It's not the fact that I'm lying here wired into these monitors that bothers me. I hear them blip and beep, and when nurses come in they look up, check them first, instead of me. They're worried I might have another attack.

No, what really disturbs me is the other night at the ball park, the fans shouting, the banks of bright stadium lights, the crack of the wood bat on the hard ball. And suddenly I was surrounded by swirling people, flashing blue, men looking down, being carried, seemingly flown along the highway with the sound of the siren.

And the trouble was I couldn't decide if it was real.

It wasn't the kind of distance some people feel during an accident, the sense of being an observer to my own predicament. It was related to my job, to who I am.

Each day I edit raw footage down to brief segments for the evening news hour. It's a deadline business, and always a vital story comes in at the last moment. Which means I have to view the tape, splice different parts together, hand it in by 6:17. I feel like an air traffic controller, bringing a story down from its height of unstructured moments, guiding it toward the telecast, to a safe landing in it's 30 sec. spot, the images zipping across my monitors like raw flesh, like a doctor holding a throbbing organ that needs to be stitched together, then inserted back into a body to reenter the world. I transform what people see. What they know.

At the ballpark I saw myself through a frame. I kept trying to rework the blue lights, the siren into a human interest story, but then it broke loose and carried me along with it. Yet I could not grasp if it was happening to me. And when I woke up in this hospital, I was scared for my life.

Over the last week here, I have become aware of odors, lysol and alcohol. I thought I had forgotten how to smell. I find I'm even savoring the sound of squishing soft shoes on linoleum, and the cafeteria jello, and the sanitized sheets, and light from my window fading on the blank sheet rock walls. These things come and go, and I don't have to edit them, rearrange or time them out. It's the first time in years, I haven't been under a deadline.

Lying in bed my mind rummages through my past. And I remember that making love to my wife was like watching a foreign art movie. When I pushed the hair away from her ear, kissed the soft down on her neck, and my hand ran along her spine, even when she held me inside her and we were breathing hard, I saw it on the screen with a thousand others watching.

In the mornings, here, I see the same thing in the doctor's faces. They check my chart, smile blankly at me, go on to the next patient.

And every noon when they bring the mail I'm surrounded by more and more get well cards from the office, reassuring letters that my job is safe. On the evening news the two anchors wave at me, announcing to the world my fast recovery. And at night my heart beat quickens, and nurses run in, afraid that I'm in trouble again.

During my wife's visits, I stare at her like I've never seen her before. And then I look down, because I'm not sure what's happening to me. I love my work. But didn't ever think it would become like a tight suit I'd have trouble wearing. She knows something's up. But she's letting me take my time, that's why I love her.

This morning in the early dawn my bed felt comfortable, almost too comfortable, and I listened for nurses to make their rounds. It seems I've grown to like the rhythm of the hospital.

But I also discovered something else gnawing away inside me, masking itself under the bruises I've received. As the doctors approached about nine, I found my breath grew short, my heart jumped, and my throat was immediately dry. Because I've just begun to realize what's going to happen next, that one day they'll read the clip board at the end of my bed and say, "You know, Gerald, we'd hate to see you leave, but your doing so well, we think it's safe for you now to go back home."

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Last Modified : 4/20/98 2:41:50 AM