did you know that in hospitals, when you’re paralyzed,
they wheel you to a room with a floor drain
and hose you down?
i sat in the hospital bed next to my mom.
i didn’t want to, because she smelled like hospital and she seemed different than before,
but my dad said it would make her feel better.
she couldn’t feel the left side of her body
and i was sitting on her left side
and before long she was leaning against me
and my body was being squeezed between the hard plastic bed rail and the body
of my mother
but i didn’t say anything. if i did,
she wouldn’t be able to sit up herself anyway and
my mom hates being embarrassed.
the nurses say you’re not allowed to bring pets into hospitals,
but if you’re careful, you can sneak four large dogs into the elevator and up to the seventh floor.
the lady who can’t speak anymore will cry and pet the collie.
her daughter will say she used to speak five languages.
she was a linguistics professor at the university.
now she cries to the dog in silence.
the dog is patient with her. the dog does not expect her to speak back.
she pets the dog and the dog invites her wordlessness.
she does not have to point to her notepad and underline the sentence:
“i can’t talk; i had a stroke.”
once i asked a nurse if they give fishnet stockings to all their patients
because my mother’s legs were so dry and the cracks in the skin
looked like the stockings from Hot Topic i was never allowed to buy.
i swore i could smell the fish on her skin.
i feel like a bad person when i don’t want
to hug my mom. i remember i loved her hugs before she got sick.
maybe she still smells like hospital.
maybe she never really got better.
maybe before-hospital mom is gone.
maybe she’s not even my mom.
maybe i just don’t like hugs anymore.
the speech therapy rooms in hospitals are small.
the physical therapy rooms in hospitals are big.
which is weird, because in my thirty-nine days of informal investigations,
i saw a lot more tears in the speech therapy rooms.
lots of yelling during physical therapy, mad yelling and happy yelling,
but energy, at least.
in the speech room,
mostly just stuttering or silence.
silent tears. sad tears.
hopelessness like that needs space to breathe.