The night before I went into the hospital Excy and I were in the communal dining room of the Mason House, a transplant patient house, having a take-out Italian meal with our friend Karen, who had flown in that afternoon to sit with Excy through the first surgery. We were trying to play catch-up, and also decompress from the stress of the last several weeks, as much as one can, anyway, while awaiting major surgery.
Karen flew in from upstate New York, where she and her husband had retired after a lifetime in Washington, DC. We met when she was my first boss at the magazine, and have grown close as sisters in the ensuing thirty-one years. She and Dan had bought and renovated an old house, making it into a wellness center where she offered her massage services and taught yoga. Yeah, she's awesome.
The first surgery was the scariest and most difficult one, and she had called and volunteered to be with Excy so he wouldn't be alone while waiting, which is the type of incredibly generous person she is. Anyway, we hadn't seen one another in five years, and because she had spent a few years getting licensed and the house/center in shape, we hadn't spent much time on the phone, either, so it was a rare and precious visit. She was flying home the evening of the surgery, and I knew I wouldn't be in great shape for more visiting that day.
We were engrossed in conversation, and I was savoring my few precious hours with her (as much as I could, frankly, considering how chaotic and freaked out my state of mind was), when I noticed a woman circling in on our corner table (I purposely chose one away from the mainstream). The woman was hovering, like people do when they mean to pounce into the conversation. Here comes trouble I thought, attempting to convey through body language that this was a private conversation and I didn't really care to make 'new friends' at the moment. People with no filter, however, are often oblivious to visual clues, though, and she continued to bull-doze over.
'HI! I'M XXX! ARE YOU HERE FOR A TRANSPLANT? GREAT! WHAT KIND?"
XXX didn't have an 'inside voice.' Seeing as how MH was available only to transplant patients and their companions, this question was just an opening gambit. And because I was the only one at the table with bandages on her arms and a cane propped against the table, it was an easy guess.
Sigh. Amy. Freak Magnet.
"Um. Yeah...hi...I'm here with my husband and friend. Who just flew in from New York...we haven't seen each other in years and I go in tomorrow...we are just catching up over dinner..." (She obviously couldn't relate to the obvious).
"Well. I had a kidney transplant almost a year ago, and am with my parents for a checkup." She then plopped a photo album I hadn't noticed on the table, pushing aside a salad plate. I glanced beseechingly towards her parents, who pretended not to notice, no doubt relieved XXX had found new targets and allowing them a respite. "See? My hair was this color, and it has grown in to this color now...here I am in recovery, and here is a photo of my donor, who had been killed in a motorcycle accident..." She went on and on...
I tried to be interested. I tried to tell her this wasn't my first rodeo and she didn't need to delve into the details. My voice sounded flat and oddly familiar, and I realized I sounded like the boss in the movie Office Space; the drone who keeps asking in a bleak voice whether or not our hero had "seen the memo..."
Finally I had an epiphany. I didn't have to sit and let this windbag suck our evening away. I didn't have to smile and nod and pretend to listen to her rattle on with her life story and the fact she's writing a book about the experience. I wasn't obligated to be her captive audience. I'd never see her again. What did I care?
I hopped up. "Good luck to you. Come on, Karen, I need to go to the room." Karen and Excy, unfailingly polite, looked taken aback, but recovered quickly, and Karen followed me down the hall. Excy used the break to gather up the dishes and gently bring the soliloquy to a close.
Yeah. I can be a bitch. But I am unrepentant. I've earned the right over the years, so it doesn't bother me much.