My great-uncle Lee spent his last few months in a well-run County hospital in the California high desert.
At least once a week we’d make the drive there to see him. The hospital was a few miles out of town, next door to a prison. Lee was in the quietest part of a quiet hospital, both inside and outside his room. Gardeners worked on the landscaping outside, but that’s all the activity I saw. The grounds were very well-kept.
After I talked to Lee, I’d go outside and wait for the others. Nothing ever happened at that place, so I have no idea how long I’d been there. It was just me, the constant desert wind, and some plants and flowers flopping gently around. I could hear the lines clanking on the flag pole. Periodically there would be an engine noise, or a gardener would go by with some machine or tool.
This week i’ve spent some time ill. Because my back and shoulder went out on me, I am in a different bed and bedroom than usual to get the big flat bed. It’s a quieter and darker end of the house, and the big window opens onto the back yard. The weather has been very warm. My neighborhood is quiet, and not much at all happens there. I found myself flat on my back, not wanting to move, and listening to the clink and clank of hanging plants, wind chimes at near dead stop, rustling leaves, and distant suburban background noises like lawnmowers and pool parties.
I felt as though Death Himself had arrived. Time to sit up, stand up, move into the other room, and hurt more. I know what happens if you get stuck in a slow, warm, quiet, breezy Southern California day full of manicured plants and long silences. YOU DIE, THAT’S WHAT.