After the wedding I go outside in socks and sweater. The marquee is being slowly disassembled by a handful of caterers from Super Event – grim-faced workers in red shirts who afterwards sit on the cold grass and smoke cigarettes. I think about how my father had discovered this very habit in my cousin last night, as the guests were getting up to get food from the buffet. She had snuck out with a box of American Spirits, was smoking surreptitiously in a corner, arms wrapped around her chest. The act itself looked somehow perfect with her purple ensemble and the England countryside backdrop: a colorful rebel nymph, stuck in a forested fairy tale. From out of the corner of my eye I noticed the hired photographer take a picture of her.
My father makes a comment about how he’d never known she smoked, casually, kindly, so as not to impose upon her. She smiles and says she’s been discrete, an explanation meant for the both of us. She doesn’t remember how I, at eight, had dumped her cigarettes into a trash can on the beach. She had been mildly annoyed, though had refrained from reprimanding me. Some part of her, I suppose, must have registered my attempt at goodwill.
Now, I am strangely calm about her vice. It’s her life, after all. She’ll decide what she wants to do with it. Interesting, how time has warped my sense of morality.
The caterers are quick. Somewhere, there is probably another wedding, another besotted couple waiting for them. The view from the house is clean-cut, clear, beautiful. It looks like a parallel universe, an alternate reality I can only admire from afar.
When I turn around Alex is vomiting violently into the raspberry bushes. He, a boy with a highly severe nut allergy, had eaten a pistachio-filled macaroon leftover from yesterday’s food.
In the ER a nurse dresses Alex in a hospital gown and helps him into a cot in the Intensive Care ward. He is the only patient under sixty, and the term “intensive care” does not really apply to him, truthfully. On the way over my father administered an anti-histamine, and after a second puking episode he has returned to normal. With his skinny legs and huge eyes, though, he looks perfectly suited to this environment. A cancerous baby. The nurses smile at him, pat his head even after being forced to clean up his green vomit and I think: nurses rock.
While I wait for my father I entertain Alex. There is little raw material, a few medical casebooks and manuals here and there and some diagrams on the walls, but thankfully my ability to keep him occupied does not fail me.
“Okay, Alex, let’s recite the PAEDIATRIC ADVANCED LIFE SUPPORT ALGORITHM! And then we’ll simulate the path of a chunk of bread down an esophagus!”
The morbid part of me really hopes that, someday, Alex and I will encounter some frail lady passed out from the heat on a generic beach in Spain, just so I’ll be able to see him put his newly-learned trivia to the test and shriek: “Unresponsive? Okay, Emma, COMMENCE BLS. OXYGENATE! VENTILATE! CALL THE RESUSCITATION TEAM!”