In the hospital you are lying on a cot in a cubicle near the Emergency Room.
A woman in a smock patterned with songbirds hands you a telephone; it’s your brother.
Hey, he says, what’s happening.
Beats me, you say.
You’re OK, he says, bruised up, but nothing broken.
Somebody in your office called him, he says. Found his business card in your Rolodex. He has talked to the hospital. Because you’re on a blood thinner and live alone, they will keep you overnight for observation, making sure, he says, that if you bleed to death, you will not be alone.
A woman in a flowered smock hands you a horizontal scrap of paper, something torn off the bottom of another sheet. Three words: Cynthia has LuLu. You like this misspelling of the dog’s name, with its second capital L. You find your purse, on a stand next to the cot, and put the scrap into it.
The rector from your church is sitting in a chair by the cot. He is wearing Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt. He has an ID on a cord but no clerical collar. Someone in your office also called your church, knowing you are active there. Because people were setting up for tomorrow’s fair, they answered the phone and called the rector, who tries to take Fridays off.
This is very hard to forgive, you tell him, referring to the accident, and he nods.
Yes, it is, he says, in such a way that you know he’s not asking it of you.
Another woman—teddy bears on her smock—hands you a yellow Post-It. LuLu—Rhinebeck animal hospital, it says, with the vet’s number and Cynthia's cell phone number. Something must have gone wrong. Terrified, you find your cell phone; afraid to call the vet, you call Cynthia.
We just took her to Rhinebeck to make sure she was all right, says Cynthia. Now she’s curled in a circle on the dog bed in your office and won’t look at any of us, but she’s fine, stop worrying about her. I’ll take her home with me tonight.
You thank Cynthia, who has a small dog kennel where Lulu stays when you’re away. Later your coworkers will tease you about your multiple calls that day, worrying about the dog. You were really out of it, they say. You do not think this is funny and change the subject.
You’re feeling a little better, so call you call your friend L, just to let her know where you are. I’m on my way, she says; no, that’s all right, you say, I’m—but she is gone, on her way. Now you feel bad, dragging her from home at whatever time it is—you are having trouble reading your watch because, you realize, a lens is missing from your glasses—can it really be four o’clock? But it will be nice to have her to talk to. Putting the phone away, you notice that the word besenji is written on the back of the yellow Post-It, your dog’s breed with one wrong letter. Someone was curious.
L arrives with the Friday Times, which you like for its movie reviews, and a package of six butter cookies. She’s bought the last Times in the hospital gift shop and someone has stolen the movie review section from it, but it’s hard to read anyway. You will look at the pictures. And you do not eat butter, but you eat cookies and you’re starving, so you eat them.
L is sitting by your cot telling you about her day when another woman appears within your view, the one who gave you her business cards while your car was washed up in someone else’s front yard. You think it’s nice of her to visit, but you don’t know her that well and wonder why she would drive half an hour—she lives down the road from the accident—when she lets you know, in an indirect way, almost impossible to parse, that she was the one driving the black pickup truck, twice the weight of your white Honda, she was the driver who floored it to get across the two-lane road for whatever reason you have never understood, and, because you jammed on the brakes, she was the one who struck your car left front fender, instead of dead on, so to speak, into your left side.
You know it’s brave of her to visit you—certainly, in her place you would not have that courage—but you wish she would go away, and L looks uncomfortable and says she’ll go down the hall for a few minutes so T can sit. She leaves you with this person who, you learn later, is known around town as a terrible driver and not always sober, though at 9 a.m. that Friday she was. You wish the priest were here to talk to her, or L, or a nurse in a smock with devils on it, but no one is, so you have to talk to her.
No fault. She says a couple of times that no-fault will take care of everything, and you think but I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was just driving down the road.
She wants to know if she can do anything, is your dog OK, and you say yes, the dog is OK. You realize that maybe if you give her something to do she will go away. I have no idea where my car is, you say, could she find the car, and she seizes upon this, saying yes, she knows the volunteer firefighters who were first on the scene, she will find the car.
She finally leaves and L comes back. Weird, L calls it, and you agree on its weirdness, that T, who at one point you thought was pretty cool, would do any of this, including take up the time that L had to visit. She leaves soon afterward, and you wish you had someone to talk to.
A man in street clothes comes by and wheels your cot into the hall. They need the room, he says, putting your purse onto the cot. A fresh accident, you think. The hallway isn’t bad; easier here to watch what’s going on, which reminds you of your husband; mildly demented with brain cancer, unable to speak, he liked to sit in the hallway of the hospital and watch the brisk comings and goings of women in patterned smocks, men in scrubs. You wonder if you’ll spend the night here in the hall, which would be bearable; more important, you wonder if you’ll get anything to eat, since despite the six cookies, you’re famished.
A man walks by and says, is your dog OK? Should I know you, you ask, keeping your voice gentle, polite. He was the X-ray technician; you had an hours’ worth of X-rays that you never, ever remember. You were really worried about your dog, he says.
A man in scrubs, with a cloth mask hanging on his neck, comes by and says you do not need surgery.
Dr. P is a very good surgeon, a nurse says later. He stayed late to read your X-rays, she adds, as if you should be grateful, and you do feel a tiny bit important. When your husband died, you liked getting flowers; it was August, the flowers were gorgeous, and after a grueling summer, with only shreds of good news that quickly dissolved, you liked the attention. You put the flowers all over the house; someone knew you were there.
* * *