By Robert Morrison
The shade shrinks. I know my time is near. The pressure of fresh Carolina air swells in my chest.
I look over my shoulder to the small woman who has brought me here. Today marks my third meeting with Michelle. The first time, when she asked what I wanted to do, I had answered, “I’d really love to go outside.”
Sitting in a green recliner on wheels, I nod. She stands from the bench. A disposable yellow gown hangs to her knees. I turn my head forward to survey the view one final time.
People walking on sidewalks across a campus. Cars waiting to pick up or drop off. A bus hissing to a stop. The clear blue sky and slanted rays of afternoon sun. A cement parking garage.
Michelle grasps the corners of my rolling recliner, swivels me around and guides the chair in through sliding glass doors. The lobby is magnificent, darkened by drug-store sunglasses a nurse had placed on my face before we began.
We pass the moving sculpture, a thirty-foot high Rube-Goldberg machine. Balls drop. Gears turn. Levers lever. Down a ramp and through a labyrinth of white hallways, lab technicians and nurses move to the side as we roll past. A service elevator takes us to the fourth floor of the west wing.
We come to the entrance of the burn center. Michelle picks up a phone from the wall. After a few words, the door clicks and Keith, the physical therapist, sticks his head out. He is long and thin.
We roll down the hall to my room. Keith takes the ball cap off of my head and removes the sunglasses. Michelle pulls away the three yellow infection control gowns covering me and throws them into a biohazard bin. Together, they untuck the blankets in which I have been swaddled.
Michelle removes the latex gloves encasing my hands. We all take a breath, exhaling. I feel the absence of the sun. Keith turns the chair toward the bed. They stand on either side of me in hospital-issued green scrubs and I reach out for their forearms, pressing downward as their hands pull my back upward.
I turn and sit. I swing my legs onto the bed and lie down in my pillows. I thank them as they rearrange the furniture and medical equipment. While they leave, Michelle turns to me and pulls the door closed. She smiles, the corners of her mouth uneven.
The shadow from the blinds plays against the wall. The pillow holds my head. I remember the size of the sky. The brilliance of color. The sound of people. My shoulders rest.
I float away.
Robert Morrison isa writer, burn survivor and person with limb loss living and working in Los Angeles.