This is the fourth, and finale, in the series, “Adventures in Surgery.”
I tried to open my eyes, but could lift my lids only part way.
There was Susan.
“Oh, Babe!” I exclaimed, delighted and slurring, as if David Coperfield had miraculously produced her out of thin air as I lay splayed out tanked in a Las Vegas bar chair, “I’m so glad you’re here!”
Susan smiled. She finds it reassuring when I am so relieved and pleased to see her after surgery. And truthfully, you have no ability at that point to fake anything. I pity the people — everyone concerned — when a patient starts to cry or groan when they wake up and find a certain person standing over them in the Recovery Room.
But not me. When I see Susan in the Recovery Room, I tend to get all sweet and maudlin, like a loveable drunk. She finds this endearing. Unfortunately, I am also prone to making terrible jokes and saying things that I alone think are quite witty at the time. This she finds somewhat embarrassing. But the nurses are quite used to these shenanigans. Recovery Room nurses have heard it all – they listen to people jabbering away on Truth Serum all day long. So they also always smile sweetly when they observe me so happy to see my Darlin’.
I was asleep again, slumped over in my Recovery Room recliner. A male nurse nudged me awake from the other side. “Hey,” he asked, “You want some juice? We have apple, orange, or cranberry.”
I beamed like a child entering Chuck E Cheese. Juice never tastes as good as when you were four – except when you come out of surgery. “Can I have cranberry?” I asked, as if that would be particularly special.
“You sure can,” the nurse said, and went off to get me a glass.
I suddenly noticed Susan on the other side. “Babe! You’re here!” I exclaimed, as if David Coperfield had miraculously produced her out of thin air as I lay splayed out tanked in a Las Vegas bar chair. (Versed, you see, causes you to loose both your mind and your memory.) “I’m so glad to see you!”
“I know, Babe,” said Susan.
“Here’s your juice,” interjected a voice from my other side. I looked over to find that a big cup of cranberry juice had also appeared out of nowhere. With a straw. And ice.
“Juice!” I beamed. I looked back to Susan to share in the excitement. “And it’s cranberry, too!”
“Yes, it is,” said Susan sweetly.
“I love cranberry,” I said, attempting to get the straw in my mouth but not having much luck.
“Here, Luv,” she said, “Let me help you.”
“It’s cranberry,” I emphasized around the straw that she was threading between my lips, finally getting hold of it enough to slurp.
“Is it good?” Susan inquired. I raised my eyebrows and nodded, too engaged in my four year-old slurping to talk right now.
Suddenly something occurred to me. I set my glass down and became rather serious.
Susan looked at me in anticipation.
“They took my underwear,” I said. I pursed my lips as if considering the gravity of the situation. “My nice underwear.”
Susan’s stare said: “You poor stoned bastard. Where did that come from?” She looked around for some explanation, but the nurses were all currently engaged with other stoned bastards.
I noted her confusion. Maybe she didn’t know which ones. “The ones you got me,” I clarified, then added mournfully, “They took them.”
“Um … well … ” said Susan, which was about all anyone could say at that point. But even in my anesthetic inebriation I sensed disbelief lurking just beneath the surface. I grew indignant. I would not be placated by feigned concern.
“No, really,” I declared. “I’m serious! Look!”
I arched slightly up off the recliner and, with my good arm, pulled my sweatpants down in a dramatic display, as if I were now David Copperfield.
It was true. My underwear had disappeared.
“Oh my god,” exclaimed a shocked Susan, “Where did they go?”
“I … DON’T… KNOW,” I repeated more loudly, like a four year-old now in righteous indignation, “I told you: THEY TOOK ‘EM.”
I collapsed back into my seat and accidentally swept my cranberry juice off of the arm and onto the floor. I stared at the red flood spreading out on the linoleum. Now I had no underwear and no cranberry juice. Things were going from bad to worse.
Now nurses came from everywhere.
“He doesn’t have his underwear?” Susan began in a carefully inquisitive tone.
“Or cranberry juice,” I lamented, interrupting.
Susan looked at me.
“We had to take them off in surgery,” said one nurse.
“You took them,” I said accusingly.
Susan looked back at the nurse. The nurse looked at me. I was not helping.
“There were two metal rivets on the underwear,” the nurse explained, “Some of the things we use in the surgery are attracted to metal, so we had to remove them. Doesn’t he have them?”
Susan put her hand on my good arm. No need for another display. “No,” she said, and then added emphatically, “And I’m quite sure that he doesn’t have them.”
“Or his cranberry juice,” I reminded them.
“We’ll find them,” said the nurse, as someone else began to mop up the spill. “I’ll get you some more juice,” said another, glad to have something else to do other than mop up a spill or talk to a stoned patient without underwear.
Now, I am not sure whether they woke me up in the OR so that I could take off my sweatpants and underwear, and then put my sweatpants back on, by myself, or whether they did those things while I was out. The first would explain why I knew that they had taken my briefs. But the amount of happy juice they gave to me would seem to rule it out. I, mean, come on — I couldn’t suck a straw by myself. But if that was what happened, seeing me fumble around, embarrassed and explaining about my nice underwear, in a drugged fog was probably pretty comic. On the other hand, if the OR staff had to heave my 210 pounds of dead weight around on the surgical table while I slept to undress and redress me, that too must have had it’s own set of comic possibilities. The only thing I find vaguely comforting about that scenario is that the relaxing effects of the drugs give me particularly good hang.
In any case, someone found my underwear and we were soon on our way home with my underwear in a little plastic baggy. Of this time I remember only being told to put my left hand on the car door to help get me out of the wheelchair, and being told by Susan to stay put while she went and opened the house. After that I somehow staggered to bed.
But by 10:00 or so, I had woken up a bit. Susan fed me some dinner and I was feeling pretty good.
“How are you doing?” she asked, “Do you want some Percocet?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, moving my arm gingerly back and forth in the sling. “This feels surprisingly okay.”
“I think you’re still under anesthesia,” she said.
“No, really, I think this is doing better than I expected,” I assured her.
“Still — you better take a Percocet,” she told me, “Just to be on the safe side. I’ll put another here on your end table in case you need it later.”
I took the first one, and immediately dropped off to sleep propped up on the pillows.
At 1:30 I woke up with a start. Someone had somehow snuck in the bedroom while I slept and, with a baseball bat, beaten my shoulder to a pulp. Searing pain immobilized my entire body. I would have screamed “Holy [insert long string of expletives here],” but it would have moved my rib cage and shoulder. Instead, I held my breath and tried to stay perfectly still as my left hand shot out into the dark and began to search frantically for the Percocet.
No luck. I couldn’t find my pain killer. My anesthesia has finally worn off. And I finally had to breath.
“Holy [insert long string of expletives here],” I gasped, trying to rise out of bed. I looked at the clock. Technically, I still had about three hours to go, but there, in the thin glow of the alarm, was the dim outline of that blessed little pill, glowing like the promising shadow of a new moon. I grabbed it and, shuddering in pain with every step, headed for the kitchen to get some milk.
And the thing it, I can’t remember if I was wearing underwear at that point.