We Were Always Patients, Never Children

We Were Always Patients, Never Children
Mark Lee Web


I played with Nadja, who was having trouble with
something called a clot, which was like a scab but
not. She was black, I mean not like other colored
girls I knew, and us two were different than the
rest of the kids on the floor. Most of them had
the diabetes, and me and Nadja wanted the
diabetes too because if you had the diabetes they
just gave you a shot twice a day and that fixed
you, not like Nadja’s kidney clot or the thing in
my spine.

To make me feel better about not having the
diabetes my Dad bought me a real leather baseball
mitt, but told me to be careful, don’t dare be
throwing no balls down in the play room because
you still have stitches and you don’t want them to pop out,
do you?

One night the doctors came running, and they
spilled Nadja’s blood while she was lying on the
floor. Later they took her away, and I heard she
went back to her house and died because of
something called low whites, which I’m sure
wasn’t the diabetes.


It was last spring when Mother told me my pain
was the pain of a woman – telling me Daughter, it
is very important to be clean
, warning me that bad
breath comes from the tongue, instructing me not
to strike my feet, not to reveal my ornaments,
then wrapping me in the hijab. For too many days
I bled. My hands were ice, but in my head a fire
made my eyes dance. When I walked, my legs
trembled and I fell to the floor.

Father took me to hospital, where sick children
lived and some got well. I met a boy who slept in
the next room, and on my good days I pushed
him in a chair on wheels up and down the hall.
His skin was the color of sand. I had never known
any other boys, Mother and Father would not
allow it. I imagined Father leaving my room and
the boy coming to watch TV with me. I imagined
reaching out and touching his hand, a hand
smooth perhaps like the cotton sheets on my bed
at home.

Last week my bleeding started again. I heard the
boy ask what was wrong, but his face was only a
shadow. I thought – for a moment – I could feel
his hand touching my face, his fingers gently
stroking my cheek. But soon the doctors came
and pushed the boy away, and later Father took
me home to my own bed where I lay on white
sheets and watched the sun grow small.

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