Thanks to some timely string-pulling on the part of Dr. Ali, I was moved out of the bustling community cardiac recovery room and relocated to a standard-issue two-person room further down the hall.
Instead of five roommates—the constant chatter, the beeping machines, and the public attempts to defecate into portable space toilets—I would now have just one person to concern myself with.
This person was an older man. His hair was a dull, militaristic grey, shorn close to his pumpkin-shaped skull. He wore heavy eyeglass frames that made him appear curious and frustrated at once. He looked like an unemployed owl.
The unemployed owl would not have been out of place—not at all—in the background of one of my grandmother’s fading Moose Club Polaroids from the 70’s.
When I initially walked into the room I found him sitting in the chair next to his bed, eating his dinner. He was hunched in a primal position over his tray, elbows planted firmly on the portable table. He held his face about six inches above the tray. This strange intimacy with the tray was presumably done to maximize his tray-to-mouth eating speed. The man ate so fast that his plastic fork clacked against the plastic tray like a cuckoo clock: tock, tock, tock.
He introduced himself as Donald. Or Harry. Or Bernard. It was something like that. What his real name was didn’t matter to me.
I would come to know him only as Wombat.