It’s late when she walks in.
She immediately apologizes for the temperature of her fingers, and I tell her it’s okay.
Her hand slides inside my gown and I flinch when she touches me.
“I’m sorry,” I blurt, overcome with a strange sense of guilt.
I follow it up with a joke, like always.
Anything to ensure she doesn’t think she caused me any discomfort.
I can handle frozen skin.
I am warrior.
I am product of dead father,
and lost daughter.
Survival is etched into my DNA, along with every freckle,
every moment I fought and fought until calluses formed
and my spine bent backwards.
And I kept getting up.
I do not look like the survival story you are used to reading,
with this ear-to-ear smile I wear most of the time
but don’t mistake.
I know how to write pain,
but you will not see it in my face.
I remember when I was little and had surgery for the first time, I fell in love with the word stethoscope.
I wanted to close my eyes when the nurse said it,
Like the beginning of a song and my heart would play percussion.
Fluorescent lights humming with us.
Hospitals have this strange soundtrack to them, and you can let it haunt you
or you can sing with it.
I am singing with it.
I am seeing my father in the cracks in the ceiling.
I am seeing him in these electrocardiograph lines.
I am seeing myself in the corner, watching him.
Asking God to rewind,
Begging him to poke out my eyes.
Because I do not want to watch a skeleton form before me.
I have prayed three times in my life,
and two of them were inside a hospital.
Hospitals must know so many secrets,
the inner workings and hopes of desperate souls.
Hospitals are confessionals.
Hospitals are lonely hearts clubs.
Hospitals are start and end.
Hospitals are battle and loss
and loss again.
The nurse with the cold hands listens to my heartbeat.
“You have a very strong heart.”
I suppose that I do.
She is the muscular organ I love to blame, even though she has nothing to do with these decisions.
She has nothing to do with this back and forth,
of loving and running away.
Running away when someone wants to love me.
Loving those who run first.
But my feet are tired,
and they hurt.
A lot of me hurts,
but I have a strong heart.
She just keeps beating.