Hospitals. I hate them. They smell like disinfectant. Like illness and— in other places I forget they have a smell —like fear and grief and desolation. Like loss. Like waiting. Like desperation. I move through air-conditioned hallways full of trepidation the taste of helplessness coating my throat. A woman in a room clears her throat as I pass clears it again and again. Even the sound seems helpless useless. It frightens me. I don’t want to stare don’t want to avert my eyes. I move faster. My health feels out of place, my body an intruder, then, surrounded by bodies failing, that health and life feels suddenly tenuous, I scrub my hands, and then repeat the process. Can’t catch cancer, can’t seem to feel clean, can’t scrub off my guilt. I’m healthy, alive, and have shown myself to be willfully incautious with my life, even to a point which standing in Sloan-Kettering I refuse to let my mind touch on, the memory is unworthy—and I secretly fear to be punished to see someone I love punished for what now, especially here, seems a selfish abomination. But this is not about me and rolling about miserably in pointless guilt doesn’t do shit good for anyone. Stopping outside the room I’m afraid to admit that I’m afraid. I linger outside the door ostensibly waiting for my father to catch up but in reality just unable to make myself enter alone. Walking in my mind can’t quite comprehend the change. Without meaning to think it I can’t help the instant sameness my mind remarks upon she looks so like him, in illness, she looks so like her father. My grandfather’s aged face shocks me here in a hospital room two years past his passing, sitting on his daughter’s shoulders. It hurts to breathe and I can’t for the life of me see her face underneath. This seems so wrong. This whole place this situation, wrong, just wrong. This hospital, this disease, robbing people of their dignity charging them for the pleasure. I have this horrible, inappropriate urge to scream but the sign tells me to be quiet. I want to help, hopelessly inadequate, I can’t heal her can’t even make a dent in the mad course her body is on. She doesn’t really recognize me today pressure on the brain and morphine leaving her nauseous and disoriented. I’m not even sure how to offer comfort. This is wrong, this is impossible, forces of nature don’t get cancer, but I see it, I’m watching this. The force of nature wobbles to the bathroom a hospital robe flapping open behind her, she looks so breakable, but she’s still so stubborn. I ponder, uneasily, feeling guilty for this too, trying not too look to closely at my thoughts, she’s so strong but so fragile, I try not to wonder what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. I want to believe in miracles wish I could believe this didn’t need a miracle, wish I was raised with a religion so I’d have someone to yell at, wish a lot of things. I’m sure she does too. Sure everyone here does. I’m sure everyone the people in the beds the people sitting next to the beds even the doctors and nurses rushing around so officiously trying not to look too close everyone in this building is full to a point beyond language with wishes and mute requests. The air is bursting with them.