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|Año Viejo (standard:non fiction, 1100 words)|
|Author: Colombianito||Added: Jan 05 2008||Views/Reads: 2223/0||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|The old year goes out with a bang|
Last year right about this time, I was bleeding. Not very seriously, just a tiny trickle that lasted but a minute, but I felt I shouldn't be bleeding on New Year's Eve. The nurse said to put my arm up but she didn't put a little cotton ball on the pinch, and no band-aid either, but this was Colombia after all and I should have been flying back to the US that morning if I hadn't gotten sick. "What a fun New Year's, eh?" she said, completely rhetorically and without even looking at me, and I figured she had said the same thing to about a hundred people already that morning, making some feel sicker than they already were. She looked like my sister. Everyone looked like my sister or my brother whenever I returned for a visit after a couple of years of being away in the Caucasian heartland. My room didn't have a window but I could hear the blast of firecrackers and "tacos" blasting right outside the hospital. Tacos are especially loud and very potent firecrackers; they send a deafening wave of explosive sound that travels many blocks. I was relived to think that whoever was lighting those tacos would get prompt attention should their hands or face get blown off. The celebrations had been just too crazy and full of excess. My mom woke me up early and called me to the table where a plate full of reheated beans from the night before awaited me, next to scrambled eggs and toast, and a cup of hot chocolate to wash it all down. I devoured the meal, figuring I needed to get something in my stomach to start neutralizing the aguardiente I knew was going to flow in plentiful at every stop of the tour. And you couldn't say no because then they would say that America had turned me into a fancy pants wuss. Then there was blood sausage at aunt Daniela's, deep fried plantains and pork rinds at my friend Carlos', we bought buñuelos that Doloritas was selling by the stadium, and by the time I arrived at my cousin Enrique's, my chest felt like someone beat it with a tennis racket and I was drenched in cold sweat. "You're having a heart attack, gringo!" he said chuckling and he called his girlfriend Linda to pick us up. I waited for her disoriented, lying down on Enrique's leather couch. Before we left, I vomited a white, foamy soup that I offered to clean up, but Enrique just said "I'll send you the bill in dollars." It was just me and an old woman in the flesh-colored room. She was hooked to one of those EKG machines that prints the heartbeat on paper rather than show it on the screen, though it made the same beeping sound. They had told me I was not get up from the bed until Monday, when they would bring the ultrasound machine to look for damage to the pericardium. In my mind, I traveled back in time trying to locate the "pericardium" somewhere in the thorax of the dissected man pictured in the poster my ninth grade teacher was holding up. All that mattered was that my heart might have been damaged, really. My mom had brought me the books I was reading on the airplane. I pulled "The Book of Illusions" by Paul Auster, and reread whatever chapter I had been reading. Reading in English helped me imagine I was in my own bed in Colorado, getting ready to go to sleep. This was truly a book of illusions. I set the book down and rolled over to my left side, with my arm over my head so the nurses could mess with the I.V. if they needed to. Then I fell asleep. At ten o'clock, a young female voice in my dreams said "hey, hey, hey," and I woke up. A nurse had been calling me to give me my medication. "You understand English?" she asked me and I said yes. She had noticed the book I had left next to the can where they expected me to pee. "I had a brother in the United States," she added, using the past tense, which was curious. "Where is he now?" I asked, wondering if her brother's path might offer some insight about where I might end up in a few years. "He died," she said and I felt wretched, even though she had brought it up. "Oh, I'm so sorry," I said apologetic, and she waived her hand dismissively. "Don't worry," she said, "this was many years ago, and I was very young." There was silence in the room, except for the sick lady's beeping machine and for the ruckus outside the hospital: people blowing on horns, drunkards singing. Someone turned on a radio in the hallway, the station was playing old songs and the announcer would come on every few minutes, updating listeners of how much - or how little - of the current year was left. The nurse tore off the EKG print out, made marks on it with a red pen, folded it and put it in a folder. "How did he die," I asked her. "He froze to death," she said plainly. "He was working at a warehouse in the city of Michigan - she meant the state of Michigan - and was trapped in there during a snowstorm for 32 hours with no heat or electricity. They found him all curled up like a fetus, up in some shelf." She explained. "I'm sorry to hear that," I said, though she had told the story with great detachment, like retelling a scene from a movie. "Yeah, thanks," she said. "I'm sorry you have to spend your New Year's Eve here" she said and rubbed my shoulder affectionately. "Listen, listen!" she then said, pointing towards the room's door. "Five, four, three, two, one, zero!" said the announcer on the radio. "I'll let you get up just to give you a hug," the nurse said, so I grabbed all the cables and I.V. line with my right hand and slid off the bed. "Happy New Year" we said to each other and then the nurse turned to the unconscious lady in the next bed and said to her "Happy New Year to you too, Señora Lucía!" After the nurse left, I stood there for a few minutes, looking at Señora Lucía and listening to the banging tacos outside, and thinking about the burning taste of aguardiente flowing down my throat and making my stomach burn. Tweet
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