Dr. Batra steps forward and Mechteld follows while pushing the anesthesia cart. Dr. Batra turns to Mechteld and says, “Nurse Lazarus, I’ll need the-“ But before she can finish Mechteld provides the correct syringe. She injects the liquid in the IV line and steps away. A speech pathologist takes a seat low to the ground by Marquita’s face. She wraps her fingers around Marquita’s hand as her eyes begin to flutter open.
“The doctors are ready to start Marquita. Are you ready?” The pathologist asks softly.
Marquita’s eyes are only half open as she gives out a raspy, “Yes.”
The pathologist nods to the surgeon, who turns to his colleagues. Together they begin to carefully cut into the soft tissue of Marquita’s brain while constantly referencing an overhead monitor. Dr. Batra and Mechteld go back to their places near the monitor displaying Marquita’s vital signs, where Dr. Batra studies each small change. The pathologist begins asking Marquita questions; examining each answer for evidence of decreased speech ability. Mechteld watches Marquita’s immobile face and waits.
As Marquita is asked a question, her face freezes with her mouth open and eyes wide. She looks as if she’s about to scream, but only choking sounds come from her throat.
“Marquita? Marquita? Marquita, squeeze my hand! Marquita?” The pathologist looks up to the surgeon. “Something’s wrong.”
Marquita’s body becomes rigid and her eyes roll back into her head. A doctor at the surgeon’s table looks at the overhead monitor.
Dr. Batra turns to Mechteld and says, “She needs benzodiazepine-“ Again, before Dr. Batra can finish her sentence Mechteld hands her an already prepared syringe. Dr. Batra quickly injects Marquita with the benzodiazepine as all the doctors now watch the monitor. Alarms suddenly go off on all the machines at once.
A doctor reaches for the immobilizer that’s keeping Marquita’s head in place. He quickly starts twisting the knobs and says, “She’s in cardiac arrest. Let’s get her out of this and give her the defibrillator.”
Quickly they work together and lay Marquita flat on her back all while her skull is still open. Her head rolls to the side and the piece of skin on her head flaps freely before resting ajar on the surgeon’s incisions. The doctors stick the defibrillator pads on Marquita’s chest and stand back. An electric tone pierces the air and Marquita’s body jumps briefly up before resting again on the table. The room fills with a long continuous tone and all lines on the monitors go flat.
For several minutes an electric pitch fills the room and each time Marquita’s body lurches forward and quickly rests on the table. Her head is facing Mechteld and she looks across the room to locks eyes with her. Marquita’s face stays frozen, but her eyes communicate a desperate plea. Mechteld does nothing. Their eyes stay bonded until finally, Marquita hazel eyes dilate and she sees Mechteld no more.
The surgeon takes a step back from the table and looks at the clock, “Time of death: 1:34 pm.”
In the basement of the hospital an orderly pushes a gurney with the body of Marquita under a thin sheet into the morgue. A folder of paperwork rests on her feet. The attendant looks up when he hears the door open and smiles. He walks over to the gurney and helps the orderly push it into place by an examination table.
“Hey Dave, what do you have for me?”
The orderly removes the paperwork from Marquita’s feet, and hands it to the attendant.
“Female. Sixteen. Didn’t make it out of surgery.”
Neither realizes Mechteld presence in a corner nook of the room, kneeling under a
shelf with large bottles of bleach. Mechteld is once again in her hoodie, ball cap, and shemagh. Her bag is open in front of her with a small box poking out the top. As the orderly and the attendant make small conversation she takes out the box
and opens it; letting it’s contents run across the floor.
The attendant braces himself against the metal counter and lifts his feet away from the floor.
“Was that a rat?”
Dave bends at the knees and watches the brown rat before it disappears under a table. “Yeah, a big one.”
Still leaning defensively against the counter the attendant says, “Shit, my supervisor is going to be pissed. We had a critical violation during our last inspection.”
Dave kneels lower for a better look.
“I can get maintenance for you.”
The attendant examines the ground carefully before stepping away from the counter. “I’ll go. I don’t want to be in the same room with that thing. I hate rats.”
The two men leave the room and moments later Mechteld crawls out from under the shelf. She momentarily walks out into the hall, but quickly returns with a wheel chair. She rolls it next to Marquita’s gurney and sets the brakes.
She goes to Marquita’s body and takes off the sheet. Marquita is motionless and still in her hospital dressing gown. Her eyes are closed and her head now has three long and connected stitched scars. Mechteld unties the top of the hospital gown and quickly dresses Marquita’s lifeless body into a long sleeve shirt with a faded design and a long brown skirt. Mechteld sits Marquita’s unstable body up and hooks her arm under Marquita’s knees. She quickly sits Marquita into the awaiting chair and adjusts the footrest of the chair before carefully placing Marquita’s feet in them. Mechteld grabs her bag and takes out the four remaining items: a black hijab, a pair of flip-flops, a medical facemask, and a pair of sunglasses. She finishes dressing Marquita and tries to steady her body into a less conspicuous position.
Mechteld releases the brakes on wheel chair and pushes Marquita near the door.
She turns and takes the sheet and dressing gown that covered Marquita and throws them into a nearby linens basket. Before leaving, she collects the paperwork the orderly had brought and stuffs it into her bag. She opens the door and backs the two of them out and casually walks down the hall to the elevator. Mechteld backs the wheelchair into the elevator and presses the button for the lobby. She then takes out and puts on her sun glasses and adjusts her hood. When the elevator doors open again she pushes Marquita out into the crowded lobby. She keeps her face looking forward and aloof as she pushes Marquita to the exit. Without looking back Mechteld walks outside in into the busy afternoon street.
“Damn, it’s gotten hotter,” she says quietly to herself.