“What business do you have here, lying down on a bed in a hospital, looking like a sick person?” I asked Imogen the moment I saw her. She was pale yellow in colour, tubes sticking out of her nose and arms. She was still in the emergency room.
“Trying to fish for sympathy. You see, I love getting all the attention,” she snapped at me in about three seconds. I love my friends. I can have a conversation with them as if we were in the movies. It’s the perfect arrangement if we don’t want to talk yet about important things, like toxic goiter.
“I told our officemates that you’ll be fine in no time, so get better as soon as possible. I hate being wrong.”
“I can go to work tonight, if you like,” she said. “And if you don’t mind carrying the oxygen tank for me.”
We went on like this for the next half hour or so, and then of course, we could no longer put off the real reason why Imogen was “lying down in a hospital bed looking like a real sick person.”
I aimed all of my questions at Kim, the girlfriend. What exactly is wrong with her? What exactly does “thyroid in storm” mean? Why exactly does her neck still look… normal? And did you just say “possible cardiac arrest”?
I also wanted to ask if Imogen’s dad has dropped by already, but Kim looked so obviously exhausted I realised it was a daft thing to ask. If she weren’t pretty, I knew it would have been easy for stress to turn her into a withered old crone. But she is an elven princess, and it takes more than stress to make an elven princess tear out her hair.
“I just want to get out of here and get us a proper room,” Kim said, in her own elegant version of how a mere human would normally despair. She gestured vaguely with her eyes across the cheerful expanse of the emergency room.
In the next bed, a new sick person settled in while waiting for an available doctor. On one side of the room, two old men in wheelchairs discussed health insurance options. On another side, a guy held his sick wife’s hand. A doctor would appear and faces would take on hopeful looks.
We were talking about the hospital bill and other necessary arrangements, when a nurse came to us to replace Imogen’s IV. Quite pointedly, he asked us where our parents are, as if we may be up to something possibly naughty. Maybe he thought we were siblings.
I immediately became aware then of how the three of us might have appeared to strangers, how an outsider might feel the need to ask for our parents. Indeed, what business do we have in a grown-up place, talking about grown-up things, posing as kids wise beyond our years?