Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ambulance Blues
I am listening to a baby crying, a woman murmurring comfort in Contonese to her comatose husband as I lie on a small short hard bed covered with a thin nubby blue blanket, one of six beds in observation room of the Run-Run Shaw Hong Kong Christian Hospital. Run-Run Shaw was better known as one of the Shaw Bros, kingpins of the Hong Kong chop socky film industry in the 70s. He's reportedly about 99 years old and still alive, perhaps in a state of suspended animation several floors above me.
What brought me here was no chopsocy. Well, maybe self induced chopsocky. It was a rocky ambulance ride that was the transport after I stood up suddenly at home in hopes of making dinner. Several minutes later I awoke on the floor, a pool of blood behind my head and the stereo still playing "Streets of Love" from the new Stones disc. So I haven't been out that long. It was playing when I got up to begin dinner.
After a cell phone call to an understanding editor, help arrives in a flurry of aid workers to take me to a hospital. I remember enough to make sure I have my keys and to pack a roll of toilet paper and my passport in a backpack. I lost my wallet and local IDs lsat weekend in Shenzhen and recalled that advanced as they are that HK hospitals don't provide toilet paper for patients. Strange, given the government push in public service ads and stiff fines for people who litter and spit publicy and otherwise commit other sanitary offensives, but logic as Westerners know it has never been a major player.
It's a long night at the hospital. Many questions delivered in a toneless, unsypathetic robotic delivery that suggests that 1. The doctor and staff haven't watched enough English language TV and movies to get the idea of inflection and 2. I am a major pain in the ass that they'd like to get on and off the record as soon as possible.
I am awakened about every 60-90 minutes for a blood pressure check after my head is stitched by an an evil cackling nurse. After each blood pressure check the attendant emits a "Wah.." sigh. Meaning he doesn't like what he sees but I know that already and am tired of having it repeated.
All I want is my mother. There I said it. My head hurts, I'm alone in a foreign hospital and there's still a blood stain back on the floor of my apartment and all I can think of at age 52 is wanting maternal comfort and soup and to be tucked in whenever I get back to the apartment. I sort through various substitutes. C can't jump the border. No woman at work I'm familiar enough to fill the role. No guy either.
I've also brused a cornea in my fall and later -- 10:30am the next morning -- I'm on another floor of the hospital in a small, full waiting room of mostly elderly Cantonese with eye and other problems awaiting an examination. A hoary guy next to me in an ill fitting fake Italian waiter's jacket and dirty white socks keeps hawking up phlegm into grubby strips of toilet paper he's carefully collected from trash bins. I move and he seems insulted. So I fixate on an strangely beautiful blind (or growing blind) woman across from me. Her pupils are still clear above elegant cheekbones but her vacant gaze and the way she moves her head suddenly at some sounds reveals her problem. A sister or friends sits next to her stroking her hand and occasionally whispering to her.
I want to take her home and care for her. I want her to care for me. It's a long way home and substitutes are always second best.
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