Whatever floats your boat...
I blame Jordan Peele for this one too. An homage to Rod Serling’s “Eye of the Beholder”.
Camera Ready, No Filters
By BlancheNoE 11/11/2020
‘He will finally love me and only me. I will be enough.’, Jackie thought to himself. His mouth felt like it was stuffed with hay and his face was numb. He could see blurry, hazy light through openings at his eyes. He reached up to his head, gingerly touching the mummy-wrapping encasing his face. He was glad that he knew where he was despite the after-fog of anesthesia but he did feel like he’d slept much longer than the 4 to 6 hours expected after the surgery. Jackie was so excited, all the glamour shots for his Facebook and Instagram playing like a slideshow his head. Victor now *must* concede that there is none more beautiful or strikingly breathtaking than he, Jackie, and there will be no point in straying, not even with just his eyes. Jackie would be loved, worshipped the way he was meant to be. Victor would be the insecure, jealous one now. In fact, Jackie thought, Victor himself might need to get some work done to keep Jackie !
The quiet of the room suddenly seemed loud in a way Jackie couldn’t quite grasp. He mentally batted away the gnawing concern to turn back to his head-movies. Walking down the street, no, *strutting*, with his head held high, showing off his new, cut jawline, perfect nose and high and opened eyes instead of the drooping lids with bags underneath. Victor, or anyone else in the vicinity for that matter, won't be able to look at anyone else but him. Victor. Where was Victor ? He would be here, Jackie knew, even though Victor wasn’t thrilled with the idea of surgical modification. They loved each other, had stuck by each other for twelve years. Something wasn’t right.
Jackie leaned forward to look for the call-button to summon a nurse. He found it on the right side of the bed and pushed it then settled back into the bed to wait. There was no clock in the room but after what he thought was about fifteen minutes, he reached over and pressed the button again. He looked around for the standard issue, tiny television that comes with every hospital bed and found it on his left. He pulled the stand-off bar closer and started pushing buttons on the not-very-remote, remote control that was attached to the support bar with zip-ties.
He managed to get it turned on and began flipping through channels looking for one with a time stamp. He landed on the official hospital guide which displayed a time of 8:30am local.
‘Wow!’, he thought. ‘ I must have slept for sixteen hours !’. It explained why Victor wasn’t there when he woke up. He must have gotten tired and went home, planning to return in the morning.
Jackie pressed the call-button again. He was beginning to get irritated. To calm himself he let his mind drift back to thoughts of all the fancy restaurants and clubs to which Victor would take him to show Jackie off. This made him smile. His eyes wandered back to the small television screen and then he noticed the date below the current time and was startled to see that it showed April 16th. That couldn’t be right. His surgery was on March 26th. He would never forget it because he’d had to fight so hard for it. Elective surgeries were being postponed because of some virus threat that he believed was really some kind of political propaganda and he’d had to call twice a day for a week to be sure that he’d still be able to get in. His phone. Victor would not have left him without his phone. He grabbed the knob of the tiny drawer at his bedside and pulled it open. Bingo. His I-phone rattled to the front. He opened his contacts and was getting ready to call Victor when he thought better of it. He should check Instagram first. He began scrolling through post after post of people wearing masks. He allayed his rising fear by reasoning that it must be some kind of tag or challenge. Then he saw the dates. Panic began to set in. He navigated quickly to the heart icon to call Victor with his right hand and began rapid-fire pushing the nurse call-button with his left. His call to Victor went straight to voicemail. He was trying to call again when the door flew open. At first he could not tell whether it was a man or a woman who had entered because she was dressed head to toe in full Hazmat garb. She stopped about 5 feet from his bed and then he could see that she was a she and how haggard she looked through her face-shield.
“ Where is my husband?!”, Jackie demanded, “ With the price we paid it shouldn’t take 20 times of hitting the call-button to get a response!”
The nurse looked defeated.
“ Sir, If you will please just remain calm, I have a lot to explain to you.”
Incensed, Jackie closed his mouth, crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his head to the side in a snarky gesture that conveyed he was listening.
“ You had a reaction to the anesthesia. We had to induce coma to avoid organ damage. Your husband was here for 3 straight days, wouldn’t even leave to eat. He made a nurse come in to sit with you every time he needed to use the bathroom. If he wasn’t sleeping in that chair, he was stretched out on the floor. You were that man’s world. He loved you.”
She paused, looking up to the ceiling as if seeking an influx of divine strength and then continued.
“ There’s been a worldwide outbreak of a virus being called Covid 19. Most countries are under lock-down, mask mandates and curfews. people can’t even leave their homes without masks.”
Victor just sat there, stunned, and she went on,
“On the second day you were here the hospital admitted our first 7 patients with Covid 19. On your third day of unconsciousness, Victor started coughing and developed a fever. I’m so sorry to have to tell you this but your husband succumbed 48 hours later. Victor Echo died on March 30th. We did everything we could.”
She stood there waiting to see what he needed most, sedation?, hand holding?, she truly wanted to help.
Jackie still looked stunned.
“ Do you mean to tell me,” he began, “ that I went through ALL of this and I won’t even be able to show my face in PUBLIC !?!, I mean I can still post on social media but the trolls will just accuse me of using filters !”
It was the nurse’s turn to be stunned. She knew that it was probably an auditory hallucination but she actually heard a ‘CRACK!’ inside her head. She reached up and pulled her hood back, then removed her face-shield and her mask, dropping both to the floor. She slipped a hand into a pocket and withdrew a tongue suppressor. Now that her face was visible, Jackie saw that she had raging conjunctivitis in both eyes and blooms of broken blood vessels, one on her cheek and another on her neck, reminding him of long gone acquaintances who’d died of AIDS in the nineties.
She stepped close to the bed and leaned over him, her head floating directly above his face.
“ Say AHHH.” she said lifting the tongue depressor. Jackie reflexively did as she asked and when he opened his mouth wide, she spit.