A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
[Note: I’m healthy. I’ll explain why I am where I am in a later post.]
The lights are still on. The air conditioner hums in the distance. Every so often a muffled mechanical beep goes off somewhere to my left. And the clock on the wall ticks off the seconds in big, bright, red numbers. The only person in the room is me. The only other person in the room is me, looking back at myself in the mirror over the sink at the foot of the bed. That is, at least, when I look up to notice him. Generally as I stare at the screen, he exists in my periphery, noted in my mind both as another person and as myself. If I don’t think about it, it’s fine. If I don’t look up, the screen comforts me. But when I pause to look up, then the emptiness hits.
I’m sitting in a clinic. The beds are are made and very durable towels sit at the foot. The room is assembled and clean, but it isn’t quite neat and orderly. The beds are all at slight angles, only a degree or two off of perpendicular to the wall. The table extending over the far one is off another few degrees from both the wall and the bed. The towels are askew. It’s put together, but not. It’s hospital ordered, but not.
The blinding lights that blaze all day are mostly off. There is still plenty of light in the room and the hall. This is about as bright as my apartment gets during the day to tell me that I need to be awake and productive. But here, in this sterile place, the light level means wind down, slow down, give in to sleep.
It isn’t terribly late. Only 10:22. But it is long past when all of the nurses left. The internists and other staff shortly after. I last saw a younger attendant an hour ago, but that academic knowledge doesn’t quiet the feeling of aloneness. Of the emptiness of the hall as I look out. My room is the size of a Ho Chi Minh City house, and it is mine alone. The hallway extends the length of an apartment building, but it is wide and silent. Off it are glass-encased rooms, full of chairs or tables or beds, all empty as well. In an ordered fashion, but not quite in order.
I am isolated here. I cannot leave. I choose not to communicate.
That the lights are on and the temperature is regulated means the power still flows. That the attendant came through an hour ago means at least she is fine. That the internet still works shows me that civilization continues on beyond these walls. I know these things, academically. But as I sit here in a giant medical complex, away from human contact, with only my reflection and the quiet background hum of humanized machinery to keep me company, the academics don’t fully matter. The feeling is eerie and sits in the back of my mind. That I am alone in this medical place. I am a lone survivor of whatever swept through.