It’s time to get up, said the nurse.
She wasn’t quite sure how that would happen, but she knew the nurse had seen many women before her who were in the same condition and knew it was possible.
Dangle your feet over the bed, said the nurse, feel for the floor.
She thought about how strange it was that she needed instructions to stand.
Stand up straight, said the nurse.
But she couldn’t stand up straight. The sleeping bag could not roll all the way out. So with curled shoulders she stood. Sort of. Her body still in pleats. Holding the I.V. pole for dear life. She teetered.
While she stood there to steady herself, she felt the oddest sensation. Her insides rattled. What was happening? Things moved around. She felt it. Her liver and her lungs. Her kidneys and her stomach. Settling like a box of corn flakes. They were confused. And disoriented. They didn’t know where to go, how to be. Musical chairs when the music stops. Even her ribs felt like they’d slipped, and like a wind chime they straightened out. Gravitated back into order. Or maybe out of it.
Her internal parts had suffered a loss. One of their own was gone. What would they do now? How would they function? It was as if the earth was removed from the solar system. She felt their confusion.
Take a step, said the nurse.
She couldn’t lift her foot, so she slid it instead. Then the other one to meet it. By some miracle she got to the door.
You made it, said the nurse. This is what’s goin’ on out here. She pointed down the hall.
The nurse coaxed her to take one step into the hall before turning around. Come on, you’ve got to be part of this, said the nurse.
She wondered if the people in the hall knew she was missing something. What would give her away? Shuffling feet. Hunched shoulders. Breathless words. Or would it be her face. Was her face a vacancy sign? She knew it revealed the emptiness and confusion happening inside.
Why are you crying? You’re going home, said the nurse the next morning.
She struggled to sit up in bed.
She couldn’t speak. Her thoughts were stuck in her throat. She choked out two words, I’m grateful. It was more than that, but she couldn’t unsnarl her emotions. She was grateful for being healthy, for the deft hands of her surgeon, for her family, for the empowering words of her nurse, to be going home. But she grieved the loss of something that was once a part of her. It was the first home to her two children. However, she knew better than to feel that her body had failed her, because it worked perfectly when it needed to. At a time when it couldn’t have been more important. And she was most grateful for that.