I’m sitting on a plastic chair in my bedroom, tipped forward, back arched, chin up for balance. The curtain’s half open, and light’s bouncing in off the white wall across the alley.
They blew carbon dioxide into my abdomen last Friday to help the surgeon see what he was doing. The leftover gas is rubbing on some nerves, says the internet, so the chemical pain I feel in my shoulders is actually the result of something that’s happening in my intestines.
My tee shirt’s clean, though. I showered last night, and I’m trying to stay cool. A dusty little fan is blowing on my ankles.
My cousin Parker broke his femur when he was eight. He and his mom were staying with friends in a river beach cabin in Maryland. A thunderstorm blew in, chased everyone inside, and Parker went on a mission, out to the car to get a deck of cards. He was running, laughing, soggy paper box in hand, five steps from the screen door, when a tree limb fell, bounced off the roof, and slammed perpendicular against his thigh.
His cast was pink. Toes to nipples and hot pink.
There were a lot of us cousins on the farm that summer. We did puzzles, played Monopoly, lit our hair on fire when the electricity went out. In the movie we made, Parker played a dark side Jedi general. We figured his crutches would give the character authority.
The rest of us swam and fished and played wiffle too, but we never left Parker alone for long.
Sometimes the spades or charades would escalate. It was humid. Parker would play hard. He’d sweat. He’d itch. He’d squirm. And, eventually, he’d cry. Gentle, breathy, interrupted sobs. Wailing would have put too much pressure on his leg.
I take a sip of water, feel a drop tickle the edge of my windpipe, close my eyes, and try to breathe around the cough. Three laparoscope holes, a six-inch incision, and a velcro girdle to reinforce the stitches and glue. No wailing for me either.
Jake de Grazia is Trop's Musical Theater Correspondent.