Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bone of My Bones [Chapter 7]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 7:


Thirteen years ago, Albert Hueghlomm had limped into the spotless and new emergency admissions room at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. The hospital had been built only a year ago, in 1962.

“Can I help you?” asked the admissions nurse. Her English labored under a heavy African accent.

“Yes. I’ve hurt my knee.” Hueghlomm came around the desk to show her his injury. He placed a delicate palm over his knee. His heavy pants were tattered and bloody. The skin around his knee was torn, raw, soaked red. He grimaced slightly when he looked down at the wound.

“How?” the nurse asked.

“I fell off my motorcycle,” he said, adding in triumph, “The motorcycle’s OK.”

“Please sit,” she told him. “I’ll get someone for you.”

Albert Hueghlomm sat and waited, looking over the bare white walls. Across the room, a woman gently rocked and breastfed a baby, her back to Hueghlomm, her heavy, rounded shoulders hunched forward, cradling the infant. Her soft cooing soothed the air. A bare chested old man slouched asleep at the furthest end of the room, snoring lightly. He had contorted his wiry frame so that his whole body fit into the chair, his feet and legs folded up in front of him. A brand new burlap bag lay beside him, his thinly muscled purple-black arm threaded through its looped handles.

“Sir, please come back with me.”

Hueghlomm looked up from his chair. The woman in front of him wore a white nurse’s uniform. She had a light brown complexion and straight black hair that gently tipped the top of her soft, thin shoulders. Hueghlomm stood gingerly. The woman’s eyes were darker than he’d ever seen, the brown around each pupil almost as dark as the pupil itself.

“Can you walk or should I get a wheelchair?” she asked.

“I can make it…a few yards, at least.” He wanted to be brave.

“What happened?” She was making conversation, putting her patient at ease.

“Fell off my motorcycle.”

She gestured into a side room. He turned in and sat on the examining table.

“I didn’t tell you to do that.” Her look was stoic, all business.

"Sorry.” He slipped off the table, grimacing as he put weight back onto his injured leg.

“Please remove your pants. I’ll be able to check and treat your injury better.”

She turned and began to pull gauze and sponges and antiseptic bottles and forceps and plastic gloves and many other items and devices from a white cabinet drawer. Each of the objects made its own tap as she placed them onto a metal tray. She turned to Hueghlomm, metal tray before her, and examined his bared, bloodied knee.

“You can bend it?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m going to wash it. This will sting.” She was right.

Grimacing, Hueghlomm finally noticed her Indian accent. He made clenched conversation to keep his mind off the antiseptic bite. “You from India?”

“Pakistan. Raised in Uganda. How about you?”

“Israel. Raised in California.”

“Hmmm,” she was thinking. “Pakistan and Israel — countries created to accommodate religions.” Her sponge washed a stream of water and blood off his pasty, white knee and into a metal pan below. She looked over the cleaned wound, leaning close. “More blood, less cut,” she concluded. “I’ll put you together, Humpty Dumpty.” She looked up at him and smiled. He hadn’t guessed that she could.

“Can a serious person have a sense of humor?” he teased, being careful not to tease too hard. After all, she was filling an anesthetic injection and threading a needle for stitches.

“Our fall from the Garden of Eden wasn’t a complete one,” she explained, moving the anesthetic needle towards his knee. He watched her delicate hands guide the tools skillfully. She inserted the needle into the flesh around his wound. He grunted softly, teeth clenched. She spoke while slowly pushing anesthetic into him. “A merciful God let us take two gifts with us — the ability to laugh and the ability to fall in love. Whenever we do either of those things, we’re closer to the Garden.”

She removed the needle from his knee and placed it on the tray — “Click,” it said. She smiled at him. “So I laugh every chance I get. Now let’s wait for the injection to do its job.” She noticed his embarrassment, sitting before her with his pants off, injured, helpless. She found his vulnerability endearing, attractive.

“You don’t like jewelry?” he asked out of nowhere.

“Why?” She was surprised by the question.

“Whenever I see Pakistani women around the bazaars, they’re always wearing so much jewelry…lovely gold jewelry. But you aren’t wearing any,” he said.

“Just because they like it, it doesn’t mean I do.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I hope I didn’t offend you. I wasn’t generalizing, just wondering.” He looked down, quietly awkward.

Noticing his discomfort, she obliged an answer. “The most I’d ever wear would be a ring, a small one, with bright, pretty stones.” She ducked her head slightly to peer at his face, to see if her answer had relieved his awkwardness.

Hueghlomm shook his head in a politely restrained, stilted acknowledgement.

The anesthetic began to take effect.

“My brothers drive motorcycles,” she shared, watching his face.

“Really?”

“One of them races at Nakivubu Stadium.”

“So do I!” he blurted, suddenly animated. “I never win…but I love to race.”

“I thought I’d seen you somewhere before. You’re the European chap who walks around the stadium smiling before the races. I wish you’d be more careful on your motorbike.” She smiled at him.

He noticed her small forehead and high cheekbones. “There’s a small scar underneath your eye,” he said, feeling bad for her. “What happened?”

“We had roosters behind our house in Karachi when I was a little girl, maybe seven or eight years old. I got too close one day and one of them tried to pluck my eye out.” She moved her index finger underneath her eye with a slashing motion and squinted in disapproval. “I don’t like angry things, things that need to show dominance.”

The anesthetic had fanned away his pain. Albert Hueghlomm’s muscles and tendons relaxed. He suddenly felt that the day’s chase and toil had ended, that he was at home, resting. He tilted his head back and allowed himself to see her whole face at once. She was beautiful.

8 comments:

  1. Enjoyed chapter 7 a lot. Albert Hueghlomm sounds like a cool character...loved the way he spoke about his undented bike :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Rachna. And they say that existentialist novels don't have romantic scenes :)...what do they know?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sarah, you're making me blush :). Thanks for the kind assessments!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I too like this chapter very much. I like the statement:"Pakistan and Israel- countries created to accommodate religions", so very true.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you, Rama. The greatest gift that you can give a writer is to read her/his work; I appreciate it.

    Also, I'm always fascinated by what resonates with which readers. In so many ways, I shouldn't be surprised that you liked the sentence that you cite.

    ReplyDelete
  6. wow..this is my favorite chapter..I love the characters..now heading to the next chapter :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear "other side of me": I know you're a fan of the love story, so I'm not surprised that this chapter resonates with you.

    ReplyDelete