Blessed lack of experience leaves me with no reason to believe either of the two major arguments governing hospital-gown design: that the major concern is sheer cheapness, or that patient humiliation is the order of the day. I can't tell right this minute, anyway. But earlier in the day, I saw something I'd never expected to see: a patient who somehow looked right in a hospital gown.

She sat in a wheelchair out in the hallway, serene and decorous. I'm guessing seventy, though the number is irrelevant; however many years she wore, she was upright and mostly smiling, her face lined with experience, her hair solid grey but seemingly highlighted with yesterday's wildness. The gown somehow hit her at just above knee level: her legs were scarred here and discolored there but long and still somehow perfectly shaped. Ballroom dancing, I thought; back in the day, she must have been a heartbreaker.

She was leafing through a book. "Your husband?" asked an aide.

"Yes." And then: "He's gone now," half wistful, half agonized, as though his departure had been entirely too recent.

A moment of sadness, yes; but a moment that mattered, at a time when my own moments seemed laughably insignificant. I pretended not to notice, and wheeled myself down the hallway. There would be time to weep later.

The Vent

  9 July 2016

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 Copyright © 2016 by Charles G. Hill