PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PEDIATRIC ICU & POST-SURVIVAL SUCCESS
Watch television in the morning and wait until the afternoon to use crayons; watch cartoons first, then devote everything you have to THE SANDLOT. Be careful with sunlight. You should never imagine the weight of a broken-in baseball, should never think of tree houses or flashlights. Twice a week you will dream of running—learn to expect this, the unavoidables: bedpans and glossy cardstock—
The fourth grade class of Hardin Park Elementary is Thinking-of-You!
That uncle who took you dove-hunting wants you to Get-Well-Soon!
On the second day of the third week, use the beige phone with the bright numbers to call your best friend. Talk to him for 12 minutes. Do not be surprised when nothing changes.
In your grief, don’t dwell on the privacy of bathrooms. Don’t stare out the window; devote everything you have to every wild card in every hand you are dealt—there will be many games of UNO in this place. Don’t forget to thank the nurse with the gentle hands and the white hair when she brings you a spoonful of water. Someone with cold hands and a bowl of water will wallpaper your right leg in cotton and plaster, layer after layer until the shell hardens—don’t worry about feeling this.
When the pediatric orthopedist sweeps in to check on your bones, he will not look at your face; be sure you don’t hit him with your plaster-heavy leg. That way you won’t disturb the UNO cards stacked at the foot of the bed; pay attention to the insightful minister—later, your mother will tell you that he drove two hours to see you, and you refused to say a word. You should feel guilty. You should thank the spoonful of water for being so wet and cold; you should thank your mother for eating her solid food in the bathroom with the door closed so you don’t have to smell what your body can’t absorb. Don’t close your eyes too often, or for too long; try to listen to the pediatric orthopedist when he swings by your room to poke at your ribs—don’t kick him in his handsome soap opera face.
Don’t expect anyone to look you square in the eye; there will be times when you consider jumping out the window, but you should never hurt in front of your mother—the hurting here is very contagious.
This is how to breathe while the nurse with the not-so-gentle hands scrubs the gasoline out of your scalp; this is how to pretend you’re asleep when the night nurse comes in to check your vitals; this is how to pretend you feel it when the intern touches the big toe of your right foot; this is how to pretend you don’t feel it when the not-so-gentle nurse changes your broken I.V.
Later, you’ll need to know how to explain it to your friends so that it seems funny—This is the right time for gag-reflexes and vomit stories. You’ll need to laugh when they laugh; you’ll need to keep yourself from staring out the window—Remember that cancer girl from across the hall? She knew how to stare out the window without arousing suspicion. This is how to cultivate avoidance behaviors—how to circumvent the kicking of that pediatric orthopedist who you want to kick so badly. This is how to tell the truth, how to unlearn, omit, ignore, overlook—Never forget: this isn’t where you live. Don’t sleep with both eyes closed; don’t let yourself die—your mother will never forgive you for it
Originally from Western North Carolina, Samantha Deal received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Comparative Literature & Creative Writing. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is currently working towards her doctorate at Western Michigan University. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the following journals: Cold Mountain Review, Inkwell, Ninth Letter, The Journal, Dogwood, The North Carolina Literary Review, Elsewhere, and Rattle—where she was a finalist for the 2014 Rattle Poetry Prize. Her unpublished manuscript, “[Taxonomies / Something Opened],” has been named a finalist for several recent contests, including the Anhinga Press Robert Dana Poetry Prize, the Zone 3 First Book Award, and the Omnidawn First/Second Book Award.