• Long Days

    Dan O'Brien

    Summer 2018

    Dan:      Thank you for these pages, Paul. Normally

    pitching is prose. Conversation, really.

    But yeah, it sure is fun to imagine.

    I had hoped to finish our pitch before

    going under. Aware that surgery

    carries with it the possibility

    of not waking up. Uncontrollable

    bleeding. Heart failure, stroke. Clots. Infection

    in the days after. In the days before

    I start anxiously googling myself,

    to somehow assert I’m alive, and find,

    instead of my author’s photo, Google’s

    using an image of Kevin Carter,

    a white South African war reporter

    in the nineties, member of the so-called

    Bang Bang Club, who won a Pulitzer Prize

    the same year as you, who haunts you because

    he killed himself. What could it mean? What kind

    of sign is this? I leave my wedding ring

    on the dresser top. Wear comfortable shoes.

    Drive to City of Hope, in the desert,

    where in the 1920s and thirties

    tuberculosis patients came to die.

    Some survived, of course. Like Eugene O’Neill,

    though he didn’t convalesce here. He’s been

    a hero of mine, till lately. Long Day’s

    Journey into Night felt like a memoir

    of my own childhood. I saw it in school

    and walked out of there like I was walking

    on air. I worshipped him. But I fear him

    now, his life’s tragedy. I want to live

    comedies now. I disrobe. Nurses plug

    a hose blowing warm air into a hole

    in my paper gown. Make a pincushion

    of my veins. Put socks on me. The gas man

    stops by to creepily ask if he can

    bend my head backward precipitously

    while I lie unconscious, the easier

    to ram his breathing tube in. Dr. Fong,

    my surgeon, is world-famous. He’s smiling

    as I roll into the operating

    theater. Just another workday for them.

    Blue gowns and masks. The bold white freezing room.

    More intros offered. Ceiling lights whirling

    like UFOs. Or medical halos.

    Fong:     Oh, about six hours. We’ll open you up

    along the same incision the other

    surgeon used for your colon resection

    in March. We’re going to have to cut higher

    though, because we need to reach that corner

    of your liver next to your diaphragm

    here, on this side. Feel it? We’re going to take

    about fifteen percent of your liver,

    at least that’s the plan. Your gallbladder too,

    just for good measure. Ha ha ha. It’s good

    you’ll be wide open! We’ll see more that way,

    lesions the scans have missed. I’ll feel around.

    —Don’t worry! I’ve done this a thousand times.

    What does Malcom Gladwell say? Anyway,

    I’ve got that beat. I’ve got a good feeling

    about you. Feeling sleepy? Breathe in, Dan.

    Breathe in. You like Trump? What are you thinking

    about Syria?

    Dan:                                      Did he ask me that?                     Lights slowly

    Fong:     Oceans of refugees, children drowning                            dimming.

    off Greece.

    Dan:                                    A while back I gave him my play

    about you, Paul. Inscribed. I was hoping

    he might surgeon a little bit harder

    if he liked my playwriting. He’d studied

    medieval lit at Brown. The next visit

    he said he’d tried to read my play. Teared up

    as he confessed. It was too sad! he cried.

    I couldn’t finish! He seems confused, Paul,

    as people sometimes are, as to whether

    you’re a real person or just somebody

    I made up. They think I’m you. I confuse

    myself sometimes too.

    Dan O’Brien is a playwright and poet living in Los Angeles. His The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage received the 2018 PEN America Award for Drama.

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