The x-ray man at four in the morning is not happy. By not happy I mean not pleasant. By not pleasant I mean grumpy. I am shivering and I cannot breathe. No, the admitting nurse said. You can breathe. If you couldn’t breathe you wouldn’t be able to talk. Since you can talk you can breathe. You’re having difficulty breathing. Okay, fine. I’m not medically correct in my language. I’m tired. I’m sick. I have a fever of a hundred and three. No, a hundred and one, the nurse says. The IV goes in. I have pneumonia. No, walking pneumonia, the doctor says. I leave at sunrise. I walk home. I text my girlfriend. No, not my girlfriend. A girl I am seeing. Can you bring some groceries? I say. I have pneumonia. No, walking pneumonia. I will order you some groceries, she says. I will have them delivered. I don’t want to get sick. Forget it, I say. I’ll take care of myself. No, that’s not what I meant, she says. I didn’t mean it that way. I lie back in bed. I sleep. No, I cannot sleep. I look at my phone. Xo, she says. Xo.
One day I woke up and pretended not to remember my mother and father. I refused to get out of bed. I was a poet, that’s all I knew. My mother came in. She was wearing her usual denim skirt and blouse buttoned up to her chin. That was my uniform too, how everyone in our little community of homeschoolers had to dress. My mother used to be pretty—I had a picture of her I took from an old photo album and kept hidden in my poetry notebook. She was young and beautiful and had long black hair and was wearing a man’s button down shirt, the top three buttons undone so you could see a glimpse of her bra. Very seductive, my mother. But when she asked Jesus into her heart, Jesus asked her to wear ugly and uncomfortable clothing.