By Christopher Locke
Google says prolapsed hemorrhoid, so I wait my turn, standing, in the ER. I’m led to a smaller room and am greeted by a physician assistant and her student. They lay me on my side, hospital gown like sloughed skin. Brief exam, knees to chest. Awkward embarrassment. Usual jokes. Ha, ha, ha. Thrombosis has swollen to the size of an almond. P.A. says it must be lanced, and clot removed.
Small fears lattice my ribs, tighten the chords in my neck. I roll onto my stomach. This is going to hurt, she says. Dripping needle injected straight into the most sacred area on my backside. I gasp, eyes water. The student holds my buttocks apart so the P.A. can do her job. She cuts, squeezes out clot. There we go, she says. Blood down my thighs, pools at my hipbones. All done. Victory. Everybody jokes again. You like beer? student says. Well, you’ll probably want one tonight. Or two! I wince. Gauze pushed up and between my legs. You’ll be fine, P.A. says. Rest a few minutes.
Alone, facedown, I wonder if I should call someone. I then feel warmth pumping slowly across my ass. I sit up: the sheet’s growing sticky red. The call bell doesn’t work so I swing my legs out and over, limp to the door and chirp at a gaggle of uniforms crowding the Nurses’ Station. Blood spatters my feet like I’m a red house painter, streaks down my legs in an attempt to one-up gravity. I get back on my cot, notice a single pearl of red on my kneecap—ladybug defrocked of her spots. I smile at the notion.
They come back in. No problem, no problem. We’re here. More gauze, “quick clot” medicinal patch applied. Grimacing on my stomach, blood continues its lazy bubbling. Different hands apply pressure. Then more pressure. Tighter. Bleeding continues. We’re going to have to cauterize, she says. Another doctor enters the room. Silver nitrate is pushed into the wound and I cry out, my head lighter than gull wings made of fog. My right hand is wet and I leave three red fingerprints on my pillow. I smell iron. Now they are talking like I’m not there: You see, it won’t stop oozing. Yes, yes. That’s because it’s bleeding internally, see? Get more gauze. Did you get more gauze?
Panic collapses into something close to terror. Not like this, I think. Not here. I close my eyes. Another doctor enters the room. The air is warmer, thicker. Let’s get him upstairs, he says. I need to pass out, but instead think about my wife and daughters. Gurney rattles in a loud rush. Focus hard on their faces, I tell myself. Focus. See them. Summer backyard last June when we lolled about the grass, laughed because the sun clattered atop our heads in bright joy. Our shoulders touched. The air was sweet with grill smoke. And the tomatoes we planted made our hands smell wild, nearly green.
That is when they lift my body higher, off the damp sheet and onto a table. Light fills in the darker spaces, and I will understand what it means to be saved.
Christopher Locke’s essays have appeared in Poets & Writers, The Sun, The Rumpus, Atticus Review, North American Review, Parents, Slice, and Islands, among many others. His latest book is ORDINARY GODS, (Salmon, 2017), a collection of essays and poems detailing 25 years of travel throughout Latin America. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.