Thus when Wendy and another friend, Helen, visited me later that afternoon, I was indeed melancholy. "You're having a party? And I can't go?"
Feeling my plight, Wendy and Helen, good friends that they are, suggested that I break out of the hospital for the evening. This had never occurred to me.
Being a neuro inpatient for weeks on end makes you pliant, because you are constantly proving yourself wrong about everything.
"What if I get caught? What if I get into trouble?" I protested.
But, as they pointed out, what would the hospital do? They had to let me back in. Anyway, I was about to be discharged. How much trouble could there be?
They were persuasive.
After dinner, I put on my extra-fancy pair of sweatpants. Television no longer gave me headaches, so I watched an old James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice on TV, and grew more and more excited. As it got closer to the agreed-upon escape time, 8:50 p.m., I became
nervous that Helen wouldn't make it. But there she was. As part of the plan, Helen had saved her afternoon visitor badge, which we affixed to my shirt.
Then, it was 9 p.m., the end of visitor hours, and a whole gaggle of guests were kicked out at the same time.
Cue the James Bond soundtrack.
Look right, look left, coast is clear, hobble hobble hobble...
We remained with the pack of departing visitors so as not to arouse suspicion. An ancient black Ford Festiva, was waiting at the curb, with Magda at the
wheel. Magda has a slight Polish lilt from immigrating as a child, plus dramatic Slavic features and an angular haircut with sharp horizontal bangs. In
short, she's an ideal person to drive a getaway car. She said she had never seen stroke me move so quickly, as Helen and I raced to her car. "Go, Go, Go..."
We sped off into the night. Magda says it's the only time in her driving career that she's actually burned rubber.
In the warm, clear night, we drove down the hill toward Logan Circle on 14th Street, picking up speed as we went. It was strange to be moving so fast.
I had't been in a car for seven weeks. As we fled the hospital, I felt that I owned the city.
My friends stood on either side of me as I climbed the rickety metal stairway to my friend's apartment with my cane. I sat in the living room, with its
white tiled floor, its fireplace, and abstract paintings. No one expected me, and I was the hit of the evening. I held court. I tried to answer everyone's
questions. I couldn't talk much. I didn't eat much either. What I loved was how ordinary it was. Around me Wendy and Aarti entered into a spirited
conversation about circumcision. Wendy was Jewish and had started dating a guy who wasn't.
My friends had baked a bright green birthday cake for Wendy in the shape of an armadillo. They had made the inside red, so that when you cut the cake, it
would look authentically bloody. It was named Gus. I love my friends.