Two weeks into the worst of it and there is this one hard-boiled egg. My god. I am moved by the existence of this egg. It is served with a thinly sliced piece of cooked ham, and just a dash of salt sprinkled on top. The egg is perfectly steaming; the yolk solid, but slightly gooey towards the center. I take two bites because that is all I can manage, but it is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. It is like biting into the sun. I take a square off the ham, but I am still reeling from the egg.
Smoothies are sucked through a crazy straw for the novelty, but I am not having fun. Between the pulpy fruit and spoonfuls of bitter steroids that don’t allow me to taste much of anything, I am livid and my cheeks are chubby. I am given the task of constructing an unnecessary storage container for my room because I haven’t left my bed in three days. It is a compilation of wooden cubes from IKEA. The sliding door to the balcony is open, and a breeze runs through the room. The curtains shake with the beginnings of spring. I hammer away and can feel all that I am lacking. I am frustrated due to the deterioration of my muscular system, but I curse IKEA and their ridiculous names for furniture instead.
Finally, I make my entrance, wheeled and not walking. I scoff at the idea of being coddled, though secretly I am relieved, because the short journey to the car had me wheezing. Once more, I am brought to the scale, though this one looks like it’s for zoo animals. I am amazed by how we can change drastically without even noticing. I was carved and butchered in the least violent way. “you plucky little shit.” I whisper to the folds of my abdomen. I am whisked away to a bed in which I am dutifully pricked and thoroughly fucked by every nurse that comes my way.
The non-negotiable menu includes Chex cereal, an omelet and a slice of cornbread. Coming in at a close second to the egg is this cornbread. It is unreal. I am ecstatic, showing off my consumption to everyone in the room. “Look at me, look at this,” I say, and everyone claps. I am told to slow down. The relief is temporary. But I don’t. I sigh with satisfaction and promptly vomit those valuable golden morsels back into existence.
I shower with one arm wrapped in plastic and completely extended out of the stall, which isn’t a stall but a continuation of the bathroom, divided only by a curtain to create the illusion of a civilized space. I stand there for an hour, dripping with my arm still horizontal to my body, unable to dry myself properly. I don my brand new “Sick Girl” pajamas when I walk through the halls; hair damp, and wheeling my saline friend in tow. I am keen on finding the most processed snack in the joint. I catch a glimpse of something evocative of the wild in a glossy window, but I pay her no mind, I am on a mission.
For days I watch TV, and nurses come to ask if anyone is coming to visit. When I say no, they look troubled. I am not depressed. I scrunch my nose at them when they leave. The agonizing screams of my six-year-old neighbor flood into the script of a daytime cartoon.
I eat what is given to me because I am a good girl. I have a fridge full of this fruity electrolyte drink that is usually given to pregnant women in labor, with just a tablespoon of honey mixed in. I chug a bottle during my first dose of The Hard Stuff. During its slow release into my bloodstream, I am heavily monitored. They try not to look at me with concern as I ponder whether I feel that my trachea is closing. My cheeks flush a deep pink, and I become deliriously tired; reminiscent an orgasm. This is normal, and I will become accustomed to experiencing such a feeling every six weeks of my life, regardless of whether I’ve been penetrated or not. I sleep it off. When I wake up, I feel shaky and sweaty, but also like I can run a marathon and maybe weep.
Then, my vein bursts. A flood of cloudy blood runs down my arm, staining the sheets. The needle is quickly jabbed into the other arm as I clutch an ice pack to the one running over. I can’t sleep without ripping the thing out again, so I don’t really sleep. But it doesn’t matter if I sleep or not, because at three a.m. and six a.m., there is someone to steal my blood while I am in a state of vulnerable disorientation. It is always a handsome man that comes, and I can’t help but think that they send in the attractive ones to lessen the rage. The handsome man apologizes as he misses the vein and it dives under for the umpteenth time. I wake up with a bruise blooming on the incline of my arm, and I am unsure how it got there.
I am asked to drink what looks like a gallon of liquid bubble gum so that they may see my insides. I get through about three sips before coming to the conclusion that it is not happening. They threaten me with the nose tubes. “Do it” I hiss, with tacky teeth and the scent of alcohol on my breath. They don’t do it, but that’s okay. I already know what is in there. I feel its weight beneath my navel. It lets out a primal growl. It claws at the hollow of my throat.
When I am released, I am both more and less, depending on how you look at it. To celebrate, I book a hotel room where the shrimps are skewered on eyedroppers filled with tomato sauce. I sit outside by the pool, skin wriggling from the intensity of first light. There is a wall-to-wall mirror in my room. I rest in a nest of goose feathers and fluctuating tempers, and in the dark of early morning, I am confronted with “her” again. She is clad in underwear meant for a child; with a smiley face on the ass. Her hip bones protrude almost violently away from her stomach. She hunches like an animal trying to stand on its hind legs. I notice soft, newly sprouted hair covering every inch of her. The body has a tendency to fight for survival, with or without compliance.
In the lobby, a decapitated antelope eyes me wearily as I make my exit. I smell something reeking of trepidation, and remember my first taste of flesh. “Goodbye,” I sputter with a mouthful of blood. The antelope remains silent.