Joyland

The West |

When the Plows Come

by Katerina Ivanov

edited by Lisa Locascio

“Listen, Sonia,” Karen from Human Resources says. “We’re just a little concerned about what’s been happening with you.”

Karen from Human Resources is not dressed for the hospital, and keeps picking at her sleeves, tugging them down. This happens when the office workers come onto the floor, underestimating how cold it is, how blue in the lips we all are.

Karen from Human Resources is the one who suggested I have a check-in with the nurse manager and the charge nurse. But since the nurse manager and the charge nurse are chronically overworked, understaffed, and under caffeinated, it’s just me and Karen.

I have met Karen once before, at a particularly unpleasant ambush by the hospital’s administration, when I was transitioned from Maternity to ER. This was because there was a shortage of ER nurses and an influx of overdoses, and also because I couldn’t stop weeping while assisting during Cesareans.

There’s a spot of something on my scrub pants. I hope it isn’t shit. I check under my fingernails, and don’t find anything. I must have brushed up against a patient. Still, I try to wipe my hands, as subtle as possible, with the inside of my scrub top.

“What you’re doing in the NICU is...worrisome.”

Karen seems particularly twitchy today, and keeps eyeing me funny under her turtleshell glasses, keeps looking at my hands. They’ve gotten rough from scrub-ins, palms turned to sandpaper. Clean to the point of being raw.

“In the NICU,” I repeat.

“Yes,” Karen says, cleaning her glasses. “What you’re doing with the babies.”

#

If you walk the border between the South End and Dorchester, where the highway might as well be a chain link fence; if you go on a Tuesday afternoon, when the Boston Medical ER clinic has their walk in hours; if you speed through Blue Hill Ave with your windows rolled up and your heart tightly wound; if you follow the line of sewage and drain pipe they call the poor man’s Charles— if you do these things, you will find a place once called something else, but now called Methadone Mile.

It is inhabited by shopping carts and tarps and barefoot girls with slices of moon between where their shirts end and their pants begin. Boys who sit cross legged, shooting up between the creases of their feet. By sleeping bags and crossword puzzles, with Capri-Sun pouches and condom wrappers glinting like a flash of garden snake. Inhabited by needles and needles and needles.

I used to hold seminars to register the medical professionals who live here to administer Narcan. There are not enough doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, addiction specialists, social workers for all the needles. OD Duty, it’s called at work. Narcan is administered indiscriminately— on the Orange Line to girls that could be your daughter, at the Roxbury Crossing stop to men that could be your father. One pump per nostril— a shift in the planets and instant withdrawal.

But few doctors and none of the hospital administrators will get registered, too scared of the scabbed up leftovers of the person who was once pre-heroin. Too scared, they say, but there little difference for me anymore, between fear and selfishness.

I’d smile with teeth and tell them that this is their choice, their choice to not carry the nasal spray, not to get the certificate. It is their choice to watch someone die— because they will, I’d tell them. They will see it on the T, on the 39 bus, in the patch of grass outside the Museum of Fine Arts, huddled under a sleeping bag in the Common. They will see it: a slip of focus, a slide from ninety-eight degrees to something colder, unmeasurable—

Anyway, I’m not allowed to give the Narcan seminars anymore.

#

I start to visit the NICU after I have my first OD in the emergency room. It’s my second day in the rotation, and I’m still shadowing one of the nurse managers, Julie, who is in charge of making sure my transition from Maternity goes smoothly. She’s obviously heard of me, since she gets nervous whenever I get near a suture kit.

Julie keeps repeating how ER is going to be really good for me, how I’ll be a good fit, how they don’t have a lot of bilingual nurses down here, but they do get a lot of Dominicans. Without insurance, she feels the need to point out. My eyebrow rises of its own accord and her smile falters.

“It’s so hard to get a patient history from them,” she says. “But now I have you!”

“I’m not Dominican,” I offer, unhelpfully.

Julie looks deeply uncomfortable, clearly trying to stop herself from asking the infamous what are you, then?, when one of my patients codes.

He had come in early that night, an older white man, with lots of scruff and demeanor of someone who was once very handsome, heavy on the ma’ams and please. Most my patients here are white, a byproduct of years of medical racism— I’ve realized Hispanic and Black patients are much less likely to develop opiate addictions, due to never having been prescribed painkillers, due to their pain not being taken seriously.

This man came from the Pine Street Inn, largest men’s shelter in Boston, complaining of chest pains, because if you complain of chest pains in an ER, we legally have to admit you, as to not risk the astronomical settlement of a lawsuit in which a patient has a heart attack inside a hospital and is not treated.

However, some of the Methadone Mile residents have learned this, and it has become code-speak for, can I stay here for the night? I’ve gotten kicked out from the shelter because I’m using. And I don’t always have the heart to say, no. To call security, to send them out into a Boston winter, to see them tomorrow, when I tell them I’m sorry sir, you will not be able to keep these toes.

So, I searched him for needles, which he consented to, and I had Bandit, The World’s Worst Drug Sniffing Dog, give him a once over. Bandit has won Employee of the Month five times at the hospital. Bandit also once missed someone with almost a pound of heroin shoved in their ass, because he was busy eating a patient’s meatloaf. I am of the unpopular opinion Bandit should be put down.

This guy turned out clean, or so I thought, and he was dehydrated, as most are. I started him a banana bag line and handed him some red-flavoured Jello and didn’t think much of it. I charted the banana bag I gave him, and that he would probably enter withdrawal and need methadone, for the next nurse.

Julie has been really into the charting, even for things like saline and fluids. We need to be able to provide cohesive care between shifts and we can’t do that without charting everything! Charting band-aids could save a life! Julie is really big on the “we” language.

He codes, despite my charting, because he injected his banana bag IV with fentanyl, which he got past my pat down. The fentanyl means he has passed being able to feel the effects of heroin, which means he has passed being able to feel regular injections, which means in the desperate move of injecting his IV line, he will die.

I know this and Julie knows this, and since we both fucking know this, I just breeze right past her, walk to the elevator and hit six and she calls, “Sonia? Sonia?” or maybe “Code! Code!” because those things have started sounding the same to me.

I go up to Maternity, and I must seem really placid, because everyone smiles and asks me how I am feeling, and I smile and say I’m wonderful, really liking ER, “Sonia? Sonia?” or maybe “Code! Code!” ringing in the space between my ears.

I let myself into the NICU and the sweet milk smell washes over me. I get my face really close the the incubators, so I can feel the heat on my cheek. My favorite is a preemie, the Griffith baby, who is almost ready to be released. She has gotten big, and wriggles on her own, and her once blue eyes have settled to an intelligent brown. I open the incubator and she looks up at me, curious. Picking her up, I feel every one of her wishbone ribs. I breathe her in, fill my lungs with her. Starving, big gulps. Get so close I get sebum on the tip of my nose.

It is better than any antiseptic or decontamination shower and I feel clean, clean, clean.

#

I stop sleeping in beds, after my divorce. I sleep slumped at the kitchen counter, or on my yoga mat, or on on-call cots. I sleep on the bus, so strangers are always waving their swollen fingers in front of me and saying miss, miss, what’s your stop, along with some other things I pretend to sleep through. It’s a tightrope though; pretend to sleep for too long, and you get a hand on your thigh.

I sleep on waiting room sofas and on the bathroom tile and in the supply closet at work. I sleep for the half-life of a heartbeat, always wrapped around things, contorted, my dead-weight legs seeking something, twining with blankets— a caduceus. Always reaching.

But mostly, I lie awake thinking of scuttling cockroaches and unfurling snakes, thinking mostly of their unarmored bellies— unprotected, really just worms. Spend the nights cleaning under my fingernails with bleach wipes, until I hear my roommate pad into the kitchen before the sunrise, stethoscope around her neck.

The morning news rattles off tragedies, telling us it’s an epidemic, as if we didn’t already fucking know.

“You look like shit,” Lisa says. Lisa is also divorced and also a nurse. Our two-bedroom in Jamaica Plain is crumbling, but only three train stops from work. She is always trying to give me some of her Ambien, because a tired nurse is a dangerous nurse.

“You should get some sleep.”

I should, I think, I should quit at the hospital and throw a syringe in Karen’s face like a dartboard, and slip away in the river Lethe, alongside all the infants whose mothers lost the grip on their ankles, or maybe, that was a different river.

“How have they not fired me,” I ask Lisa constantly.

“I think it’s actually impossible to get fired,” Lisa says. “You’d have to like, shoot someone.”

I head down Child Street, each dead, soggy leaf under my sneaker a goldfish, eyes bulging, taking pleasure at how they pop under my weight. Outside my building, babies are already gurgling on the patios; girls crooning at them in garbled Spanish with long black hair dripping down their backs in oil slicks. Their voices are rough with worry and exhaustion and a bit of smoke. Hushed, careful not to disturb the children. There is no playground in Jamaica Plain, so little girls with flyways that I yearn to tuck and smooth weave between the old furniture that lines the street, climbing through the bars of balconies like a ribcage.

Back to the ER, where I will let myself dissolve until I disappear into the vents. Where I will make infinite beds with hospital corners that will reject my bones should I try to lay them there. Flip it, strip it, starch the sheets.

#

After the OD, after walking off the floor, I mostly get sent to do blood draws. Give out pudding cups or cans of Shasta, an off-brand ginger soda that tastes like piss, but is safe for diabetics. I’m not allowed to start any lines. Julie even watches me take vitals, as if I’m going to hang myself with my stethoscope.

“I’m going to hang myself with my stethoscope,” I tell her, to get a reaction, but all I get are her big old cowhide eyes, and a please don’t say things like that, Sonia.

#

After meeting with Human Resources Karen, I really do try to stop going to Maternity. Or at least, the on call nurses get really good about not letting me slip in with the cleaning crew.

Instead, I fuck a trauma resident for the first time in the wound care supply closet, with the master key and my compression sock hanging from one foot, trailing— the grey sigh of an airplane.

He’s pretty like this, teeth crunching together.

I am so small; my wingspan, a pair of men’s hands on my waist. So tired; the bruises under my eyes began to look like warpaint.

During, I think of something beautiful. A cornflower. A seahorse. A perfect, white puff of exhaust from a school bus.

He asks if we can go get dinner. I demure.

Lisa tells me I’m ready to start dating. I tell Lisa she can go fuck herself.

I fuck him again and again until I can’t stand to look at him. The desperation is too thick on his tongue, cornstarch. Piano turns to percussion, and I can only picture weeds during sex, ugly things. Centipedes, twisted motorcycles, fish choked with red tide, the algae growing over their eyes. My body, soft and weak and terrible.

I don’t want to do this anymore, I say. The trauma resident looks hurt and doleful and I am reminded of Bandit, The World’s Worst Drug Sniffing Dog, and I want to shoot him between the eyes.

I can’t explain how it’s wine left open too long, so I just slide my sneakers on, not bothering to fix the tongues.

I pick up some Plan B from the pharmacy, because I haven’t been careful. There’s a big advertisement for a master cleanse supplement, claiming to show me how to clean myself from the inside out.

#

After a particularly bad shift in which a patient i’m giving a sponge bath to tried to stick his thumbs into my eyeballs, I swipe one of the Maternity nurse’s keycards off her scrubs. They’ve made sure mine doesn’t work for the NICU anymore. I ply the overnight on-call nurse, who is in her residency, with my old NCLEX flashcards, and she’s bent over her desk, silently moving her lips, mouth-fucking words like spondylolysis and hematochezia. She’s got a heap of shiny hair piled on her head in a ponytail.

I remember how it was, I tell her. I got this. I’m on break!

She says thank you and I show her my teeth in response. Of course, of course.

The Griffith baby is gone, healthy enough to return home and I close my eyes to mourn her for a little bit. Get big. Go get big and strong.

The incubators are moaning their low moan, and the infants are fidgetly tonight. There are a few new ones, in the back row, and the others sense that. Know that something is wrong.

Instead of Baby Carson or Baby Hernandez, the fussiest newcomer is Baby Doe. A shrivelly thing, toes mottled, eyes unfocused. Not big enough to move, but shaking— barely a tremor, as if something were breathing over her, sending little ripples through her skin. Fussing, a cry higher and more inhuman than the others. A cry like fisher cats fighting, like the snap of chicken bones.

There have been countless other Baby Does. I used to give them infant sized amounts of methadone and my knuckles to suck on.

The other babies begin to whimper as Baby Doe gets louder, and the on-call nurse shakes her little ponytail, clearly annoyed.

I put on gloves. Open the incubator. I lift Baby Doe, who is so light that her heart must weigh barely an ounce, no more than a peach pit. She’s still unfocused, but you can tell she’s really trying to turn her head. Really trying to see me.

I whisper in the pinky-nail sized shell of her ear. I’ve got you.

#

Lisa comes home that night and goes straight into the shower. I follow, sit on the toilet to pack a glass bowl with green stripes woven through like Medusa’s head. My own hair is still wet and is beginning to freeze. Earlier, I got home, exhausted from doing sponge baths, from lifting and repositioning and wiping. The festering had followed me and I sat in the shower for hours, using our meager supply of hot water, the steam pressing against the frozen windows, leaving a gasp of heat on the glass.

All of Jamaica Plain is shivering; the heat feels especially reluctant lately, and utilities in Boston neighborhoods are categorized by need, so naturally Jamaica Plain, poor and brown and dotted with red-brick projects, comes last.

“Fuck,” Lisa mumbles from under the water, which steams as soon as it comes in contact with the air but quickly turns cold, worn out after hours of use. “Can’t you— ?”

“Can’t turn on the space heater without shorting the power.”

Fuck.”

“How’d it go?”

“Did my first post-mortem.”

I am sympathetic. After my first post-mortem, I almost puked out my intestines, spewed out something tangible, something that came up over the brim of the toilet bowl, strange and yellow and charring my throat. Lisa is lucky to have come so far without doing one.

“You think the worst part is going to be the eyes, right?” she calls, skin getting pinker and pinker from the cold. “But it’s the mouth. You can’t get it to close.”

Procedure says: Use your thumb to close the eyes. With white cloth ties, secure the jaw and head. This is so the face won’t be frozen, gaping; this is so the soul won’t get stuck in the throat.

Cross the wrists. Ties the ankles. Clean the shit. There’s always shit.

“Don’t flip them,” I warn, rueful. “The bile comes out.”

Green, green, green; a glimpse of mid-August under sprinklers, spilled on the cot.

“I couldn’t open a window.”

This is a thing for Lisa. Before we moved in together, she aired the place out for a week, let in all sorts of bugs. Tried to remove any trapped souls from the house.

“Of course you can’t.” The hospital windows, like much else, are for show.

“Throw a chair through it.” She shivers, and the room is filled with the clacking of her teeth. “If I die, throw a chair.”

I don’t tell her that Boston Medical has bulletproof windows. That after a doctor was shot by a patient, they sealed them. That a lot of things happened, as a result of that, but the one that affected the nurses the most, was that everything was sealed and we could no longer pop our heads out for an illegal smoke. That if you die, your soul is trapped like dissolvable tablets, like confessions, folded up in the space under your tongue.

She faces the showerhead and splutters as I smoke until I finally say,that’s enough, sharp, disturbed at this form of penance from her. Stop waterboarding yourself, I say, and I hand her a mildewy towel. I offer her half a Percocet and we share her bed. She drifts off right away, but I hold off for as long as I can, stubborn against the drug, watching her exhales spiral and dissolve. This is something I used to do with my husband, in our shitty sublet in Dorchester, with terrible heating. It’s okay, baby, he’d say. I’ll keep you warm. Or something like that.

It is so cold your breath could walk away from you.

#

Sometimes, if my sleeplessness reaches days, I start to see the before. I am awake and alive and also not those things. I am sitting in the cafeteria, or fetching syringes, and somehow I am also in the before; in the breakroom, with the blue sheet cake and the pointy paper hats and the diaper contest. Surrounded by grinning slices of mouth, belonging to the other faceless figures in scrubs. Sometimes my husband is there. I never see him, but I feel a familiar hot clutch at my back. Sometimes I am in the Maternity breakroom, or the Operating Room, or the crawl space under my childhood porch, where we found the rotting remainders of what once was our cat. Wherever we are, I do not understand why they are throwing this party for me, the husk, the exoskeleton, the mollusk that has been sucked dry.

When my vision clarifies, I feel as if have snapped in on myself like a rubber band. I have to put a hand on my terminally flat stomach and remind myself: you are not in the before.

#

Used needles jam a snow plow. This is so ridiculous it sounds made up, like a call out of work excuse. But there it is, coming out of the mouth of some blond lady with chicklets for teeth on Channel 5. Julie says I can stay home, and my eye twitches at the relief in her voice. No sweat, I tell her. Coming in won’t be a problem. I use my BMC Emergency Personnel Card and I get a police escort to work. The cop says,my ma was a nurse. And I say, wow, you must be well adjusted.

I treat twenty-three mild cases of frostbite. No one else has come in. I almost cut off a finger on the last one, purple and blue like an oil slick. It’s really not too bad, but I’m fucking bored.

I’m just about to finger the scalpel, which I not technically allowed to touch, when I am accosted by Julie. She is babbling something and flapping her hands, gesturing to a younger guy, scraggly and wearing pajama pants over his snow boots.

“Can you?” she asks.

“He definitely speaks English,” I say.

“I don’t get it. What he’s trying to say.”

“He’s white.” I am reluctant to help her.

“Well I can’t understand what he’s saying, so will you please just get me the patient’s history,” she snaps, and then recomposes, pastes on her signature grin. Sometimes Julie impresses me, the way she can spring back. “Please just..?”

I go. Snap on some latex gloves to cover up the tenderized flesh that was once my hands. “Where does it hurt?” I ask him, and he just smiles at me, all sweet and beatific.

I try again.

“Donde duele?”

Again, just a grin. I see why Julie has passed him off to me.

I get him a room temperature Shasta, press it into his palms. He drinks it one handed, rivulets spilling down onto his white, throbbing throat. Even though there are plenty of other patients, I sit with him, the papery privacy curtains half-drawn. When he is done, he struggles with the laces on his too big boots.

He has a full needle in his palm, and is not doing a good job of hiding it. I already knew, but seeing it makes me flinch.

“Here,” I say. “Let me help you. Just promise not to fucking kick me.”

He laughs at this and says.

“I promise.”

And then, in what must be perfect harmony, we both go, “Thank you.”

I peel off his socks, which are wet from melting snow, and check his toes for frostbite, of which he has none. A small miracle. No frost bite, but there are needle marks between his toes. This is common for those with collapsed arm veins.

I clean his feet, wipe away the leftover whispers of blood and pus and dirt.

“It’s easier,” I tell him, my voice leaving me in a hiss. “To use your hand. Safer.”

He has a line of freckles disappearing into his hair.

“Show me?” he asks. His hands are shaking like a windowpane. “Show me how?”

I will chart that I used a saline syringe. I will chart that I found his vein for him, below the thick knuckle of his middle finger.

“Sonia? What are you doing?”

Julie watches on in horror.

I will not chart that it’s not an saline syringe. I will not chart that I lied. I will not chart that if he keeps collapsing all his veins, the chances of him overdosing with be so much higher, that some terrible things are not preventable, that I can give him methadone now or I can give it to him in two weeks, that he will be back and he will break my heart. I will not chart that he pressed something else into my palm, and maybe I wanted someone to feel safe and good.

“Is that...the patient’s needle?”

“Fuck,” I tell the boy. “That’s Julie.”

“Sonia, I think you should take a break.”

“Give me a minute.”

I squeeze the boys hands, squeeze them real hard. But he is already going, first his body, and then his eyes.

Sonia!”

“Jesus,” I say, “I’m fucking going,” and I go. I walk out of the hospital, and I’m not sure if it’s morning or night but the sky is a starless maw and I can’t see a thing.

#

I realize I’ve left my coat in the on call room about halfway down Longwood Ave, when the cold starts to eat through my turtleneck and scrub top, each snow flurry like a swarm of moths. I know by take a break Julie meant go sit in the on-call room and wait to be disciplined, that Human Resources Karen and her brethren would be called, that I’d have a hearing, that I might be fired.

Might-- the hospital is still devastatingly short on nurses, so God knows what they’d overlook. They’d say that something traumatic had happened to me, spout some statistics about what happens to a woman’s body, her mind, after a loss. Give me three days of leave. They’d say something happened to me-- is there a difference, anymore, if it happened to me or if it was something I saw and bandaged and wrote down on a clipboard? Someone I fed, and cleaned, and closed their eyelids?

My legs lead me through the Fens, through the slush piling up from buses and SUVs and haphazard plowing, not bothering to shake off the snow every few steps like I normally do. By the time I get to the Ruggles stop, I’m soaked. I pop my fingers in my mouth, a trick for avoiding frostbite, try to cram them down my hot throat. Head down to the steaming air of the train.

In the tunnel, on the platform there are a bunch of young girls, out too late or maybe too early. They’re young, probably thirteen, but you can tell they are trying to be older. One has a belly ring. Another, pink hair. The third is chubby, baby fat, keeps yanking up her bra, looking at her breasts like she’s forgotten they were there. She probably has. She has probably just had her first cigarette. She probably just had her first man.

I want to smoke, my hands keep reaching for a coat pocket that’s hanging in my hospital locker.

They’re loud, like teenage girls are, and keep looking around, like teenage girls do, waiting on people to notice them. Belly Ring throws out words, fuck and him strung together with ease like telephone wires. Baby Fat starts swinging around the handrails, hitching up her skirt, linking her stocking-clad knee around the metal. Clumsy.

Some have started looking. The men, who are up too early to be going to jobs and too late to be coming home from them. The men who look crumpled as straw wrappers. Tracing the legs of little Pink Hair like she’s made of wax paper.

I want to say stop, I want say shut up, sit down, haven’t you ever seen a man’s shake like that? Get small, make yourself a marble, a raisin, a particle of dust, but even those still catch light. I want them to pretend to be are glass, but it seems like here there’s only cardboard, plywood, plastic where windows should be.

They get on the train heading towards Oak Grove. I hear them, one stop, two stops later. Cackling, swearing, quiet. Checking if someone has seen.

I shove my mottled fingers in my pockets and start walking back.

#

I wonder if they will call a Code Pink on me.

At first, I just come back for my coat. At first, I want to get the ponytail nurse in trouble, because I hear her talking with some of the other residents, who are also pretty, but don’t inspire nearly as many violent feelings in me.

“It’s horrific,” Ponytail says, smacking her lips. I picture all her seashell teeth falling out. I want to see her, scarlet mouthed, crawling around the floor, trying to pick them all up .

“Really, I don’t even want to tell you because you’ll wish you didn’t know.”

“Oh, just tell me,” another one says.

I get that first-snow feel, the one you get when people are talking about you. Like slipping on unsalted stairs. Heart-stricken, like a bird that’s missed migration.

“You won’t be able to look at her anymore,” Ponytail warns. “If I tell you.”

People don’t look at me, anyway-- maybe it’s the charts of patients stuck in my stare, or how I always smell like bleach on linoleum floors . People don’t look at me anymore; there is an evaporation that happens, after hundreds of little traumas and some big ones. After waking up with blood in some underwear, some cramping, some big old pads. Some tiny peach pit hearts that wouldn’t restart. Some men with cool metal in their hands and masks over their mouths— men with hands, with hands, with hands.

People don’t want to be witnesses, and I don’t blame them. How could they look? How could they bear it?

Whatever she does tell them, I can’t hear. Sometimes I can barely hear my patients, with my lungs rattling about, my breath so loud, my body so big and clumsy. I cannot bear to be inside it, this hulking, weak thing. In a remarkable show of self-control, I don’t smack her to oblivion. I just give her a big bump in the hallway, stomp on her sneaker-clad toes, and unhook her ID from the bottom of her scrub shirt.

With it, I disperse a bunch of Klonopin for a phantom who I chart as Patient X. I chew down on one, and without any water to wash it down, I have to settle for some tooth-rotting Shasta.

I also let myself into the NICU, after a worried man pushing a worried woman in a wheelchair. Nobody stops me when I lift Baby Doe, nobody stops me when I hold her to my chest underneath a bunch of discarded paper-thin gowns. Nobody sees anything, when I slip into an unused wing of the hospital. The old Oncology unit, where that doctor was shot. Nobody, nobody.

I hold Baby Doe, who is quiet, and it feels like soreness, as if I'm flexing a muscle, that has been dormant. I bury my face in her, and she begins to cry.

I try and memorize her smell. I want to forget English, Spanish, the languages of sighs, and speak only in whispers into her neck. I sit on the floor, underneath the shelves of empty syringes and empty bottles of insulin, underneath the gauze and wound care. All my grains, all my fibers, the staffs of wheat that guard my ribs, I summon their heat and I whisper please, please, please and I think that has become my favorite prayer.

They have not sealed the windows of the old deserted Oncology wing. Why bother? It has been abandoned, dried up, become a phantom place. I crack one, barely open enough to shove a cigarette butt through. It is almost morning. I can tell because everything is getting a little more grey. I can hear the warming up, the beep-beep heart monitors of the snowplows, ready to bury and unbury.

When the plows come, someone will find me and Baby Doe, quiet for the first time since she was admitted to the NICU, losing some of her yellowness, sucking on my knuckle, almost clean and ready for care, like any other infant. When the plows come, they will swaddle her in something pink and she will be dismantled, packed up, lived in. When the plows come, they will find that I have expanded and expanded and expanded, like a thinning layer of ice.