The whooshing air

carries

the odor through

my nostrils

as I move through the

hospital sliding door.

It permeates the

memories

in my brain.

It is familiar.

It is reassuring.

Sharp whiffs of

betadine

and bleach.

My ears pick up

the sound of

clicking doors

automatically

opening and

closing.

We walk in

together,

but they

take him from me

to the recesses of

a back hallway.

His eyes beseech me

to follow.

I am his safety line,

his anchor

his buoy in a stormy sea.

But he must face

these strangers

without me.

I am not part

of their world

anymore.

I am only

his wife.

I will sit

and wait till

they call me.

He looks small in the

billowing white gown

with blue dots.

One size fits all.

The booties on his

feet are yellow.

Easter colors I think.

They have drawn

on his legs with

black marker.

One leg marked

with a big black NO

and a frowny face.

There is a big black YES

drawn on the leg

that they will

try to fix.

They all talk at once.

The words are

familiar to me,

but not to him.

He only half listens

because he knows I

will take it all in

and know what

questions to ask.

But there are

no more questions.

I have already asked

them all.

I just want him back.

Please.

Our daughter arrives

in time for a kiss

just as he

disappears again

into a hallway

carried off by those

unfamiliar faces.

I am left alone

with her

to wait the

long hours.

I read,

I write e-mail,

I shift in the chair.

I walk,

I babble with

our daughter.

I have coffee,

I eat cookies.

I eat more cookies.

The buzzer

in my purse

goes off.

He is done.

He is fixed.

He is awake.

He is smiling.

His leg now

encased in

white plaster

with his swollen

worm like betadine

stained toes

sticking out.

But they have worked

more magic

on him.

His leg is numb.

No pain for now.

He must

now manage

without me

one more day

until I can

take him home.

He tells me

he feels different.

A piece of himself

forever gone.

Replaced with

something much

better.

I remind him

it is the way

of the world.

Replaced by

something better.

We laugh.

I have him back.

Maxine Valunas worked as a registered nurse at RWJ University Hospital for 35 years. She lives in Monroe with her husband, Joseph.

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