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Visiting Hours Are Over


I visited the hospital today at the library. A ward of ideas, bound, compartmentalized, sharing space for the same idealistic goal, some dying as they moan diatribes to themselves or student nurses who nod in feigned understanding to the music in their earbuds. Some are dying to be heard, others are long past dead, the morgue is the mausoleum, the hospital a place of conflict like some great military battlefield where the dead and dying mingle, trapped under their own jackets, covers. The living are deaf to their cries, perhaps because they are too busy fighting their own battles to aid in someone else’s. When all the earth’s dirt has been used to bury bodies and trash, corpses will be stacked above ground, side-by-side in buildings, story after story, and the layout will be modeled after libraries — empires of mute, stacked organization. I walk among the rows of bodies and ideas in the silence of post-apocalyptic observation, fallout from the social world, astute student stutter stepping along barren paths with high hopes that something will fall from the sky and hit me on the head. Silence is the soundtrack played over the air-conditioning vents, interrupted only by disc jockey scratches of elevator floor counters that beep with the same frequency as heart monitors. A few steady audible beeps and then a disappearance into silence, another life leaving, realizing a second chance that doesn’t necessitate solipsism and ponderous labor. The living often see people and their ideas as decoration, mistake their polite, anticipatory silence for acquiescence into the background. Mistake their polite silence for a lack of desire to speak, countenance from the stationary to the mobile to hear their voices as choral melodies. Patience misinterpreted as awe. These are the weary, the sick, the disturbed and the desperate. They are battered and marked, either from use or the anticipation of such use. I can only hope that in my time of diminishing health and solidifying thoughts — arms splayed like open book pages on an exam table with hairs on my chest curling like script — that my heart will be so visible. That I will be allowed to rest in a compartment neighbored by these silent voices. Or if I am placed in a belted bed, that they will wake from their cordial deferment and come visit me in earnestness as a final comfort, just as I visit them — not to politely encourage their presence — but to acknowledge their use, how they were used. A clock face hanging from the ceiling hasn’t ticked in 25 years, yet why would it need to?



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