Bach Cantata

Johanna Shapiro, PhD

Maybe it was because a Bach cantata
was playing in the background

I am on the pre-op surgical floor
stashed away in a curtained cubicle
awaiting my turn in the morning’s surgical line-up

The cubicle next to mine
is full
The same people are in it
a husband caregiver
and a wife
awaiting her turn in the morning’s surgical line-up

The curtain divider
is only a thin piece of cloth
(it has yellow butterflies and green dragonflies
on a blue background)
and I can hear them chatting indistinctly
a funny story about one of the grandkids
(we are telling those too)
a whispered endearment.
They seem nice.

His wife is called first
I see her wheeled past
supine on the gurney
her hands folded across her chest
maybe in prayer
maybe to prevent her elbows getting scraped
as the team navigates the narrow corridors

For a moment suspended in time
there is nothing more
Then I see her husband
walk past my cubicle
He is alone
I am alone
(my husband is looking for coffee)

He hesitates, then makes eye contact
and smiles at me
Our eyes are full
He doesn’t stop, but continues to follow
his wife
wherever her new path will lead
I am heartbroken
Maybe it was the Bach cantata