A table for one


THE operating room could be likened to a theater — cupboards held tanks of oxygen, refrigerators filled with bags of blood, and a table for one.  Beside it lay steel cutlery of unimaginable versatility.  While it is on this table where bodies are stroked or penetrated (for all the pageantry), no love is ever made.

The operating table is nestled in a room never allowed to grow dark.  It is always glaring with a grotesque brightness, a full moon when it illuminates the world with its whiteness.  On the table, the surgeon performs operations, and if he were likened to a poet, wouldn’t the scars he made into countless bodies be like verses into which he poured his soul?

The surgeon stands over that table of one — gowned, hooded and masked.  In time the stillness settles in his heart, and as silence, dignity and calling envelopes him, the surgeon carves in order to create.

What is the special congress into which a patient and the doctor enter?  The patient senses are deadened, the surgeons sensibilities are restrained.  The patient is blind, in complete offering, he patient yields and the surgeon takes his will.

Six years ago, I was the patient who was brought to the operating table in a stretcher, having been washed and purged and dressed in a white gown. Fluid drips from a bottle into your arm, diluting you, leaching your body of its personal brine.

As I waited in the corridor, I heard from behind the closed doors the angry clang of steel upon steel, like some battle were being waged.  There is the smell of antiseptic and ether, and masked men and women hurry down the hallways, in and out of rooms.  I could hear the watery sound of strange machinery, the tiny beeping, transmitting my heartbeat.  And all the while, the dreadful knowledge that you’ll soon be taken, lay beneath great lamps that will reveal the linings of your body.  In the very act of lying down, I had made a declaration of surrender to my surgeon.   I’d lie down gladly for sleep, or love and to give over one’s body and will for surgery.   To lie down for it is a yielding of unbearable anxiety, more than we could bear.

You are wheeled in and moved into that table for one, an injection is given and as the silence of anesthesia falls across my brain, I watched my soul drift away.

Later in the recovery room, you awaken and graze through the thickness of drug, at world returning, at first dimly, then surely, that you have not died.

Then the  surgeon’s scalpel rests… and waits for his hands again.

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