This is an unfinished piece of fiction written in 2012…
Jasmine entered the temple. The crowd hushed, reflecting in each shining eye her slow and graceful approach, the glide of her sea green cape as it brushed against the mosaic floor, the dark spark that gleamed in her own eyes as she felt the waves of emotion from the tribe. The mothers among them sighed in their sorrow to know what was to come of her. How she was to be turned out by those to whom she had given her life in service as healer, as holder of the ancient tribal wounds. She saw clearly in her dream vision the image that had been drawn for her: cast out, naked and alone, her skin dripping blood where the pins pierced her skin—pins that held ragged ribbons, scraps of tattered cloth that served as symbols for the pain of her people. She was to be let loose into the forest as outcast, so that the others would be able to forget the past, the suffering that had followed them and that continued to haunt their dreams.
Jasmine, a flower of such potent beauty, aroma of lover’s blood rushing through veins dilated to let flow the river of desire. How it fills the air so all who breathe its fragrance know her love, her passion to bloom and be seen, admired, her passion to enter the cells of lovers and change them forever. So as she entered the temple her fragrance awakened desire in these who she had known since birth. They reached their hands towards her, their spines curved and their chests thrust forward to greet her with their hearts wide and open and filled with regret for the way it must be. The decision had been made. Not a one would speak another word on her behalf.
Jasmine had stood moments before at the palatial entrance, marveling at the intricately wrought figures of dragons, griffins, lotus blossoms, cedar and cypress that adorned the doorway edges. In that moment, she could have chosen to turn around, to leave on her own accord before the judgment was passed. She wavered in favor of saving her dignity, of being the one to reject them, rather than submit to their fear, rather than leave those she loved with the guilt of turning her away for the sake of the whole. It was for them and for her truth that she entered, passing the familiar figures glittering with irridicent seashell, moonstone, creamy ivory from the tusks of great beasts that had passed over and become one with the far away plains.
Inside the temple, a great circular room scattered with pillows of crimson, purple, gold, hundreds gathered. Usually, they lounged and drank and smoked, conversed and argued while above them rose tiers of brightly decorated balconies that stretched floor after floor toward a dome of glass that let in the clear blue of the infinite sky. Today they were silent but for an occasional cough, a low moan of stifled grief, the cries of a new baby before being hushed by Momma’s breast.
An elder, the Priestess, whose head was shaved smooth as a sea stone, rose from her cushion with the help of a boy. She stood in the center of the room and began her work. With her left hand she held a carved cane of rich dark wood which she leaned against, with her right, she waved a censor in circles around her. Copal and frankincense reached out in a cloud of musky sweet smoke, lingered in the hair of women and the beards of the men. The priestess chanted from deep in her belly, creating sacred space and leaving in the music’s wake, a solemn silence.
The censor placed at her feet, she lifted her arm and pointed directly at Jasmine where she stood rapt in awe at the waves of energy that moved out from the Priestess into the four directions. The Priestess looked deep into Jasmine’s eyes with eyes darkened by sorrow and regret for what she must do. She the teacher must now turn her gifted student out into the dark night alone. Jasmine who had been not only her prodigy, but her adopted daughter, the daughter her body could not bear, given to her through prayer to carry on her work. She had learned well her lessons. Perhaps too well. For now the wounds of the people would be healed through her. Her sacrifice as she held the collective sins in her bosom would release them all. It was only at the insistence of the Priestess that the council’s demand for Jasmine’s blood was replaced with an acceptance of banishment. No more would the people coddle the ancestral pain, but the choice was made to cast it out and let it at last die with she whose place it had been to nurture remembrance.
“Go now!” The priestess thundered as was expected of her. “And never return to this sacred place!”
Jasmine could do nothing as the Priestess, the only mother she had known, dismissed her from the ritual, pointing her way to the door, banishing her to the streets and beyond to the wild wood. Tears ran down the Priestess’s face. Her long bony finger quivered midair, pointing out toward the direction of Jasmine’s expected departure.
Jasmine, her own tears pouring down her cheeks, understood that she had held too long the pain of the people and the people no longer wanted to see in her eyes their own wounds. She was the healer turned scapegoat to be sent out into the desert, so that the sins of the people could be devoured by vultures and thus the tribe would be renewed, purified, innocent as a child once again. She understood that she was being expected to play out this old archetype. That perhaps this was her final role as healer for these who she loved.
Yet, she did not want to leave. Something told her she still had a place there among them. That perhaps a greater healing could come from their entering more deeply the pain she held for them. With this knowledge and sheer instinct, she surprised them all by running deeper into the temple, toward the staircase that led up toward the dome. In response, the crowd, her tribe, beat rhythm upon their chests and thighs, drums held the beat of the collective hearts, staccato, uncertain. When she heard in their music how the hearts were not sure of the decision to banish her, she resolved finally to disobey and make her way up through the stories of the tribe into the dome of light where it was said that all tales merged into one.
The tribe gasped as one entity while she slipped into the surprisingly dank stairwell leading up to the first balcony. Only the Priestess and Council members had ever been allowed entrance to the upper reaches of the temple. She knew that within the many rooms that would open before her that the tribe’s magic unveiled itself. The Priestess herself had told her how the stories of the people were created and held in these rooms. Jasmine had wanted to explore long ago.
The Priestess had shaken her head and spoke low, fearful to be overheard telling her prodigy the temple secrets. “In the rooms live the stories. We who attend them keep them sacred. It is forbidden for anyone but those who are sworn to hold the stories pure to enter. For the stories reflect the state of the people. And one word spoken in that place of magic changes everything.”
“But what if one of us who are forbidden entrance can tell better stories?” Jasmine had answered.
The Priestess shook her head, frowning, “you must not speak of such things. Come, it is time for evening prayer.”
As she entered the forbidden place, Jasmine noted how the beautiful light and airy wood of the main space was replaced by cold, damp stone, worn smooth as if by the graze of thousands of hands. The door slammed shut behind her and she heard the metallic turning of a great lock. The magical realm had allowed her to pass. She knew that as she stepped one foot upon the journey, there was no going back.
She stepped carefully, step after step, feeling the deep chill of the floor seep through her thin blue slippers. Her fingers wore their own groove into the stone walls as she slowly made her way up the narrowing staircase. At the top, a door made of iron, rusted around the edges, barred the way. She pushed lightly and it creaked on its hinges, opening as if by its own accord. As she stepped into the first room, the ring she received when she became the tribal healer slipped off her finger and clattered onto stone.
(snowflower note: the rooms represent the wounds and joys of the tribe that she holds and now faces for the tribe, bringing them into the light. At each room she sheds one of her possessions. She learns to transmute pain rather than simply hold it. She comes to realize that what the people needed was this transmutation. That they and she had been simply holding on to the old stories without attempting to change them. And now the tribe wanted to kill off she who held the pain rather than let her enter the stories and change them. For they are afraid. So banishing her is actually letting things stay the same.)
Her lovely dress was gone, replaced by a grey smock, ragged at the edges and filthy. She ran her hands over her belly and felt the deep indentation where her round and fertile belly had been, felt the razor edges of her ribcage poking through the fabric. She brought an emaciated hand to her face and felt the deep lines that had worn into her thirty year old face, ran her skeletal fingers through hair as thin and matted as a dog with mange. She gasped as she looked down to see her bare toes, blackened by cold and bleeding from the soles onto the feces and old blood splattered floor. A moan brought her out of her mourning for her changed body and circumstance. Looking up through the gloom of the windowless room, she saw the vague outline of a person standing up against the back wall. The moaning grew louder as Jasmine’s attention focused on the man who as her eyes adjusted she saw was chained up against the wall, body hanging down limp from wrists that bled black blood.
Jasmine walked gingerly toward him.
“Who are you?” She whispered.
The man’s head rose slightly at the intonation of her husky, old woman voice. She could not tell his age. He could be twenty or eighty. Like her, his body had wasted away, his naked torso all bones and angles, his sternum poking against his flesh, what looked to be once mighty hands, now crooked, fingers broken or missing. Burn marks tatooed every inch of his skin. He wore only a soiled loincloth that barely covered genitals that she could see through the fabric were shrunken and wilted as a flower after frost. Despite his appearance, her heart told her that he was young like her. Her swollen eyes could no longer shed tears, but her belly lurched and blood seeped from her anus onto the floor.
He shifted and opened up his one remaining eye to look at her.
“You’ve come,” he rasped. “You’ve come.”
“Do I know you,” she moved closer to him. She reached out a hand and touched his arm.
His shriek sent her backwards against the iron door where she cowered in fear.
“Don’t touch me!” He cried, cringing as if in great pain. “I am not to be touched!”
She realized then that his concern was for her welfare, not his own. He had been deemed untouchable. All who touched him became like him, unable to receive the warmth of human touch. Forced to endure a lifetime of lack of human comfort, to only feel the touch of iron against flesh, or coals burning, or the sting of the whip. As she moved closer once again, she saw burned deeply into the center of his chest a Christian cross.
His eyes followed her gaze. “It’s to help me reach God. My atonement. Always these burns to remind me of my final end. The day when my flesh will burn on the pyre and the people will be free of me.”
Her tearless eyes filled with pity and love.
“Don’t pity me!” He raged. I am here because I must be. Because I have sinned and this punishment will replace eternal hellfire. Not like you. You, you will burn forever.”
He looked vehemently at her, pious judgment burning into his features, before exhausted from the effort, his head dropped and hot tears fell down his ragged cheeks to the floor.
Jasmine reached toward him and caught several drops in her palm. She brought the liquid to her lips and slipped out her tongue tasting salt and ire and the desperation of a broken man. She swallowed his pain as he dissolved into a heap of ash at her feet. A great sigh escaped her as relieved she felt him pass over into the realm of the next world.
Then she was racked by great spasms in her belly as his story filled her and informed her. The years of his youth, handsome and brave, when he dared to hide away the village witch from the Inquisition. When he called himself her lover and brought her berries and meat from the hunt and his body and kisses.
Then she saw it all as if it were her own memory. Saw how they found them, sleeping in one another’s arms at dawn. How the soldiers ripped them apart from one another and how the last he saw of her she was burning at the stake, screaming for mercy and cursing them for all eternity. How since then, for ten years he has suffered for his love, yet never has retracted that love, not even while the instruments of torture racked his body and destroyed his youth and his mind and made him turn against himself and forget how the world was before the pain. Still despite this, how in his heart he remained faithful to his love for her, never condemning her, only himself, his weakness, his fall into the sins of his tormentors.
She sat before the ashes that had been him and a sudden torrent of tears flooded her eyes, ran down her face. His tears inside her helped her to cry for the pain of all those who had suffered similar fates as his. She held her head in her hands and cried until she slept, crouched as she was on the floor of his tomb.
She awoke to the sound of a body crashing against the now locked iron door. They had come for her. Rising her frail figure from the ground, she searched frantically for a way to escape. Just behind where his body had leaned against the stone while chained, there stood a wooden door, stained with sweat and excrement and ten years of blood. Just as the iron door flung open and the flash of soldier’s mail glinted in the light of the torch he held, she pushed open the wooden door and rushed through the exit, closing it firmly behind her and startled by the sudden silence, fell to the floor in a heap.
She awakened to the sound of a lone flute coming from up a rustic staircase made of smooth and polished branches tied together with rope made from plants. She reached out her hand to push herself up off the floor, noticing with relief that the smooth youthful flesh had returned, but that sadly the healer ring had not. She reached to her face and felt her smooth skin, ran her hands through her thick lustrous hair. Her green cape rustled as she rose to her feet in the blue slippers.
The flute beckoned to her from just beyond a door fashioned from thick vines tied together and decorated with summer flowers. In order to climb best the slippery stairs, she removed her slippers and let set them on the first step. Then feet bare, she rose step after step higher into the next realm. Her fingers moved out to touch the door which opened into a twilight forest.
As she stepped over the threshold, her cape morphed into soft brown fur. She looked down at her new costume of a supple, thigh high buckskin skirt. She found herself topless, her breasts full and warm in the balmy breeze. On her right arm, a cuff of silver shaped into serpent entwined. Each ankle was tied with cords of leather decorated with bright blue, red, yellow beads. Her long hair hung in two sleek braids on each side of her collarbone, the ends rubbed with fat to bring them to points, nearly touching her nipples. She touched her face and felt streaks of clay painted on her forehead, her cheekbones, down the bridge of her nose.
The flute continued its soft, wailing call from just inside the forest canopy. Firelight flickered from the spaces between the leaves. Its warm and welcoming glow spurred her onward, her bare feet moved silent across a patch of violets and plantain. She reached the clearing where an enormous bonfire lit up a grove surrounded by oak and juniper. As she entered, the flute stopped and a thicket of faces greeted her, smiling. Men and women, dressed in buckskin and fur, dresses of leaves and bark, or naked, wild stripes of ochre painted on all of their faces. Children and elders, dog and fox, what looked to be tall and stately elves and small winged maidens rose up on their toes in jubilation as a slow beat of drums began from somewhere beyond the grove.
As she watched, the beings began to circle the fire. They swayed and danced or simply walked around and around, staring into the flames or alternately beckoning with eyes and hands for her to join them. She entered the space and began her own circumambulation around the hot center. Feeling her body move to the music of its own accord, she found herself moving faster and faster as the drumbeat grew in tempo and filled her ears and being until her heart beat fiercely in her chest and her body became a flame, hot and erratic, moving in spurts and stops as gusts of wind and song moved her around and around and around.
She locked eyes with the tribe. Women gazed deep into her and mimicked her movements as she tried on their own. Men longed to share in her beauty and energy, but kept themselves apart, respecting her autonomy. Children ran and tagged her so she’d chase them around and around until she fell into the dirt, tangled in their tiny bodies, laughing and laughing until she cried. A faerie held her underneath her arms and flew over the top of the fire with her so that her feet were licked by the lover flames. Dogs pranced around her feet, tripping her good naturedly, and the fox played by pulling at her braids until her hair fell down in waves around her shoulders.
Cacophony of drum and voices rose and resonated in her bones. Caws of crow and hawk cry rang out and resounded deep within her belly. Around and around she danced, chanted until she was hoarse, writhed, flew. Around and around, her hands holding hands, her heart beating against hearts, her limbs tangling around limbs, her eyes diving into the depths and dimensions of so many other souls, ecstasies upon ecstasies, her spirit soared and rose higher and higher above the scene, until high over the treetops, her legs opened to receive the bright, hot gift of tribe and flame. She let deep into her joy and celebration and ultimate freedom. Her body opened to receive her liberation and moaning cries that rose and fell in a torrent of music straight from her core, she gushed a river of sweet honey rain down onto the gathering. Then spent, empty yet filled, she descended down into the damp arms of so many lovers and lay on the ground to sleep and yes, to dream.
She awakens in yet another stairwell feeling refreshed, exultant, satisfied. She rises and smoothes the wrinkles from her green cape. She hears above her the quiet weeping of a woman. A low moan and then silence. Behind her a crash resounds and the voices of the night revelers rise in alarm. She realizes that the soldiers are still after her and presses forward toward the staircase. As she ascends, the clasp on her moonstone pendant suddenly breaks and the stone falls to the floor. In her hurry, she does not notice, but runs up, stair after stair toward a white door with a sign in yellows and blues that reads “Home Sweet Home.” As she prepares to knock, the soldiers enter the stairway in a burst of metal and sweat. Her fingers reach for the door and it opens. She rushes in and slams the door behind her, engaging the double lock and slides down against the wood to the floor.
She finds herself in a very tidy foyer before a narrow hall. She rises and walks over to a letter table that holds a vase of chrysanthemums arranged before a heavy mirror encased in cherry wood, carved with simple straight lines. Her reflection reveals herself, except changed. Her long flowing hair is short and curled to frame a face that is puffy from lack of sleep and too little raw vegetables. She wears a pink pantsuit that accentuates a slight pot belly and around her neck an orange and green scarf to match the orange pink lipstick on her thin and determined lips. She hears again the weeping from just down the hallway.
“Hello?” She calls tentatively.
The weeping stops. She hears the rustle of movement as the woman rises and creeps into the hall. She stops at the doorway, a drink in her hand, her eyes red and swollen, her mouth pale and tight. She looks to be about forty, although not well kept. As if too much sadness and white bread have drained her of all vitality. She is dressed in a purple and green flowered nightgown, green matted slippers and her hair is pinned back tight with small plastic curlers.
“Ah, it’s you.” She turns back toward the room she left. “Come on in. What’cha drinking?”
Jasmine follows. “Whatever you are having.”
“Well, it’s Mr. Tom, you know. Tom Collins coming right up. He’s a handsome one that Tom.” As she filled a glass tumbler, she burst into tears.
“What is it?” Jasmine asked as she moved to her side and touched her arm.
The woman brushed away her touch and handed her the glass.
“Oh nothing, but the same ole shit as you know. He’s got a new woman now. From the secretarial pool.”
“I’m sorry.” Jasmine tried to appear as if she knew the story. She sat down on the maroon couch and glancing quickly over the tiny pink flowers that made trails down the wallpaper, she focused her attention on the woman.
“Oh, it’s not your fault. You’re not sleeping with him.” She laughed heartily through her tears. “are you?”
Jasmine frowned and shook her head silently.
“Of course not. I’m getting pretty bad off when I think my best friend could be..well, he’s at it again and I’m at the end. I just can’t take it anymore.”
“What will you do?” Jasmine’s eyes radiated concern.
“Well, it’s too late now to get my own piece, if that’s what you mean. Just look at me. I’m old and fat and used up. I had my chance…once. I was beautiful, you know. Hot even.”
Jasmine shook her head, seeing the signs in the way the woman’s eyes slanted mysteriously and seductively as a cat. Seeing the signs in the full bosom that now sagged onto her belly as she slouched in her recliner.
“How did it come to this? I have been a faithful wife except that one time. I have cooked and cleaned and raised his children. I never forget his dry-cleaning. And make his favorite cake every week. Is is my fault that I simply dried up down there? That after the kids everything fell down in that place? It’s not like he was Casanova or anything. My mother told me that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. I’m beginning to think that was all a big lie. That there’s only one way to a man’s heart.”
“What was the one time?” Jasmine thought telling the tale might relieve the woman.
“Oh you know. Didn’t I tell you? That man at the spa. The gorgeous massage therapist who I had to have. Didn’t I say how he resisted at first…for professional reasons. But gave in when I unbuttoned his pants and took him in my mouth. So brazen! As the Lord is my witness, I have never been so slutty with my husband. Even when I tried a few times, he would look at me with so much suspicion, I stopped for fear he would find out my secret. I made love to that therapist every week for…how many years? Until he found a nice girl and married her. I got shit housed that day on tequila and nearly ended up at the church. It was that nice policeman, Officer Jeffrey, who stopped me when I ran the red light at the corner of Main and Summer. He quietly took me home, never telling a soul. Shit, I ended up with a three day long hangover after that binge.” The woman laughed bitterly at the memory. “I told my husband some bull shit story about my period and he bought it. He never was very bright at figuring out the truth behind things. I guess I can be thankful for that. My secret remained secret. I never even confessed it to the Priest. No, he’s too much the gossip as everyone knows. At least I think it remained secret..unless you..?”
Jasmine shook her head, “No, no, I didn’t tell anyone.”
The woman sighed in relief. “Well, that story is over. And since then, I have been here day after day, cooking and cleaning and listening to his dull work stories, wiping running noses and getting them off to school. Occasionally, he takes me out to the Red Light Diner for a bite. Most often, I am here watching T.V., drinking with Tom.” She laughed at her own joke as she gulped down the remainder of her drink and rose to make herself another. “You want a fresh one?”
Jasmine shook her head no. “So what will you do? Will you make changes? Will you confront him? A divorce?”
The woman’s face grew dark and ugly. “What are you saying? Are you trying to get something? Why are you trying to split us up? Are you trying to get him too? And my very best friend!” The woman burst into tears and ran toward Jasmine, throwing the contents of her drink into her face. “You stay away from him, hussy! You harlot! You just stay away.”
Jasmine backed away, her face dripping, a large wet stain spreading over the breast of the jumpsuit. “No, I don’t. No, no.”
“Oh, he’s not good enough for you then, is he?” The woman continued to rant. “I see too well. You are too high and mighty for the likes of him, are you? Well, he’s mine. He’s mine, I tell you! You just stay away!” She picked up a poker that hung from a stand before the fireplace and rushed toward Jasmine, waving it threateningly. Jasmine ran down the hallway toward the back door. She looked back just once to see the woman’s face contorted in blind rage as she swung again and again the metal poker. Jasmine shut the door behind her just before the woman swung the poker into the door’s glass window. Glass flew and scattered into her hair and over her back. The poker grazed the back of her skull just before she fell to the ground. Everything went dark.
Jasmine awoke and found herself once again crouched on the floor of a dark corridor, yet another stairway rising up before her. From above the sounds of laughter and a gypsy music tinkled like glasses raised for a toast. Jasmine rose and felt the back of her head where the poker had grazed. No bump, no blood, no pain met her fingers. Her hair hung long and loose again. Her cape fluttered in the warm breeze that emanated from the floor above. As she rose up the smooth welcoming stairs, the heat from the room became more intense. Just before she opened the door, she let slip the green cape from her shoulders, letting it fall in a heap at her feet. She opened the door and entered the scene.
Mirrors lined a long hallway. Laughter and music and the scent of sweet incense, marijuana and the deeper scent of musk and sex filled the air. The hallway ended at a doorway bedecked with silver streamers. She pushed through the gauzy fabric and entered paradise.
The women and men raised their eyes to her as she entered dressed in a silver hot pants and a matching chain mail bra. On her feet, shiny black boots rose to her knee. Her hair hung long and flowing.
In the center of the room an enormous bed with crimson and gold bedding beckoned. Freaks in various stages of undress lounged on the fabric, holding dark glasses of wine, kissing one another or lying cuddling steeped in deep conversation. In the center of the bed, a woman rested on her knees straddled over another woman while the woman below kissed her sex. The woman moaned as the woman expertly licked and lapped and slurped even as a beautiful dark man was gently plunging his penis into her pussy as he kissed the breasts of the moaning woman. All three hummed deep in their throat tones that mingled together as if to call forth the energies of the Gods.
Jasmine made her way to the bed and hands reached out to greet her.
“You made it!” A lovely young dark haired woman with dark luminous eyes exalted. “Oh I’m so glad. Come, sit with me. I want to hear everything about you. I am Oshun.”
Jasmine climbed onto the bed and into the soft and fully arms of the beautiful woman who was delightfully bare under a long yellow sheer sheath. Oshun pressed her full lips against Jasmine’s just as a dark haired man began a circumambulating belly dance around the bed. Jasmine watched his writhing hips as they pushed against the sheer fabric of a red silk sarong. She had never before seen a man dance with such sensuous feminine grace yet also embodying the masculine energy of force and action in the fierce sudden movements of his muscular arms as he stared directly into Jasmine’s eyes, enticing her with the whole of his fully integrated being.
Feeling bold in this sultry environment, Jasmine reached out to him and pulled him on top of her. She kissed his full, hot lips and the meeting of their souls resonated in her heart until her chest felt like a yoni opening wider and wider to receive his love. Down below, her yoni also opened wide and wet. Beneath the skirt, she wore no panties she realized as his hand caressed up her thigh and softly lingered on her mound. With tiny taps against her clitoris he raised her passion higher and she felt her juices drip down her perenium to soak her anus. Within moments she felt fully ready for him and reached down and swiftly untied the red and orange sarong that curved around his hips. He did not give it to her right away. But slowly, silkily caressed her labia, her inner thighs, her breasts before kissing her again for what felt like hours while her juices wet the satin beneath them. Until she was floating in a sea of warm thick salt water. Back in the bliss of the womb.
When at last he entered her, she heard from above the voices of the others raised in sacred chant. Toning low from their bellies and high from above, they circled around them and with eyes shining and voices harmonizing with the moans and cries that gushed out of her mouth. The tones followed her pleasure and at times led her to greater pleasure. Hands reached out and caressed her hair, her breasts, her ass, her feet. The bed became a gyre turning on a warm ocean. She dove deeper and deeper, drowning in the dark red flesh of her own body merged with the flesh of his body merged with the flesh of all the bodies now naked, now writhing, now eyes rolled back into their heads, now moaning, now screaming frantic pleasure, now screaming, screaming, screaming out a primal core of deep need fulfilled.
She awoke at the foot of a rough concrete staircase. Some sort of basement with fierce white walls and the smell of antiseptic. She turned back and tried the door behind, somehow to get back to the world of bliss she came from. The door opened, but as she sighed with relief she heard the now familiar shouts of the soldiers who came for her. She slammed the door shut, catching her dress in the door just as the soldier’s reached it and battered their weapons against it. Panicking, she tried to wrench her dress free. She tried to tear it but the fabric held fast. As the door began to shatter with axe blows, she slipped off her dress and dressed in only a pair of blue underpants ran to climb the cold stairs, holding on to the metal railing to keep from falling. The door opened and she slipped inside, it behind her and breathing fast.
She found herself in what seemed to be a hospital corridor. The door she came through was marked “supplies.” She realized she was wearing a green hospital shift and hospital sticky bottom socks. Her hands drifted to her belly which was distended out as if she were several months pregnant. Then a fierce, sharp pain doubled her over. She screamed and fell to the ground moaning and holding her belly.
Two nurses came then, running down the hall. One was small and dark and quite young, Hispanic looking, wearing pale pink. The other was tall and broad backed, graying hair flecked at her temples, her great belly pressed against her brightly colored smock.
“What are you doing out of bed?” the older woman, concerned knelt down to check her pulse.
“Come now, let’s get you back to your room” whispered the young one.
Jasmine reeled in pain and horror as they lifted her and sat her down in a wheelchair and wheeled her into “her” room. Despite the pain and confusion, she felt a moment’s appreciation for being given a private room and for the expansive view of the mountains outside the large window. She recognized the place. Western North Carolina where she had lived as a girl.
The smaller, darker nurse helped her into the white sheeted bed.
“Now sweetie, you must stay put. You must rest as much as you can before tomorrow’s operation.”
Jasmine’s eyes widened in horror. “Operation? Operation? What’s going on? Why am I here?”
The nurses looked at each other sideways, concerned, but understanding.
“Oh honey, you came to us for help. You have a cyst on your ovary, remember? The doctor will be taking it out come morning.”
Jasmine shook her head, “this must be a mistake. I have no cyst; I was fine yesterday. What is this swelling?” She held her belly.
The older nurse answered, “well, this did come on fast, but you told us it’s been there for months now. There, there, relax. You’ll remember soon enough. In the meantime, there’s some things that must be done to prepare you for the doctor.”
Jasmine cried freely and sobbed into the bedsheet. “no, no no!”
The younger nurse lifted a clear bottle from a nearby cart. To start with, you must drink this, all of it and then another bottle. It will empty your bowels and make the operation easier for the surgeons. Be sure to drink both bottles. It’s important.”
“We’ll leave you now to that. Here is the toilet close enough so you don’t have to walk far. But be sure to call us with this button so we can help you get up.”
They left and Jasmine cried with the pain, with the fear and with the sudden shock of finding herself in such a dire situation with no seeming way out but through. Shakily, she picked up the bottle and sipped the salty, citrus liquid. Immediately, her stomach complained and wretched it back up into her lap. New tears soaked the front of her gown. She lay back and closed her eyes, hoping to wake again just outside the door. Hoping to be released from this nightmare before the morning light and the dreaded scalpel.
The dark nurse returned, “how you doing with that?”
Jasmine winced, “I can’t seem to keep it down.”
The nurse frowned, “well, keep trying, otherwise we’ll have to do an enema.”
“I’d prefer that to having to drink this stuff.” Jasmine smiled, trying to be polite despite the suffering.
The nurse smiled and left the room.
For the rest of that evening, Jasmine reeled in and out of wakefulness and sleep, always with the pain, sharp and deep in her belly. Finally, they gave her morphine to help her to sleep. Tomorrow would be an intense day, and she needed all the rest she could get.
She awoke early before sunrise. A blue grey shadow had begun to rise up from behind the mountains.
(end of manuscript)