I saw the country doctor, asked him what was wrong with me
Was caught unaware, accidental and devil may care
Behind heavy curtains I see, bottles unmarked in front of me
Oh, nobody knows...the troubles I've seen
--Bruce Hornsby, Country Doctor
You know how it is when you open a door and all the sounds from its other side come flooding in to meet you, all puppyish and insane, like the blowout party of the century was perpetually happening everywhere you weren't? When the nurse entered her room with the tray, the scissors and twine and who knows what else lined up and waiting, it was the total opposite of that feeling - the utter absence of noise in the hallway rushed in to meet her. It was like drowning in a sea of packing peanuts.
She hated stitches. It wasn't the needle that bothered her, nothing so mundane as that - as a kid she was always wandering around her mother's house with bits of metal stuck through the pads of her fingers or sitting on the deck, melting candle wax with a magnifying lens. She wasn't a destructive child so much as she was in awe of the transformative powers she commanded; the fact that things got to burn in the process was just a bonus. She liked the liquid quality of glass and translucent wax and needles, shiny like mercury. When she was immunized as a child, she imagined the needles placing little drops of liquid metal under her skin. Even as an adult she insisted it was these little bubbles that got her into trouble with airport security.
But she hated stitches; they seemed so artificial. It seemed to her that broken things that didn't get back together on their own, shouldn't. If the mirror she had put her hand through that afternoon wasn't propped neatly in the corner, whole and hangable when she got home, she would sweep in into a pile and take care of it in the morning, but she would never dream of gluing it back together. It had its chance and it blew it.
Technically, she reminded herself as a nurse appeared in the hallway with a tray, I blew it. It didn't shatter on its own. If pressed, she would have a hard time explaining why she had felt the need to punch her reflection and a harder time explaining why she had tried to do it twice. No one had asked. She hadn't yet decided whether she should be worried by that or not.
The nurse deposited the suture tray and left, and she became aware of her own breathing as she watched the door close. The florescents started buzzing again and the windows rattled in the cold. She heard a phone ring somewhere nearby and the deep, slightly wheezy sound of an old man's laughter. She heard sniffling children in the waiting room and crickets in the parking lot and maybe a crackly, distorted voice coming from one of those annoying drive-thru restaurant speakers across town.
She wondered if her hearing would stretch all the way to Los Angeles, to a different sort of home altogether, before the doctor came in to put her back together again, or if it worked both ways, if that kid kicking the soccer ball against the back of his garage was scared senseless by the sound of her breathing. Hey little boy.
She sat there, high on her wall, caught between telepathy and singularity. As the door opened to admit the doctor and as her senses were overwhelmed by the cold silence bouncing off the tiles in the hallway, she wondered how Humpty Dumpty had chosen which side of the wall to come down on and whether he would have had better luck with the barbarians.