The old emaciated figure gasps a tortured breath; chest heaving, ribs stretching his frail skin. He is thinking of his past and follies. He is hoping to make recompense. His blue eyes are sticky, burning with relentless suffering and opiate infusions. They bulge and dart in their sockets. Sometimes, his mind is no longer his own. White-clad, uniformed personnel, move and swish at his bedside, infusing unknown liquids. He feels his arm taken out from the sheets, to be pierced, prodded and replaced back into the safety of the blanketed bed. Oddly, it all felt strangely familiar to him.
The wall adjacent to the man, was a bank of buttons, alarms and blue, blinking lights. These and the incessant hum of surgical machinery and suction machines, made the room feel like a spaceship. “Water,” the man muttered weakly through cracked, dried lips. His teeth were sticky and gums foul tasting. He wanted water. A nurses aide approached the bedside and pushed a button, abruptly raising the head of the bed. He jerked his eyes open, as the bed bounced and vibrated upward. The movement caused pain to radiate from his spine and into his lower legs. “Ughhhh!” He let out an involuntary groan.
He felt a straw being placed into his mouth and he sucked feebly at it. Nothing. “Harder.” he heard the aide softly say above him. He tried again. At last his mouth flooded with the sweetest ambrosia. Water! Nothing has ever tasted so good in his entire existence. Pushing the straw out of his mouth with the tip of his tongue, the man sighed deeply. The very task of drinking, required such a Herculean effort. He felt broken, like a discarded toy. The aide asked him if he was in pain. He just rolled his eyes toward him and with the vaguest movement of his head, signaled “No.”
The mans eyes were closed now and he idly wondered what day it was. He knew he could ask, but the answer wasn’t worth the effort required. Licking his lips, he moved his right arm; the IV tubing catching on something. It caused him to replace his arm where it originally had lain. There was a sheet wrinkle or his shirt was bunched up underneath him, causing a burning to begin, but he couldn’t really move in order to fix the problem. The man tried-again-to figure out the date, but his morphine- befuddled brain, wouldn’t do the math.
He smelled Lysol and rubbing alcohol. He wanted forgiveness. He thought of the great things in his life. He thought of lovers from his past. He thought of the accolades from his friends, when they rode skateboards in pools all those years ago. He remembered living at Ridiculous. He thought of Woodward skate camp, where he worked as director. He thought of the first time that he landed an invert or did the deathbox and the elation that followed. He thought of his pool pals. He thought of…. The man fell into the black well of oblivion. Sleep. Later, as a bank of storm clouds, shoved their way past the hospital, his lungs began to fill with fluid and he never regained consciousness. The night took him. The deep, dark place waited for him, like it waits for us all.
Epilogue-When I worked as an RN, death always appeared the same to me. Its what people do with their life, that matters most. Skate-Ozzie