There is something about a trip to the hospital that scares people. It is one of those urban horrors that has become as primal as the fear of the dark, of confined spaces, or of heights. For some it is because hospitals reminds them of their mortality—the fact that they’ll someday die and sometimes in the most gruesome manner. To others they fear what the hospital contains: microscopic viral agents that might infect you due to sheer proximity. I remember my brother telling me once that after I returned from the hospital for me to change clothes and take a good long bath.
Of course I don’t share their fear. For me a trip to the hospital is just like any other trip. I don’t relish the journey of course, not because I’m frightened of it but rather because it’s boring. All of my experiences with hospitals entail long minutes or even hours waiting for your turn in line or simply too much idle time. These days I’ve resolved that problem by bringing a book.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t fear death nor is it as mysterious as it appears to some. Unlike most people, I know what will eventually kill me. Barring some unforeseen accident or a quirk of fate, I will die due to my inability to breathe, phlegm clogging my nostrils. Between the diseases I inherited from my father and the genetic flaws I got from my mother’s side of the family, I will not live a long life. I hear my father coughing, screaming his lungs out at the bathroom trying to rid his body of mucus. I’m suffering from the same ailment and I am at the very least half his age. Of course my respiratory problems began earlier, as early as age seven which had me and my hankies wet with phlegm and mucus.
Unfortunately for me, man’s modern-day panacea, antibiotics, is something my body rebels against and actually worsens my condition. Nearly everything has been attempted: strange Chinese prescriptions (and when I say strange, I mean everything from cockroach remains to tiger eggs to grasshopper entrails), acupuncture, weekly injections with who-knows-what chemicals, the spray which you insert into your nostrils and hurts like hell, air purifiers, a basin of water, and prayer. Suffice to say, it did not solve the nights lost to struggling to breathe, the towels full of wet snot, the red noses and lips, and the general discomfort of living with a perpetual cold.
I faintly remember that back as a child, I couldn’t make a bubble with bubblegum—but I cold with phlegm. It was a malleable substance that I could work with: it could be turned into a web-like substance much like Spider-man or perhaps a simple sticky, blinding spittle. I could play with it like a yoyo or make better bubbles with it than merely saliva could.
No, hospitals didn’t scare me. I’ve had lots of life-or-death situations and it happened at home. If there was anything that remotely bothered me in the hospital, it was the smell of alcohol that permeated the entire place.