A Language of Silence

by Mike Lee

In the hospital room at Morningside Heights, Stacy and I stared at each other. With the constant mergers and closings I keep referring to the hospital as St. Luke’s, when it is actually Mt. Sinai. Likewise my neighborhood hospital was Beth Israel, and now Sinai and the old hospital where my daughter had taken ill as a toddler—St. Vincent’s—was being rebuilt as condominiums. Change happens in a hurry.

In Stacy’s case, it was in a series of moments leading from waiting for a plane in Austin when her heart began to race, to a taxi ride from JFK to her hotel in Manhattan when there was so much going wrong she told the driver to take her to the nearest emergency room.

Later, she told me she remembered being on a table surrounded by perhaps as many as twelve doctors and nurses, stripping her blouse, tagging her with tape and such. They told Stacy her heart had stopped momentarily. 

She was above it all, she recalled. I thought of the twelve Apostles. I’m Catholic. I easily think of those metaphors.

When I entered the room Stacy sat up in bed, smiling, her eyes sparkling. I forgot the hospital gown, the IV in her arm and the surrounding monitors. She was seventeen again. How I wanted to remember her.

Stacy asked about my mother. What she was like. My mother died sixteen years ago.

I began to answer and then halfway through it, I asked about her.

Stacy began to cry.

I rose from my chair and held her, climbing up into the bed as she sobbed in arms.

Stacy only cried once before around me. This was over the telephone on Christmas morning, in 1979. She wanted an electric guitar for Christmas. Her father instead gave her a Hohner electric piano. She told me her father did not understand why she didn’t want the piano, and through the tears expressed how disappointed she was.

That was what Stacy told me over the telephone that Christmas morning. In retrospect, she did not tell him, instead probably held those emotions in and let them burst out when she called me.

I remembered Stacy as the one who held it all in until she could not anymore. Now, at the age when you cannot not anymore, she let go and allowed herself to fall off the cliff.

For me to catch her.

Historically, Stacy found it hard to give trust. That was what I remembered.

Change happens often and quickly in New York. I walked into a semi-private room in a cardiac care unit in a hospital I often confused with another on an autumn afternoon.

Stacy is a great guitar player.

Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in The Airgonaut, The Drabble, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Opiate, and others. Visit him at www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website focusonthestory.org.