*Featured Image: “Hesitation” By Anne Garvey
By Brigid Hughes
At the hospital I met a young woman who’d smashed a light bulb, poured the glass into her afternoon Diet Coke, and drank it. Then she called her husband to tell him what she’d done.
He wanted to leave me for another woman, she whispered to me. But there would be no permanent damage from the light bulb, she explained. She was disappointed.
Still, the splinters of glass remained. It was painful. She doubled over all the time. She was the only one allowed not to eat. The rest of us scooped food into our mouths with sporks three times a day. Then we all went out to the yard, framed with barbed wire, and smoked cigarettes. The nurses had to light them for us, so all you could hear was scratch scratch scratch whenever people wanted more.
The mattresses were made from plastic, so that shit or piss could be wiped away easily. They had pumped my stomach. No one told me they put the tube up your nose and into your stomach. If they had, maybe I would have thought about a light bulb. My shit was black from the activated charcoal for days. But I never shit the bed. I just spent my time wishing the pills had done their job. It was a real letdown.
After a few days, the woman with the light bulb in her stomach was going home. It turned out she was a mother, and her children were missing her. We tried to do a puzzle together in the common room. She didn’t seem concerned about her kids. They were young, and they would recover.
What about your husband, I asked. What did he think?
Oh he’s back, she said, her eyes all lit up. She was the happiest person I’d ever seen.
So it worked, I said.
It worked! she said. Then she doubled over again, waiting for the pain to subside.