospital gown, like my skin. Light filtering in from the window makes the whole room shimmer gently. I smell coffee – there’s a cup steaming on the table, filling the pink room with a roasted scent. Allie is snoozing on the sofa, the sun dances on her long brown hair.

Allie rouses, brushes my forehead with the back of her hand, and gets her coffee.

There are plasters all over my arm – the places where the needles went in. I feel like a ragdoll, all stitched and patched. I feel a pang at the thought because there’s something rather disconcerting about describing yourself as a rag doll. It devalues the body, reduces it to biological mechanics in skin. The shimmery pink air tells me that everything inside me has been put in place – all the pumps and hinges, veins and wires. But is there a use in keeping a body that’s straining to fall apart? If every needle, every clip, every stitch is merely an artificial means of extending the life of the organs for a few more years beyond their natural time, then how different is the final reconstructed vessel from a robot?

I ask Allie what is the difference between being fixed and being healed. There is something richer about the word “healing”, I say. It’s something about the way the vowels ring in your temples and slip honey-like over the roof of your mouth. The word “fixed” sounds like cutting.

Allie makes a remark about how terribly philosophical I am after a surgery. Words have meanings in and of themselves, she says. Their meaning is in their sounds, and how the sounds make you feel.

“My great-grandmother was a nurse,”she told me. “You know what she said? She said that people think the heart is the last thing in the body to die, but it is in fact the first. It is always the heart that first languishes, before the body begins to fail.”

“What is healing, Elle? Healing must be what happens in your heart that gives life back to the body and gives it strength to fight.”

“And how do you heal a heart?” I ask.

Allie is quiet. She sits on the edge of the sofa, coffee cup in her hands, her dark eyes reflecting the sunlight into my own. The shimmers seem to stop dancing, Allie’s coffee ripples, and I can see the sounds of my words are rippling slowly through her mind.

“The question we all want to ask,” I say, “is where can the pain go?”

The light from the window is rosy and orange. Allie opens the curtains and breathes. Her face glows. “Things that are spirit, must be healed by spirit,” she says. “That is what I think, at least.” I imagine at that moment Allie’s sadness flying up to the sky like a flock of birds, looking for a place to disappear.

We watch the light turn to a flaming orange, and then salmon, and then go dark. Allie curls up on the sofa with her computer and a blanket and types away. I go to sleep soothed by the sound of Allie’s typing – the sound of her fingers building words upon words that reverberate in her mind only.


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