(What follows below is the first draft of a writing assignment I completed for writing group. The exercise was to show “setting” of our choice, fact or fiction. )
Celeste leaned back on the narrow bed that was covered by a thin white cotton sheet smelling slightly of chlorine bleach stretched over the thick rubbery plastic mattress pad. Feeling the soft rubbery surface underneath her reminded her of sleeping on an air mattress that was only half inflated. Some might be bothered by the faint bleach odor but to her it brought back memories of the neighbourhood swimming pool. Good memories. The flat as a pancake pillow underneath her head was also plastic, covered by a well bleached, highly sanitized, vellum thin pillowcase. Though the bed was bound to be hot and uncomfortable for someone with a fever, it was fine for someone chilled with fear, someone like Celeste.
She wiggled and adjusted her body to get more comfortable, finding just the right position to support her aching spine and hips. Breathing a lengthy drawn out sigh, she felt her body momentarily relax in spite of her racing mind. She tugged on the slightly rough but thick blanket on the end of the bed, pulling it up over her entire body. She had the thought: “what if this was a magic blanket, that pulling it up over your body could make you disappear Chris Angel style?” If only.
Having been temporarily left alone with her thoughts, she stared up at the stark white ceiling. Her eyes then slowly drifted downwards to the barren white walls decorated only with medical paraphernalia such as oxygen outlets, suction vessels, and call button cords. Her eyes went down to the recently polished white linoleum tile floor, then up to the printed plaid wedgewood blue with tangerine orange curtain separating the beds. Thankfully someone at some point had made the decision to provide a touch of color and cheeriness to the otherwise plain bleak room. She hoped they at least got a high five for that decision.
Resting her right arm alongside her body, she kept it still and straight so as not to disturb the IV that had been inserted. She had not been prepared for the chemical medicinal smell that invaded her nostrils, so strong that she tasted it on her tongue for a few seconds before it dispersed into the air as the nurse swabbed her arm then plunged the tiny needle into her blue-green vein.
All was quiet at the moment except for country music being played softly. She recognized Johnny Reid crooning a ballad. Possibly it was slowing her pulse. Yes, it seemed it was. Research said music could do that; she believed it to be true. Johnny Reid was probably a wise choice. His mellow voice probably would not be overly offensive to any of the people in the room, no head bangers or gang bangers here today.
As Celeste had entered the day surgery ward with the chubby, slightly limping, pleasant demeanor but all business nurse leading the way to her bed, she had checked out the other patients, none of which had their bedside curtains completely drawn. One older middle aged Native woman with glasses on, eyes closed, possibly sleeping or perhaps just pretending. One older middle aged Caucasian woman with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail reading an Oprah Pick book. Celeste could recognize the large white sticker signifying it being an Oprah book from across the room. One older man beginning to rouse, momentarily trying to talk to the woman on the chair beside him, sounding like a soft-spoken Darth Vader, since he had an oxygen mask covering his mouth and nose. One very elderly lady, with two middle aged men standing at her bedside wearing ball caps, blue jeans, one a white t-shirt, the other a denim work shirt, quietly discussing a concrete pouring project, while the woman lay completely still, eyes staring straight ahead.
Just as the nurse showed Celeste the bed that was to be hers for the day, next to the sliver of an oak paneled closet that would store her clothes while she was wearing her baby blue, always revealing, opening in the back hospital gown, another nurse wheeled in a patient on a gurney. She delivered the older woman to the bed directly across from Celeste’s, and announced “V___25 P___ 150” to the only other nurse in the room, the one preparing to take Celeste’s medical history once she was changed.
Celeste remembered those were the drugs she had the last time she had been here for tests. She also remembered those were some of the drugs MJ had in his bloodstream at the time of his death. They were extremely fast acting, caused amnesia too. When you woke up you felt like you had been out for only two seconds, and nothing had happened at all. It was the only thing about today she was looking forward to – the chance to think and feel nothing at all for half an hour. She realized at that moment how someone became addicted to drugs. How she could become addicted to something that made her think and feel nothing at all.