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“You Picked Orange” Chapter Four

For those of you who have patiently drummed your fingers on your computer desks, I will now reveal what “You picked orange” means. For this, we must jump forward, about 28 hours. (I'll get to the getting to the hospital next time.)

Kimit had been in the ICU since the day before, with tubes and drips and blood pressure gauges jammed into his actual veins. He had so many Dramamine patches on him he looked like a really klutzy, enormous toddler. I had come back to the ICU at 6:00 a.m., after a sleepless, and alcohol-less, night on the sofa. I hadn't gotten any scary phone calls, but I walked into that ICU utterly terrified that I would find, in his cubicle, an empty bed. Praise bee,  said the apiarian Baptist, he was there. I took my position on his left side, grabbing his left hand and whispering that I was here, I am here, please look at me, I am here!

Which was when his sister walked in, with a cup of coffee, saw me and said “Well, I have to go to work now, after being up all night.” I could feel her sharp little beady eyes on me, the rest of her waiting for a response. I didn't give her one, except “Thanks for staying, have a good day.” I actually felt the “harumph!” as she turned and left.

Around 8 of  the A.M., about three RN's, two physical therapists, and one doctor charged into the cubicle. They were there, they told me, to test his “comprehension level”. Sure. Fine. Have at it. I was gently shunted down the bed, and one of the RN's hit the “Up” button on button dealie for the bed, so that his upper body was raised. One of them woke him, using a moist face towel. His eyes  opened, and he looked around like a newborn. Another nurse called to him, “Mr. Muston?” I said, without taking my eyes from his face, “Call him Kimit.” The nurse said,  “Can you look at me, Kimit?.” His eyes shifted to hers. She smiled, then pointed down to the foot of the bed. At me. The nurse said, “Can you tell me who the woman at the end of your bed is?” Again,  his eyes shifted, to me. This time, in answer he rolled his eyes, looked back at the nurse. “Do you know that lady, Kimit?” she repeated.

He heaved a huge sigh, looked back at me, and said, as clearly as polar ice, “You picked orange!”

I nearly fainted with pleasure. I skipped, I hugged myself, I did a little buck&wing. I was thrilled. However, the RN's, the doctor and the PT's looked at me as if my head had just opened up lnd revealed consecutively smaller heads inside, like a cerebral Russian nesting doll. It was then I realized that they also had looks of deep concern and sadness on their faces.

I couldn't help but laugh out loud; I thought I saw one of them edge closer to the cubicles' door, ready to run for it if I got dangerous. But, I explained to them what was so extremely wonderful to me: the year before Kimit's stroke, he and I had gone to the local animal shelter. Our cat, Gracie, had made it perfectly clear that she did not like being the only cat in t he house; she told us this when, one Sunday morning,  the TV had been on and featured a prgram about cats. Gracie had stretched up, her entire body length, and touched the screen, her paw landing on the face of one of the TV cats, she looked over her shoulder and said “I want one.”

So, the next day, we went to the animal shelter. We swing through the kitten area. Twice. The kittens, and they had to be long  haired (I am allergic to short-hairs; don't ask me why, it just is), were either sickly looking or short haired.

As we were leaving, both of us were crying because we truly wanted to take them all home and nurse them back to health (and turn into that scary cat-hoarding couple who lived in the house that all the kids walked past really fast).  I said, quietly, “One more time?” K nodded, and we went back through the kitten area.

And there, at the farthest end, on the third tier of cages up, was a kitten. Female. Long haired. She saw me, and she danced. She pranced. She rubbed the cage bars, and stuck her paw through them so that we could touch her. She was showing off, and to this day I don't know how we missed her the first two times. I scratched her head, with an ulterior motive: I needed to touch her, and then stick my finger in my eye, and wait ten minutes to see if I was allergic.

I wasn't. I said to Kimit, “She's ours. She's ours.” We rushed out to the front, and gave them the cage number and said “We'll take her!” We filled out the paperwork, and were told that we could pick her up from the veterinarian the next day, as she had to go be de-uterised. (Okay, spayed.) We went to the local pet store and bought her a new litter box and a little bowl for water and a little bowl for food, and a wee kitty bed and we waited.

We picked her up the moment the vet opened the following day, putting her in one of the three pet carriers we happened to own, and brought her home.

Once inside, we opened the carrier door, and she strutted out, skinny, dirty-nosed, with ears like pieces of whipcord leather. She was beautiful.

And she was Orange.

What the doctors and nurses and PT's and CNA's and ward clerks and janitorial staff didn't get was that I knew exactly what Kimit was saying, just as clearly as that polar ice: He couldn't get to my name, not just yet. It was as if his brain was a house, but the front door was locked. So, to get to me, to who I was, and to tell them that, he had to go around the corner of the brain house, and climb in a window, which is where he had the information about who I was. But, the window led only to a smaller room, and in that room was another way of referring to me. In that room was, not my name, but:

“You picked orange.” Made sense to me. Made perfect sense. (And, if anyone's worried, I put mineral oil on her ears, twice a day, gently massaging it in. She was treated for worms, and she began to thrive. Somewhere in the next two weeks she told us her name: “Echo”. She is now 12 pounds, of pure muscle (put on, no doubt, in trying to beat the shit out of the second kitten we adopted, Simon). Her ears are like velvet and while K was in the hospital and at the rehab center, she saved my life. Every day.

So, we were on our way. Later, I'll tell you what the staff said after he called me “Dr. Bombay”.

But, when you put your  mind to it, it makes complete sense.

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