Mar 17, 2019

Heavy Rain

It’s taken five weeks to track Betty from ICU to rehab, until last night after Shabbat our visit-the-sick and elderly (Betty is both) listserv confirmed that her smashed eye and hip are healing. Rehab it is.

There’s only one bus that services her facility from mainland Jerusalem. In a loop it goes, and goes again. Today is the first day of heavy rain. The bus shelters in Israel are made of tiny grille work, so you can watch for your bus. The rain ricochets mud through the grille onto my face. The kid who spent every summer at Brighton Beach finally acquires freckles. There’s something odder. It takes me time to find my glasses but when I do I see it. A doorless red booth with a bygone phone and a woman, leaning against its wet glass, speaking Russian on her mobile.

The rehab ward clerk tells me Betty’s room number in English, and although it’s only an easy left she gesticulates as if I will be walking to Lebanon. I arrive at Betty’s door just as it’s closing behind a twinkly nurse’s aide, who, pulling on hospital gloves, polls the patient, “You made pee-pee? It’s okay, it’s okay.”

Two men in scrubs wait too. One is necklaced by a stethoscope and carries a chart. The other pushes a cart of tubes and tubing, a phlebotomist. The phlebotomist is Arab, I can tell by his accent and red gold wedding ring. Both are chumming away about, this I do not miss, kiduri regel – soccer, which annoys me. Is Canada not the second most humongous country in the world? Is hockey, therefore, not more important than playing basketball with your feet?

As I’m framing my case in Hebrew, Stethoscope is paged and rushes off. Wedding Ring exchanges seats with a newspaper, holds it up, and reads.

Page one center features the female Arab doctor in Cleveland. I’ve read what she threatens to do to Jews. Having an Arab read it three feet away makes me feel, who knows why, embarrassed. I watch Wedding Ring’s response. The lines and colors on his face shift, from engrossed to bewildered, to appalled.

The door to Betty’s room opens. The perky nurse’s aide says coast is clear and tells him something that must be funny. Wedding Ring looks up at her. She asks him slowly, “Do you feel sick?”  He says nothing. He covers his face with his hands and with the downward gravity of despair, slumps in his chair, like a patient not in rehab, but hospice.

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