Carl Boon: The Third Day

I didn’t see the nurse’s face until the third day. The first two had been constant blurs of bad dreams, echoes crashing (more crashing) in a hallway somewhere, the faint smell of flowers and tea. I knew my name, I knew it was winter, and I knew something terrible had happened, but beyond these, nothing. When it was dark (but it was never the pure dark that allows unfettered sleep), I tried to make sense of the sounds in the room. The beeps were hospital beeps, just like the beeps on TV dramas, but the other sounds confused me. Perhaps there was a boy in the room, a small boy, or an old man. Whimpering and strange sounds, the sound of thirst or fragile movement. The ache in my left side went from dull to fierce, sometimes in an instant. It must’ve been the medication. The people not in the room spoke in low voices and never laughed.

The third day must’ve been a Wednesday. On the third day, He rose. In the city—and even in my very own apartment building (where had it gone? I wondered)—my Christian friends used to celebrate Easter, which I knew meant Life, the rising of their prophet unto God His Father. They drank wine and ate painted eggs and rejoiced. I used to think they were lucky, having a holiday, a celebration, while we waited for Ramadan to come, the fasting broken with an olive, a glass of water, the pide my mother brought home and kept warm in a folded quilt while the butter slowly grew soft on the dinner table. It would’ve been easier being a Christian, easier to sin, easier to be neglectful and eat ice cream while Father led me to the Friday prayers. I never wanted to go, but he said it was important and positioned me on the rug as we waited for the imam to emerge and say his words. The rug left lint on the knees of my jeans and the elbows of my sweaters.

The nurse’s name was Ayşegül, writ small on a paper tag on the lapel of her jacket. She spoke with a Black Sea accent and was swift with the needles, the monitors, the charts that usually sat next to the sink where she often washed her hands and cursed. I thought she was cursing at me, but what had I done? It wasn’t my wish to be there. I would’ve preferred to be at home or inside my office at the university where a different Ayşegül, one who wore jeans and knit sweaters, served tea and sometimes swept the leaves from the doorways. Would there be a university to go back to? A home? My new Ayşegül, of course, didn’t know. There had been an earthquake, a bad one, and she said I was lucky to be alive as she poured me a cup of apple juice and sighed. I felt sorry for her. She wanted to go home, too. She had a son, a mother, a life beyond death and discouragement. But then all I had was her and the indistinct that comes with something so big, so abrupt, that the words have to come later. This is my later and these are the only words I have.

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