The Potomac — Poetry and Politics - Clarinda Harriss
Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Lady in the Other Bed
   Clarinda Harriss

She scare me when they roll her in with that long pale hair look like a witch. Make no noise at all. All I hear glug glug glug that stuff going up and down the hoses hook up her arms. They done take out my hoses. I done had so many hoses I couldn't get out the bed. Nurses have to come in bring me the bedpan.

The lady in the other bed, next day she go to the bathroom by herself. Hold onto the rack where they done hang the hoses and wheel it long side her. She go to the bathroom ALL THE TIME. Walk to the bathroom with that witch hair hangin all down. Hold a big black pocketbook. She see me lookin at that pocketbook.

My make up in here, she say.

Huh, I thinkin, you scared I steal that pocketbook when you in the bathroom. But when she come back she look a whole lot better. Got her witch hair pull back in a big purple rubber band. Give me big lipstick smile.

This lady phone ring ALL THE TIME. She say her name when she answer instead of Hello. Social Worker they do that too. Maybe this lady a Social Worker.

Yesterday right when the nurse puttin clean sheet in the bed, this lady get a whole lot of ladies come see her. Three, four maybe but seem like more. Two lady have purple hair but they all have regular clothes on. They holdin newspapers and boxes. Pile the stuff on the lady bed. One lady she make like she going to sit down on my bed. Somebody say somethin she jump up real quick. They havin a real good time makin noise cussin the State System and State Excessment and all like that twell this OLD LADY she come to the door. OH GOD THAT YOUR MOTHER say one of the purple hair lady.

Funny thing, Old Lady kind of cute, put me in mind of that white lady black hair movie star get married all the time wear diamond on TV. Old Lady look kind of like the lady in the other bed only a whole lot better. Got her hair dyed black and curl nice stead of stringin down all pale and scary. Old lady say Girls don't mind me, I just sit over yonder with the other lady. And she come over on my side the room and sit on the chair long side my bed. She ax me what my name and I tell her Sapphire.

My that a beautiful name she say. You don't hear nobody call that name no more. Your family bring you these? Old Lady lookin at my two smiley face balloon. They tied to the chair she sittin on.

Nome I say two girl from down the shelter bring em.

Ah the SHELTER say the Old Lady. Say it loud so the lady in the other bed she hear.

Well I can see it's good you in a shelter. She lookin at my eyeglasses. They done busted. Held together with duck tape. One side all crack where you see through.

Some man do that, huh? the Old Lady say.

Yes'm I tells her. That dumb old Ralph work at the shelter. He tryin to get me and Charisse to play some kind of game with a ball and Charisse and me we tryin to hit the ball over this big high net with our fistess and we knock into each other and my glasses fall off and Ralph he step on em. Yes'm some man done bust my glasses.

Now you at the shelter, ain't no man goin to do that to you no more, that right? Old Lady look at me real hard. Nome I say cause I expect she don't want to study about no Ralph.

Last night the lady in the other bed she holler through the curtain Sapphire, hey Sapphire. She must of hear her mother call my name. Sapphire she yell, I'm sendin a piece of cake over. I on a diet. Nurse ax the lady, You want me to pull the curtain back? Sure say the lady, Sapphire and me we talk.

Click click click she go clickin on the remote. What we goin to watch on the TV tonight Sapphire? she say. You like the news? News all right I say. You like Murder She Wrote? Nome. You like Married With Children? Yes'm I say. Well, she say, I don't, it make me sick see them women act like such dumb slut.

Click click click. "Mo Money" come on. ALL RIGHT she say. We goin to like this.

I tell the lady I done see it before but I like to watch it again.

We watchin and laughin. She holler, Sapphire who direct this movie? Say I knows but I can't remember.

I can't remember neither I holler back.

Early this morning just when I start to get me some sleep my social worker she come see how I doin. Tell me I can come back to the shelter later today. She give me one of her little teeny white card and say phone me when you ready for the van to come get you. Then she hitch the chair up long side the bed. Get a real serious look on her face. Look funny in between them two smiley face. She say Sapphire, you know what they done to you, don't you?

Yes'm I say. But I done forgot.

You know you don't have to worry about having no babies no more.

No babies no more. I ain't but thirty four. I ax her, Not ever?

She say It permanent, Sapphire.

Permanent I say back. Permanent mean not ever?

Lady in the other bed she get out the bed and go to the bathroom soon as the social worker leave. It DISGUSTIN nobody explain your operation to you she say.

They did too explain, I say back. I don't like for nobody to talk against my social worker.

Don't you be coverin for them bastard she say, real mad. She and all her lady friend they use bad word all the time. I don't say nothin.

Little bit later the lady come tippin in with this little basket some white flowers in it look like daisies and a little teensy gold balloon say somethin on it in writing. She put it on the table long side my bed long side the telephone. Say My mother give me these. Say I didn't used to get along with my mother neither. Get all fluster, say I didn't mean to be listenin in but I hear you tell the nurse don't phone your mother. Say my mother hear you say something about the shelter. Lady look at me hard, say one time I was in a shelter too, and my mother she help me and we be close every since.

I tell her Thank you. I don't say nothin else. But I done hear the lady tellin about the shelter she stay at one time. The man nurse he come around ax everybody question write down what they say. I hear the lady say Yeah, I done been in a Mental Hospital one time, I done got beat up by my husband then my husband he a lawyer he get the police come lock me up in the Mental Hospital.

The man nurse he say, Ain't that the way.

Lady laugh, say Nah, it was okay, hospital was my batter woman shelter three nice long month.

Morning I leave I pack my shopping bag. Lady come round to my side the curtain don't even have to go to the bathroom. Look real hard in my good eyeglasses side that don't have cracks say SPIKE LEE. Say like it real important. SPIKE LEE she say.

I show her the little white card the social worker give me. You call this number for me? I ax her. She say sure. She look at the card a long time. Maybe she have trouble seein the number. Then she dial the phone. Say Your client Sapphire ready to be pick up at the hospital now.

Nurse come in to wheel me downstairs. I ax her why they have to wheel me. I can walk good as anybody. Nurse wheelin me and another nurse come in, black lady, come in to fix up the bed. Wheelchair headin down the hall but I hear the lady talkin to the black lady nurse. Say That lady just leave, Sapphire, she from the Retarded Citizen Association. Say My god, she don't seem like she retarded. Say I never would of dream.

Black lady nurse, she don't say nothin.


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