18. Harp Lie

Content note: medical shit.

Helen got sick pretty fast; first she had a cold, then she had tonsillitis and we went to the doctors on Monday and he gave her some antibiotics, and then on Tuesday night Helen woke me up because her neck had swelled up and I told her she probably had swollen glands and she should let me sleep and then on Wednesday we took her to the ER and they admitted her and put her on IV antibiotics and steroids and then on Saturday night they decided to operate to drain the abcess that had formed, and at twenty to midnight her surgeon called me to say that she’d be put in a “medically induced coma” to help her recover, she would probably be awake by Wednesday, and that was good news because I’d spent the previous two hours saying to myself “She probably won’t die. She probably won’t die” over and over. I was right in that there was very little chance that she would die, but if you’re having that conversation with yourself it’s because there is more chance someone could die than, say, crossing the road, or eating an oyster, or something.

The doctor could have chosen a better phrase than “medically induced coma”; it’s not reassuring, and, as it turns out, Helen was somewhat awake the following morning. She had a tube down her throat and was heavily medicated so wrote on a little whiteboard and asked “will I speak again?” which was just about the most heartbreaking thing I’d ever seen. (Spoiler: Yes, she would.) Every 15 minutes she would fall asleep, and the sedatives would mean she would forget to breathe, and the artificial breathing machine would puff some air into her lungs and she’d get wake up upset and try to figure out where she was and what was happening and then when she’d done that she’d ask how long she’d been sleeping for and I’d say “like 5 minutes” and she’d roll her eyes because it was boring and uncomfortable and painful and then we’d rinse and repeat.

The days progressively got better. They reduced her meds so she could stay awake for longer and could breathe by herself. They let her have tea and an icy pole*. My days were monotonous – wake, visit hospital, have a fancy Hobart brunch, visit hospital again, go to our hotel room, put on a movie, email family and friends with updates, worry, go to sleep. I had nothing to talk about, and neither did she, because she was immobile in ICU. One day, I told her about a Thai martial arts film in which a monk had to battle a gang who had stolen his village’s elephant in order to blow up the presidents of two fictional countries. She told me “not to tell her about the plots of martial arts films”. It was all I had.

I think Harp Lie is a term Starlee Kine termed, or at least popularised. “A lie that’s big enough to be interesting but small enough to pass inspection”. Edgy winter goff art festival Dark Mofo was happening in the deep Hobart midwinter, and walked past the neon inverted crosses and the flamethrowers and the parade floats on the way to the hospital every day.

Next week, cause for celebration!

*this term, along with “too easy”, are bits of Australian lingo that helped me get through the week

Pre order Year of The Bird, Volume 2 at https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-2 this week and you’ll get the download of this track (and all previous tracks) right away, and the full album when it’s released on July 1st, 2019! Why not listen to Volume 1, too: https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-1