So it is 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday night and I’m sitting in dimly lit Room 14 in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Scottish Rite Hospital. Jane has just gone to the bathroom for the 20th time today – she’s drinking a lot of water. We both are. When she gets back, I’ll retrace her steps. Not much else to do here but drink water, give it back, hurry up and wait. Not much on the TV. Is there ever?
She comes back to Joey’s room and says, “that poor kid” (but she’s thinking, “those poor parents.”) — there’s this kid down the hall, little more than a baby, and he’s screaming, “Da-da-da-daddy,” and moaning something that must mean, “make it stop.”
You walk through the PICU past the rooms and you see these children lying in their beds and they look like miniature old people, four and eight-year-old octogenarians with nasal canulas and IVs, heavy eyes, and faces worn from hasty experience, and hovering around them are tired, clouded parents, unshaven fathers and determined mothers.
The busy-ness of the dayshift has fallen away to reveal the intermittent night sounds, the bellowing from down the hall and the occasional beeping of a monitor, the steady whistling fshhhh of the HVAC system falling backwards until it becomes part of the walls, the foundation, a subliminal backdrop against which everything else stands out. The kid down the hall is shrieking now. It isn’t pain, one nurse tells me when I ask about the ruckus. He’s just uncomfortable. Oh.
Somewhere north of here, 80 miles perhaps, God is speaking to a live audience and prophets are putting aside their religious differences and dancing together on stage. Civilization is raging in Sautee Nacoochee, while down here in Metropolis, my son is sleeping, drifting into the kind thoughts of family and friends and the dancing prophets and God, while the nurses order Chinese from the only place that will deliver, and the kid down the hall quiets down as his mother gets into bed with him, making it stop.