Two Nurses

from Scilla di Massa

My knee was injured in a car accident. The ligaments were torn, and the doctors decided to operate. In the middle of the operation, I left my body. Suddenly all boundaries disappeared. I was as big as the whole room, floating in a sea of luminous light, a delicate shade of golden pink not of this world. Every particle of my being was permeated by a love so great, so pure. I felt I could remain in that state forever. There was no fear or pain, no desire, no body. Just golden pink light and perfect love.

But it did not last. Just as suddenly I was unbearably squeezed, shrunk, and confined to my body again. And now there was pain, and lots of it.

I started shouting, “It’s too tight! It’s too tight!” I was referring to my body, but the nurse and surgeon thought I meant the plaster cast they were putting on my leg.

“It has to be this tight,” the nurse explained, “otherwise you won’t heal correctly.”

But I was inconsolable and determined to get back to what I had just experienced. Deliberately, I blocked the flow of my breath.

In the operating room, my sudden inability to breathe was seen as a medical emergency. I was rushed to intensive care where an oxygen mask was strapped to my face, forcing air into my lungs.

Two nurses were taking care of me. The one toward the foot of the bed was very busy managing the oxygen machine, the blood pressure pump, and all the other equipment. The second nurse was sitting quietly, just to my right. The mask prevented me from turning my head to get a better look at her. From the corner of my eye, I could see only that she had long brown hair, parted in the center. She adjusted my pillow and stroked my head. Never in my life had I felt so loved.

The battle between my desire to leave my body and the medical effort to keep me in it went on for a long time. Finally, I gave in and began to breathe without being forced to do so by their equipment. My heart and blood pressure stabilized. The medical emergency was over.

The nurse monitoring the equipment removed the mask from my face. My first thought was to thank the nurse next to me for her tender care. I looked to the right, but no one was there.

“Where is the other nurse?” I said to the one working the machines.

“Who?” she asked.

“Your colleague, the one who has been sitting beside me all this time.”

“Nobody has been there,” she said. “It has just been you and me.”