Lilies by Katie MacBride

When Laurie’s flowers arrive, you have been held prisoner by an NG tube for 15 days. The NG tube is inserted by doctors who jam a long tube of plastic down your throat, yelling at you to swallow! swallow! even as you gag, your body reflexively fighting the intrusion. The tube feels like a thick, rubbery garden hose, and extends from your nasal cavity, down your airway and settles in your stomach. It is painful beyond words, but it’s supposed to save your life. It functions as a vacuum, slurping up the green-yellow bile produced in your stomach, saving your non-functioning organs from the task they obviously can’t handle. Bile is sucked up from your stomach and carried out through your nose, into a big jar next to your bed. For weeks all you smell, 24 hours a day, is the bitter sewage produced by your failing organs.

But then, your aunt sends you lilies. Their sweet, powerful scent does something that nothing else has been able to achieve: it reaches you. It overpowers the obstructive tubes that are wedged so deep and painfully inside your body that you have begun to fear that they are a part of you, and for the first time since this nightmare began, you smell something fresh and alive. For just a moment, the hose and the frightening green jar disappear, and the scent of lilies brings the first breath of relief into your lungs and the first beats of calm into your heart.

Katie MacBride is a Young Adult Librarian in Marin County. 


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