At first you only have belly aches. Then it gets worse and worse by the hour, and eventually you go to have it looked at by an expert. You come back with Doctor Cohn. Appendicitis. It’s an inflammation that must be seen to at once. You brought all the necessary stuff along.
You strip, and although you don’t say a thing I notice how painful some movements are. You just shoot a fleeting glance at the scalpel that’s lying there, ready for use, before you lie down. Your slender fingers briefly clutch at the blanket, then you let it go, or force yourself to, shut your eyes and resignedly breathe into the sweet-smelling cloth that I am holding against your mouth and nose.
I’d like to say something to you – a bit of warmth wouldn’t be out of place right now. Or I could just make a wisecrack, in the vague hope of cheering you up. But we are not alone. So I keep my mouth shut and just briefly squeeze your shoulder.
After a few long minutes, you shudder and pass out. Now my job is to make sure that you don’t wake up before time and that you keep still. I mostly keep my eyes on your face. The shape of your head is standing out sharply. Your eyes are closed, you’re almost cold although earlier on you had a temperature, and you’re barely breathing. I make sure that you don’t jerk and that you’re not in pain. Once you cry out softly, but without waking up. Only afterwards, when I help bandage you up, I catch sight of the long cut.
We cover you up and the doctor opens a window.
“The draft will help,” he says, jerking his head towards you. I totally agree. Let’s get rid of all that chloroform, for all of us, or else we’ll be off our heads too. And then it might get a little tight in bed …
After giving me some advice on how to look after you, he leaves; he’ll be back tomorrow. I’m staying with you. When you wake up, I see that you’ve had better days and your eyes show that you’re still a little under the influence. But in your eyes there’s also warmth, when you recognise me.
You nod. And I need to explain that you must wait a couple of hours. You don’t look all that pleased, but don’t say anything. It makes sense, that’s it.
We’re quiet for a while. You’re too knocked out to talk, and I won’t push you in any way. But I won’t just leave you alone either.
“He wanted me to hop,” you say eventually, and it sounds a little slurred. I understand that you’re talking about when he examined you. “Hopping. Stupid kids’ game.”
You’re almost smiling, and I’m really smiling – I’m thinking about clapping hands, and a drunken outburst of rage, and Chico. Hope he’s all right.
I feel your forehead. Better already, almost normal. And your wound …
“Let’s have a look.” I lift the blanket for a moment. There’s a bit of blood on the bandages, nothing too worrying.
“Well?” You’re still a bit out of it, but it seems to amuse you. You wait for my verdict, as if I was an authority on surgery.
So I just tell you what’s coming, hoping that you haven’t already heard it all.
“Not bad. If you feel up to it, you can get up later today. But if you want to pick up a calf or something, I’ll do it for you. And you can choose what you want to eat tomorrow. Just one condition: it has to be soup.” The doctor usually swore by chicken soup, but he thinks clear broth would be better.
“So, my favourite dish.” You sigh, and laugh out, and flinch. But you mean it when you say “Thank you,” even though you don’t feel like eating anything yet, quite the opposite in fact. And you’re tired.
You’ll get better. But it’ll take some time. Which we have.
I’m staying with you. And I stroke you to sleep.