Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tribute to a Young Lady/Kid

A few weeks ago I was called to make urgent portraits of a very young woman, a patient at a local hospital, for a charity that I have volunteered for for three years – Flashes of Hope. Lymphoma was mutating and attacking her body and she was dying soon.
I set up my backdrop and lighting in a colorful room at the hospital's pediatric ward, it's tricked out with things that kids like: it's a clubhouse on a floor of the usual drabness of a hospital with beiges and pinging machines.
Time, as it does in hospitals, mutated into timelessness and we (me and two Flashes of Hope chapter leaders) waited for her arrival.
We heard from nurses that she was hesitant.
We heard from nurses that she was alone.
We heard from nurses that she was not feeling well.
Then word came that she was getting ready.
Then an update came down the hallway that she would be arriving soon, in wheelchair.
She rolled in.
This young lady was imperious, in a fine way. In a short time we knew that she lived with her best friend and her family, and that her biological mother had died. We also knew that she had several siblings. I would meet one of them in a few days in a classic hospital moment: a guilt-soaked time of apologies and tears and she pretended that she was asleep through it all.
She had hair and makeup done and when she was ready I adjusted her satin tank top to cover her port near her collarbone, and to drape a silk scarf around her shoulders. I would later PhotoShop out any evidence that she was sitting in a wheelchair so it looks like she is sitting in an appropriate throne.
When her portrait was done I invited her to stay with us, saying that she did not have to leave, to hang out, and she did until she was exhausted. Before that I went to get her some hard candy, stopping by the nurses' station and then her room where I saw a large corner room that felt very empty and devoid of evidence of many visitors. She did, however, have an impressive stash of candy and soda, the offerings of nurses and caring staff adults. There was a small collection of greeting cards. I would visit in a few days and bring her some little presents, and another card in case she was sleeping when I visited. I learned that hospital trick years ago: your visitee may be sleeping or wacked out on meds and actually forget that you stopped by. They also might get into that dusky hospital timelessness and enter into a zone where things like visits and concrete concern drift somewhere else.
I brought her lip gloss, adorable slipper socks with elves on each, chocolate and the card.
We watched Scooby-Doo together and the cartoon featured KISS.
I asked her if she knew who the band is, and she answered, lying on her back, "I know who they are" in a tone that said instantly she was culturally aware and impatient with my older suppositions.
So when she wanted, after her photo shoot, to head back to her large and empty corner room I offered to push her wheelchair, warning her that it would be a hell ride.
In my world/experience (beginning with my wild first boy cousins pushing infant me in my stroller, running me through the streets of their west side neighborhood – I loved it), that means license to run and scream at will while pushing a wheelchair/stroller/friend or young niece in a shopping cart.
We ran down the hospital hallway to her room, her letting out a scream, the nurses looking over their station wide-eyed.
We talked in her room for a while, she didn't want help getting into her bed.
This imperious in a fine way young lady/kid laughed when I asked her if she would like to ask me anything about being a non-twin: she was a twin. All twins are asked about being a twin.
She was young and she is gone.