I perched myself on the edge of the hospital bed, feet tucked beneath my behind. Everything in the room was white and clean. My arm throbbed uncomfortably from the blood pressure test. I placed my right palm over my bicep and compressed then released until I forgot about it. I stared at the door intently, occasionally sparing a glance towards Mom and Dad who sat in chairs against the wall. Dad caught my glare and opened his eyes widely and curved his lips into a goofy, toothy grin. I grimaced and returned to watching the door.
The handle turned so quickly I gasped, completely caught of guard by Nurse’s entrance. She had heart telephones around her neck and was wearing faded-blue jamies. Nurse sat herself sideways on my bed and placed a bundle of fabric in my lap and said, “Jacquelyn, I need you to put this on for me.” I unfolded the light blue polka dotted hospital gown and held it up to the light for proper inspection. “Can you do that?” I raised my eyebrows in Mom’s direction. Did she notice there was hardly a back to it? She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, in the same moment placing her elbows on her knees and her face into her hands. She smiled with closed lips and nodded reassuringly. Nurse watched my face and waited for a reply. Bashful under her stare, I put my fingers in my mouth and averted my eyes to the ceiling. I shook my head up and down.
Nurse left the room. Mom slowly rose out of her chair and made her way to my bed. She took the gown from my hands and lifted me off the bed onto the plastic tiled floor. Dad couldn’t see me from here; the top of my head was barely visible over the mattress. I raised my arms over my head as Mom yanked off my dress. She carefully folded the threadbare pink favorite and lightly placed it on the bed. After she knelt down and helped me slide my arms into the correct openings of the gown.
Mom patted my belly and kissed my forehead. Dad popped out of his chair and swept me up in his arms. He threw me up in the air and I squealed and giggled. Then I remembered that this wasn’t a happy visit, and with the outside of my fist I hit his cheek and furrowed my brow. With a mock expression of shock, he plopped me onto the bed.
“Do you know why we’re here, Jacquelyn?” Dad knelt on the squeaky tile, facing me. “To fix my naughty eyes,” I replied smartly. “That’s right,” he whispered, “the Doctor is going to take your eyeball and tighten the muscles to—“ “make them strong!” I finished. Dad smiled and caressed the wisps of hair away from my face. He stood and took his seat against the wall. I put my fingers in my hair, bent on thought. “Does it hurt?” I called across the room. Dad promised no. My eyes were fixed on the door.
Was this a trick? The last time my eyes were helped was painful and traumatic. I remember howling my voice hoarse as they pried my lids open and poured big hot drops of poison into my eyes. I would kick and scream in protest to eye-drops, but they promised it wouldn’t hurt. It always did. I was going to make a get away if that was about to happen today.
“Daddy, how come your eyes work straight and mine don’t?” I asked. “Your eyes just need a little extra help, Jacquelyn,” Mom comforted, Dad nodded. I tried my best to make them function correctly but they wouldn’t obey. I remember when I stood in front of the mirror at home, clenching them shut as tight as I could, and then I would slowly open my eyes to see if they were pointing in the right direction. I was always met with disappointment. My left eye stubbornly veered off in unnatural directions. Mom and Dad said that surgery would fix it. That’s what I was brought here for today.
Nurse opened the door. “Let’s go for a ride, Jacquelyn,” she said as she gestured to a small bed on wheels that she held outside of the room. My countenance beamed. She helped me climb into the crib. I waved at Mom and Dad, who were holding hands, my eyes askew for the last time.
I knelt upright on the front side of the moving hospital crib as Nurse pushed me down a white hallway, turning around to shout, “Go faster! Okay, faster!” It seemed that she didn’t hear me because she did not accelerate. Instead she pulled the bed through a set of double doors into a spacious room with an abundance of tubes and machinery. Other Doctors and Nurses were there, waiting for my arrival. If they were smiling I didn’t know it; each person had a mask over their nose and mouth. Doctor took my hand in his and gave it a little squeeze, “Hello, Jacquelyn,” he breathed. Nurse pushed my shoulders back onto the mattress. Five people looked down at me. Doctor said, “I bet you can’t stay awake with this mask on.” I said, “Nuh-uh,” as a mask was fitted to my face. “Can you tell me what it smells like?” I inhaled through my nose. It was bananas.
When I awoke hours later, everything was black and I was confused and afraid. As I started to stir, Mom placed her hand on my face. I placed my hands over hers and felt thick patches covering my eyes. Dad walked out of the room and returned with Doctor. Doctor gave me a popsicle and cleared me to go home with a gentle pat on the back. Mom lifted me from the bed onto her hip. I brought the popsicle to my face to lick it and smeared it across my cheek. I maneuvered it into my mouth and didn’t remove it until Dad buckled me into my car seat. It was too messy for the car.
I fell asleep on the drive home and woke up to find the car stopped and the engine at rest. I felt around for my seat belt and unclipped it and slid out of my car seat. Dad opened my door and grabbed me by the underarms and lifted me to rest on his shoulder. He slowly walked up the front steps and through the open door where Mom waited with arms crossed. I whispered to Dad that I wanted to be laid on the couch to watch a movie. Dad said, “But you won’t be able to watch it.” “I know, but I still have my ears.” Dad chuckled to himself and slid Toy Story into the VHS.