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The Operation

written by: Michal Reibenbach

 

You arrived with your husband in New York in the depth of winter. It was delightful to be greeted by a city that was shrouded in a cloak of dazzling white snow, and snowflakes which fell down gently from the sky. You felt happy for you were hopeful of being healed, and also your husband was being attentive and loving. Back in Israel, you’d both always been so busy. You with your two little baby boys and your husband with his various wheeling and dealings. A friend had kindly loaned the use of his flat for the duration of your stay. The next morning in the snow-covered street, you and your husband had a snowball fight. “Snowball fight,” you’d cried out, picked up a handful of snow, molded it into a ball and pelted it at him. It burst open upon impact. He had retaliated. For a while, the pair of you had felt like children.
Your operation was scheduled in another weeks’ time and in the meantime, there was the amazing city to be explored--the huge Central Park where people stopped for a while to feed the squirrels, up the Empire state building to view the city’s jaw-dropping skyline and to venture across Brooklyn Bridge. The huge size of everything, the soaring skyscrapers, the roads, the cars, and last but not least the enormous shopping centers were flabbergasting. You were overjoyed to discover that the city was wheelchair friendly, and thus you were able to go almost everywhere without being helped. New York was crowded and noisy. There were Israelis everywhere who’d call out joyfully, “Shalom.” The junk food tasted delicious, Big Macs, doughnuts, banana splits, milkshakes…the likes of which hadn’t yet arrived in Israel.
In the evenings the city was a magical place. The first time you went to Times Square you felt exhilarated, dumbfounded. It was a neon wonderland with enormous billboards that lightened up the square, flashed whirling news items, advertisements, and stock exchange information. The mixture of the glistening snow in the wintery light, the periodical puffs of steamed vapor from the manholes, which when they dispersed made the air hazy, and a popular song during that winter of 1974, ‘Mandy’ forever blaring through loudspeakers into the cold evening, intoxicated your senses.
One afternoon, as your husband was pushing you through the snow back to your apartment suddenly a snowstorm, began to rag around you. The wind began to blow and white flakes whirled. With each stride, your husband’s feet and the wheels of the wheelchair sank more deeply down into the snow. Narrowing your eyes against the wind and the snow and bowing your heads down low, you prepared yourselves to battle the storm. A gust of icy wind suddenly whipped your shawl off your head, and it went sailing off through the falling snow. Your husband stopped his strenuous heaving of the wheelchair and plodded off to retrieve it. When he came back he lovingly wrapped the shawl around you. Together you suddenly began to laugh uncontrollably, and your moods changed from being worried to one of exhilarated. The blizzard no longer bothered you for you were both full of hope for your recovery. You happened to glance up at the buildings on either side of the street, and discerned through the twirling white snowflakes, that people were staring down at you from their windows. There was a look of astonishment on their faces.
The days skirted quickly by. The date scheduled for you to go into hospital arrived. The hospital was luxurious and looked rather like a fancy hotel. The floors were covered in wall to wall carpeting, there were comfortable, well-padded armchairs in every room and the patients chose their food from a menu.
Your operation lasted for four hours, and when you awoke the pain was excruciating, it felt as if a knife was being twisted in your spine. You cried out for morphine, which when it was administered felt so good. You lay feeling powerless. Upon discovering that the operation hadn’t improved your paralysis you felt cheated, devastated, a failure, and became depressed. You’d had such high expectations of recovering. A friend who lived in New York and his wife came to visit. They endeavored to comfort you, “Never mind, in time you’ll get used to the wheelchair, things could be much worse,” they said.
You were in a lousy mood and full of self-pity, “Go away, leave me alone,” you’d sobbed and thrown a pillow at them. “It’s alright, we understand that you’re upset,” they’d said kindly, then they’d hurriedly took their leave. You were left feeling guilty for the way you’d behaved towards them.
Although the operation hadn’t improved your neurological condition, it had straightened out your back. In the car accident, three vertebrae had been pushed out of place which had left you with the appearance of having a hunched back.
A couple of days after leaving the hospital your husband took you to a car show where he let you choose a car of your own choice. Obviously, it had to be suitable for a wheelchair and would mean that in the future you’d be much more independent. You’d chosen a beautiful white Chevrolet Laguna, with a red roof. After having purchased it, your husband arranged to have it sent off to Israel.
During the rest of your stay, you’d push your feelings of depression away into the back crevices of your mind, where they waited and festered. They would be dealt with at some other time. Now you were in New York, your husband was being caring. It would be ridiculous to be ‘down in the dumps’ when you could be enjoying yourself.
On the flight back to Israel the truth suddenly hit you full in the face. You knew with utmost certainty that because the operation hadn’t been a success, your husband, (who had been the reckless driver of the car and the cause of the accident in which you’d become paralyzed) would leave you and your two baby boys as soon as he possibly could upon returning home.

Michal Reibenbach

Michal Reibenbach

The author is paralyzed as the result of a car accident.
She has two boys and six grandchildren.
Lives in Jerusalem.
The author has had stories published by Cafelit, Literary Yard, Grant Hudson's Anthology, 'Miracles' and Spillwords.
Michal Reibenbach

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