The orderly sits me down in a room, setting a neat pile of clothing next to me. They are considerate here, providing me with a real cloth gown that ties in back, and a robe to go over it. He tells me to remove all my jewelry, so my wedding ring goes into Mr. Billy's capable hands, along with bracelet and earrings. One earring won't come out, and the orderly tells me to let the nurse know.
A nurse comes in to stick me with the I.V. I warn her about my veins: smallish and deceptive, you can think you've hit it okay, but it collapses, or rolls away, or the needle just bounces off. These details are just speculation on my part - I tend to look in the direction of the ceiling while they're rooting around in there. My last hospital stay, both arms alarmingly bruised, nurse slapping away to wake up sleepy veins while I retch into a plastic tray.
This nurse assures me she won't try more than twice, and, she beams, "We have lidocaine, to numb you up!"
"Yay, lidocaine," say I, knowing full well it isn't the pain that freaks me out. I ask her to tell me when she's hit it. "I've hit the vein," she says, "now I just need to advance the needle."
She says nothing for a terrible long moment. I don't feel a thing, but my vision starts to tunnel in, that warm, distant roar in my ears, a high-pitched whine riding on top. I swim up to tell the nurse I may throw up, feel the kidney-shaped pan in my hands, stomach heaves, but they don't let you eat before surgery, nothing in there to come up. Enormous blobs of sweat slid down my body under the gown. Why does my body do this, I wonder? I'm not afraid, and it doesn't hurt, but I can't stop it. I'm barely able to ask Mr. Billy to crack the window. The nurse has said she won't try again, gathering up her goody basket and leaving the room. We can't figure out how to recline the chair, so I slide down onto the floor.
Another orderly guides me to another waiting room, Mr. Billy not permitted to come along, away he goes with my valuables, my clothes and books with the orderly in the plastic "patient belongings" bag. Seven Good Housekeepings and one Ebony. I pick up the Ebony. The doctor comes in, wearing a blue mushroom cap to match my own. She tells me what's going to happen, looks at my earring. "I can't get it out," I say, demonstrating. "Well," she says, "If you can't get it out, I guess there's not much danger of us losing it."
Another orderly, or nurse, walks me to the operating room. Complicated table meant for me, surrounded by blocks of machines, two full-color flat-screen monitors. People in blue caps introduce themselves, the doctor, the assisting doctor, the anesthesiologist. I climb onto the table, going over my vein story once more for the anesthesiologist. He grins and pops in the needle, no muss, no fuss, no lidocaine, no retching. It occurs to me that the anesthesiologist is the only man in the room, and the oldest, somewhat avuncular. I'm comforted by all the women, and the elderly uncle.
I wonder what they'll get up to, while I'm out, that they're so concerned about my jewelry coming off.
And then I stop thinking anything.