Standard Procedure

“Mom took this pic of my neck after the explosion, she said it looks like our flag”

I woke up in a hospital bed the morning of the 5th of August. Frankly, to say that I woke up would be a gross overstatement. My surgery ended at 6 in the morning and once the anesthesia wore off, sleep was wishful thinking. So, I can’t really say I “woke up”, only that I swallowed the pill that yesterday was not a dream.  My parents were there with me when I came back to my senses. My mother had slept in the room with me and my father would have too if he could, but only a parent at a time was allowed in the light of the pandemic restrictions.

Mom would ask me basic questions to fill the silence: “how are you feeling”, “does your head hurt”, etcetera. She knew the answers to those questions already: I was not feeling good and since my scalp had to be stapled back together the night prior, my head obviously hurt. But I was responsive  nevertheless. Avoiding silence in such situations is deeply comforting, almost necessary. That’s because when everything goes quiet, you’re alone with your thoughts and that can be mortifying. To think of all that happened, all that didn’t happen and all that can still happen. It can destroy you.

My first visit that day was an unexpected one, and if I had to be honest, an unwelcome one. A cop entered my room with a document in hand.  He points to me and asks: “is he the casualty?”. My mother mockingly responded that she was the casualty. I understood her ire because I felt the same. But now I understand that asking that question, as humiliatingly inconsiderate as it may be, was standard procedure. A formality, almost. But the thing about formality is that it is only ever palatable under regular circumstances. Under circumstances like mine, it falters, loses meaning. It becomes unnecessary scaffolding for an irremediably crumbling moment.

The cop approaches me and holds the document above my face. When a catastrophe like the 4th of August occurs, it is standard procedure for the government to try to attend to the victim’s needs, to make it up to them. The document I was presented with offered me a futile bid for compensation as well as the opportunity to state who I blamed for what happened: quoting the law more accurately, I was able to file a complaint against an “unknown”. The irony of the latter is so cruelly insulting that the document lost all credibility upon reading it: it was a formality laced with disingenuity. If the government really wanted us to have our way with those responsible, they would regret it with whatever ounce of dignity they have left. But then again if they had any dignity, I wouldn’t be face to face with that cop.

At first, I wanted nothing to do with that document, so I pointed out that my right hand was broken. A piece of glass had in fact torn a ligament in it, rendering it impotent, but I just wanted an excuse not to lay a finger on that mockery of a paper. Coldly, the cop asked me to sign with my left hand, which though not as damaged as my right one, was still only difficulty mobile. That’s when I had a change of heart and decided to sign the document, to sign it with the sole purpose of ridding myself of that cop. His presence was like spit in my eyes. So I nodded with a broken neck, signed with a broken hand and resented them all with a broken heart.

Arts et Culture

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