First thing in the morning, the hospital aide robbed you of your panties,
left you lying on the gurney, waiting, alone, Renee Fleming sings Handel loaded
into the Discman that rested on your chest for the long voyage to the theatre, where
the anaesthetist with beautiful green eyes greeted you, offered to hold your headphones.
The prep nurse took your trembling fingers, one at a time, pulled them into the cool bed
of her palm, inviting them to rest in that place that knew of your hunger for all that you
loved and would love again: your cats living and dead, the river of your breath flowing
through the flute when you played the second movement of the Hindemith up at
Binghamton, your fingers that held the baton when Mr Katz stood in awe and called you
the next Toscanini, your heels marking the floor of The Duchess the year you came out and
danced with women all night, our grandmother whose voice carried the sound of bells when
she asked if you were hungry for the chicken that you dipped in pools of ketchup, our
mother holding you on her lap, her arms tight around the bath towel, her fingers shaping wet
banana curls down your back. The prep nurse spoke in a tropical lilt that took you back to
that Jamaica vacation, how skinny you were in your blue bikini when the Rasta boys offered
you a joint. You won’t tell me what the nurse said to you then; maybe it was the way her
smock smelled when you buried your head in her chest, cardamom sweet and buttery with
a bitter smoky edge, a reminder of the life waiting for you in the next room, where we held
our silent vigil and chewed at the edges of empty coffee cups until the surgeon returned you
to us, a headband of staples crowning you queen.
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