Poetry

No Place Like Home

By Vanessa VanCleave

 

I know she came in this afternoon, wearing her Snoopy uniform because I remember Maegan taught her the sign for “dog” right before I taught her the sign for “nap.” I like her because she is afraid of getting too close, but she isn’t afraid to hold Maegan’s hand or touch her hair, even though it’s AIDS, and because she ordered cheese sticks for us at midnight, and because she refused to draw blood until after “Tom and Jerry.” Anyway, it’s 11 now and she won’t be leaving until she brings our breakfast tomorrow morning, but she’s still smiling. I’m sitting by the bed, mesmerized by the clocklike drip of the IV fluids, and suddenly I feel like Dorothy when Auntie Em’s face disappeared from the hourglass. I can’t breathe and the walls are closing in, and I wonder if we’re ever going home, and then I hear a child screaming down the hall. Or is it someone cackling–I must be losing my mind. And then I hear people running so I open the door— “CODE BLUE 265—BED 2.” I don’t know why, but I check the number on our door just in case. A guy with an earring and a mustache nearly runs over me, his white coat flapping behind him. I decide I need a diet coke so I head to the cafeteria. Then of course there is the lullaby music on the speakers, announcing the birth of a new baby. The cafeteria is empty except for a few coffee drinkers, and a table with three plates that still have food on them. I’m contemplating a piece of pie when the earring guy comes in with two other white coats. They sit down at the table with the cold food, and the coffee drinkers look at them expectantly. Earring guy takes a bite of his cold hot dog and says, Well, we sent another one to the Great Beyond. I decide against the pie, and hurry to the elevator, but turn to go outside instead, trying to escape the dripping and the beeping and the screaming and the cackling and the lullabies. Outside I can’t get enough of the air and I listen carefully, but hear nothing and I’m grateful.

I have this incredible urge to click my heels together and then I remember—

My shoes are in 254—bed 1.