No Such Luck by Anika J. Miller
Four white walls. One hospital gown. No reflective surfaces. Peel back bandages. Just a little. Hands are red. I’m red handed. Red, lacerated hands. IV is dripping. Is it morphine? Or something stronger. Am I numb? Or something weaker? Panic sets in. Calm, calm down— I tell myself. Try to speak. I hear screaming. Loud, horrifying screams. Nurses run in. “What? What’s wrong?” Poking and prodding. Prodding and poking. The IV drips. Everything goes blank.
What is this? Drug-induced slumber, maybe. Death’s waiting room. Or just consequence. I remember little. I know little. Where was I? Memory fails me. Missing puzzle pieces. Not puzzle pieces. Maybe glass shards? What was it? A shattered windshield? Broken beer bottle? Which wasn’t it? My head hurts. Like a hangover. A bad hangover. Who was there? Blank, featureless faces. Paper doll cut-outs. Was anyone hurt? Does anyone know? Wake me up! Open my eyelids. Tell me something. Tell me anything! Or show me. Show me something—
They wake me. They have questions. Uncap their pens. Ask my name. Ask the year. Where are you? Good, good, good. Making check marks. They ignore mine. I keep asking. Talking in circles. What exactly happened? Was anyone hurt? They don’t understand. Apparently, I’m lucky. A lucky girl. Can I see? They ask what. A mirror, please. They say no. And absolutely not. Get some rest. Why, I ask. What exactly happened? Was anyone hurt? I am incoherent. I’m so lucky.
Lucky because why?
Scream myself hoarse. Nurses rush in. The IV drips. No one visits. Except the nurses. Except the doctors. I hunker down. Where is everyone? Are they allowed? Please, someone—anyone! Anyone without stethoscopes. Stethoscopes like necklaces. Finally an answer. Not my hope. No one’s allowed. No visitors allowed. No roommate, either. Sign tacked up / on the door. I’m disappointed, sure. I’m not surprised. No solid food. Ice chips, okay. No pleasant company. Only scrub gowns. No, no, no. Lucky, my ass.
How’s my face? Exchanged, uncomfortable looks. Must be bad. Worse than bad. Count my blessings. What I know: Two green eyes. Can still see. Lips, a tongue. Can still scream. Mutter half-intelligible sounds. Otherwise, I’m unsure. Bandages all over. Face and body. Like a mask. A Halloween costume. Can be anyone. Somebody not me. Someone better off.
Bored and lonely. Nurse ventures in. Right on cue. Name tag: Annie. “You have visitors.” I’m allowed visitors? Voice sounds odd. I nod instead. “As of today / If you want.” I do want. / Who is it? “It’s your parents.” She smiles slightly. If I’m smiling / I can’t tell. Can’t feel it. Mom’s already crying. Dad is too. Must be bad. Worse than bad. Holds my hand. My bandaged hand. Strokes my cheek. My bandaged cheek. Doctors come in. Ruin the silence. Ruin the sentiment. Start discussing options.
Let’s fast forward.
Move back home. Cry into mirrors. Live in between/hospital and home. Facial Reconstructive Surgery. At only seventeen. Stick my veins. More IVs dripping. The best surgeons. Only the best. Goodbye college savings. Hello to debt. Can’t afford both. Just a kid. Can’t afford this. This isn’t all. There’s always more. “Fix her arms.” “Fix her legs.” Trading in friends / for the professionals: Hello skin grafting! Hello physical therapy! Hello speech therapy!
Every day’s Halloween. In the mirror. What it reflects. Not my skin. Nor my voice. Multitudes of wigs. The wigs itch. Looks like cancer. Scarves, hats, bandanas. In every color. Try to hide. From awkward stares. Former friends’ pity. They look away. Eyes cast down. I’m a stranger. Keep lips sealed. Don’t dare talk. Don’t say sorry.
Jump ahead again.
Skin’s filled in. Smooth and tanned. Hair’s grown out. Long and black. Changed my name; matches my face. My new face. My second identity. I’m brand new. But twenty-two’s old. A second life / and second chance. Changed my address. More than once. More than twice. My nomadic lifestyle: Let’s play dress-up! Nobody here knows. Incidentally, nobody asks. Everything is fine. It’s still Halloween. It always is.
Anika J. Miller is an undergraduate in English at Iowa State University, where she serves as editor for the in-house publication, Sketch. She is an avid reader and writer.