Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thanks for the Song - #fridayflash

The faraway song of the sirens had grown to a screeching wail before stopping abruptly. What seemed like nonstop footsteps replaced the wailing. I was expecting a loud thud as the emergency team broke through the door. The sound of the turning knob was somewhat disappointing. Apparently the door was unlocked. Uniformed firemen rushed into the bedroom. On the bed was a small figure propped up on pillows, arms wrapped tightly around the midsection. The wild words of pain were written across the face. No sounds were uttered. Eyes resembled those in “The Scream”.

Paramedics did their job. Checked vitals, carefully unfolded the trembling body and transferred it onto a gurney. There was a snap as the height of the gurney dropped and carried it down the stairs, only slightly heavier when then they’d brought it up. And then the sirens started again. They sounded buffered from inside the bus, enveloping the mind. The hospital was only blocks away. Again the snap as the legs of the gurney extended so the wheels would reach the pavement. Then, no more pavement—smooth floors—wheeled into an examination room. People in blue surrounded her. Voices were indistinguishable. It was just noise. This is what it is like to be in shock. Everyone was moving and doing something but all sensation was focused on the pain. Finally sleep came as a release.

The hospital room was quiet. The IV drip was infused with morphine. Pain was replaced with peace but the quiet was deafening. There was no TV in the room. No radio. No roommate. On the bedside table was a phone. After dialing the number a friendly voice finally broke through. WNEW, Vin Scelsa here.

“Hi Vin. It’s me. I’m in the hospital.”

“Oh my God. What happened? Were you in an accident?”

“No, I don’t think so. I woke up with so much pain I couldn’t move. I called 911 and now I’m somewhere in Teaneck in a hospital room.”

“Do they know what’s wrong? Can you hold on a minute?

“Yeah, I think so.”

“And that was the haunting sound of Leonard Cohen to cheer up those depressive listeners.”

A commercial could be heard through the phone.

“Are you there?”

“Yes, I’m still here. I love Leonard Cohen.”

“I know. What are you doing in the hospital?”

“Mostly just laying here enjoying the morphine right now. I woke up and the pain was gone but nobody’s been in the room so I assumed it was night and I took a chance and thought I might get through to you. I needed to hear a familiar voice.”

“Well, you’ve certainly got my attention. What do you think is happening?”

“I don’t know. I was okay when I went to bed but right now I’m hoping that death will come soon and put me out of my misery. If the drugs wear off I won’t be able to stand that pain again. I’d rather be dead.”

“Don’t say that! Stay on the phone with me while I get some music going. I’ve got something cued up. It seems only logical to follow Leonard with Joanie. You’re listening to Vin Scelsa on WNEW-FM. Okay, I’m back. Can you hear the music?”

“Yup. It’s so good to hear music.”

“I’m going to help you through the night, Suzi Butterfly. Just tell me what you want to hear and I’ll let you program the show. Will that help you hang in?”

“Just hearing your voice, Vin, helps. It’s good to know I have a friend who I can call in the middle of the night. The music is great. Weird to be in a room with no TV or radio. Mostly the radio. You know me, I can’t live without my music.”

“What do you want to hear?”

“Something bluesy by Clapton. How ‘bout Bell Bottom Blues?”

“Coming right up. Just relax and keep listening. Don’t let go, okay? I’ll stay with you through the night.”

The dreaminess was surreal. The darkened room. The telephone laying on the pillow next to her ear. Music flowing from the receiver interrupted by her friend’s voice and encouragement.

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy said. That was the morning sign-off to his program that started at midnight with, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Vin took his listeners on a trip to Oz every night and then brought them back again. Many of them were enjoying the trip anyway.

Vin was now talking in his velvety voice without interruption.

“The sun should be coming up soon. Are you still with me?”

“Yeah, I’m here. Sorry you’re going home, though.”

“Do you want me to come by the hospital on my way?”

“No. I’ll just wait for the doctors and find out what’s going on.”

“Alright Butterfly. Call me at home as soon as you know. Fredda should be up by then and you know I don’t go to sleep until later.”

“Thanks, Vin. If I live through this, this is a night I’ll never forget.”

“Don’t say that, Suzi. You’re gonna get through it. Call me.”

Reverie swept her into a place far away. Maybe this was Oz. A nurse came in and shattered the delusion. Time for vital signs again.

“The doctors will be in to talk to you in a few minutes.”

And then there were men in white jackets. Was this an asylum?

“The tests show your gall bladder is full of stones. We’re going to operate this morning. After we get it out of there you should feel much better.”

Widening eyes looked up at their blurry faces. Surgery?

“Do you have any questions? Who can we call?”

“Nobody. I’m on my own. Do I need to sign anything?”

“The nurse will be in with the paperwork. We’re getting the O.R. ready. You’ll have to stay here for a week after surgery and then you should be good to go.”

Alone again. The shuffling sound of feet brought back reality. The nurse was standing by the bed with papers to be signed.

“Why is the phone off the hook?” she asked as she picked up the receiver and put it back in its cradle.


Cecilia Dominic said...

Oof, yeah, I hear that gall stones are some of the worst pain ever. A very sweet tale of friendship, but I wonder why she told the docs she was alone?


Susan Cross said...

Hi Cecilia, back in the '70s a lot of young people were 'on their own' and out of touch with their families. I imagine it's not that different now when young people follow a path that their parents don't approve of. She was lucky that Vin Scelsa was on the radio that night, doncha think?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've been there with the gallstones. You nailed the pain of that.

Nice juxtaposition of reality and dreaminess.

Good story!

Eric J. Krause said...

Good story. Sounds like she's got a good friend in Vin.

J. M. Strother said...

What a terrific friend she has. Nice story, Susan.