“Let’s get out of here.”
I heard her and at first I tried to understand her words as a sign of how grown up this five year old really was. It was a command: “Let’s blow.”
“The doctor and nurse are going to take care of you.”
The male nurse slipped in between us. We were standing in an emergency room cubicle, hidden by a cloth shower curtain.
“I don’t want to be here.”
“This won’t take long, honey.”
“Let daddy hold down this hand; now daddy, hold down the other hand. This way she won’t be reaching for the lip.”
I did as I was told. Melissa began to stiffen. The split of her lip was not bleeding now, but it was wide and deep with a ligament bowing like a crawling white worm from the split.
She didn’t forget you, I see her over my right shoulder, breezing past. I watched her float down the hall in white before I realized that it was a doctor with the same pudding bowl haircut as Elizabeth. I was sweating. When Melissa cried her eyes crunched, then her mouth stretched like a sad clown’s mouth and the sobs would come out like a smoker’s cough.
“Has she had her shots?” I was stumped. “You know DTP and polio. Tetanus is what I’m aiming for.”
“My wife would know. But I’m pretty sure.”
“Good. Try not to move the lips, honey.” The nurse hip-checked me aside so he could wipe her forehead. “You’ll widen the split. The doctor is going to fix your lip.”
“I don’t believe boys anymore. Why did those boys push me?”
“I don’t know I wasn’t there. I’m sure they didn’t mean to.”
“Yes they did. They said they wanted to show me something then they pushed me.”
“Daddy, let’s sit Melissa up for a sec, okay.”
The nurse was swift. He fitted an infant’s blazer without arms over her shoulders and pushing her back down pulled one thick fold across her arms and chest, then reached over, pulling the second fold to cover the first. She was bound and I had this vision of a pedophile taking my girl and burying her in this straight jacket alive.
The nurse twisted a finger among white packages on a table until he discovered the proper sutures were missing. He pointed to a corner stool and I moved back, head down, eyelids half shut as he disappeared. I ran my hand through my hair and realized how greasy it was. This was so tiresome.
And Elizabeth stood before me at attention, the thinning brown hair thrown back, her legs and thighs locked defiantly together.
“Mac, you stupid, stupid man. You are an unmitigated failure.” She clutched her book of poetry close to her breast, closer than I ever got in recent months.
“You’re angry at me? What have you got to say about Melissa?” But I had talked to the room.
The plastic surgeon appeared. He went right to the sink without any greetings or demands for information. He scrubbed his hands. The back of my head began to tighten as the nurse parted the curtain.
“What luck,” he whispered. “Doctor Balanchine is on call. I know him as a specialist of cleft lip and palate surgery, including cleft orthognothlic surgery, so this should be a breeze.”
Doctor Balanchine stepped in front of the nurse.
“We started a conservative debridement of the detached tissue, followed by a wound irrigation with a saline solution. Using a syringe with a 25 gauge needle the nurse shall administer a local anaesthesia with, oh, just for kicks some 30 cc of lidocaine, with a splash of epinephrine to prolong the effect. Once the patient is anaesthetized he shall trim the wound edges and then I shall begin closing the wound.”
“Should I wear a mask?”
The doctor waggled a finger. “There is no need for a mask. The nurse shall create a sterile field over the lip.” Doctor Balanchine studied the ceiling. “I shall perform a simple interrupted everting stitch. We shall use absorbable catgut sutures derived from the intestinal, submucosal tissue . . . of sheep. Strange, no? But that’s life. The sutures shall be administered with a quarter inch micro point needle to reduce trauma to the lip.”
“Where’s mommy?” Melissa cried.
“Shh, please,” the nurse ordered.
“The sutures shall be monofilament as opposed to braided. I must confess that I prefer braided. Nonetheless this particular monofilament brand has excellent tensile strength with high knot security.”
The nurse slammed the table: “They must be strong!”
I was afraid to ask his opinion about children.
“This will be all over in ten minutes,” I pleaded. “I do not know where mommy is. She’s at work.”
“Why did those boys push me?”
I could not explain what these men were about to do to her, much less what those boys were after. She might as well of asked me why does He give pain to some but not others. Her lower lip was crusty with dried blood, her face was very oily and her hair matted with sweat. I had said enough about not worrying and about everything being all right, then the huge lie of, “This will not hurt.” The man doctor will not hurt you.
And I had a memory of bouncing my head against a cement floor and splitting my skull and a mother too drunk to notice until the father comes and presses his hand behind the head to rub the bump and pulls the hand away to find it coated in red.
“Why did you tell me that story about your head?” Melissa murmured.
“I just did.”
“I cried when I fell. Did you?”
Elizabeth disagreed. She looked over my shoulder at Melissa, and whether she was real or not made no difference now: “Of course he did. Look, I know you no matter what your father ever said. You must be strong, stronger than us grown ups for you to survive. Don’t be some poetry loving bitch like me. It’s all about power, sweety. First you get the money, then you get the power. In your father’s case you lose the money, then the power, then you lose your grip. It’s insanity. Mac, why are men treating my child?” It was a question though it was more accusation. “Why are men attending to my daughter when it was boys who injured her? Where is the female nurse who pushed her into this room? Where is my daughter’s female pediatrician? Mac, you are the father and yet you sit there like a lump and allow her to be a worthless human being. Why? Because she lacks a dick? Are you afraid of women, Mac? You were always afraid of me.”
Melissa’s gaze at the mattress died slowly. I always felt I was a great father, more important than the mother.
“I’ll do better next time, Liz. Maybe I can start by getting a better handle on pain and effort, I don’t know.”
Then the nurse and the doctor looked at me as if I were the next patient.
“What pain and effort do you have? Please. Quiet.”
“I think she passed out.”
“No, she fell asleep,” the nurse said, calmly. “This takes a lot out of them.”
The nurse led me by the elbow to the other side of the bed. He leaned over Melissa and gently clasped his big hands over her ears turning her head straight ahead. He wiped her face and dabbed her lips and pulled a white sheet with a hole to expose the lips over her face. I could see nothing but two bruised lips and a wide, red split with a curling white worm. I rubbed the pad over her belly but she couldn’t feel a thing, so I slipped my hand under the pants leg and gripped her calf.
The nurse whispered to Melissa, “Honey, you are now going to feel a mosquito bite on your lip.” The bite came when he jabbed a syringe with a 25 gauge needle into the split and moved it around in a circle - squirting 30 cc of lidocaine, and perhaps a splash of epinephrine to prolong the effect.
Then Melissa screamed the loudest I had ever heard.
Copyright John P. Borowski 2008