The Unreliable Patient by Andrea Witzke Slot


TQ2 Prose Open Runner-Up


is an impetuous mess, such unacknowledged need—no wonder no one can look after her. Never taking rest, coughing on others, leaving her blisters to fester longer than necessary, and worse, turn your head for a moment, and she’ll sit straight up in her hospital bed, tear the needle from her arm, let the catheter rattle to the floor. You can try to keep an eye on her, but treatments never win. She’ll shimmy to the edge of that high bed, jump the long path down, bare feet smacking a cold white floor. The only thing that’s sure is that she’ll execute escape. She’ll plan her flight like a spy, slip through the bars of casts and wraps. With her back to the wall, she’ll move like a criminal toward the door, nudge out her head, and when the nurses pass (who won’t be looking), she’ll slip out and away, tear down windowless corridors, her ghost-gown flying behind her, never looking back as the double doors slide open for her at once, as if they’d been waiting all day for her, as if they were footmen ready to greet her with the smiling signs of emergencies in reverse, and then she’ll slow to a walk, exit red-carpet style, maybe even tousle her hair a little, leaving behind the fumes of medicine and urine and accident as she moves into the open sunlight of today and it will be snowing and the sun will be just at the corner of the long street and it will be cold and crisp and it will be so damned bright with all the sickness trapped on the other side of those doors in scrub-room prescriptions and riddled cubes of order and from the hospital window you’ll be helpless—you’ll have no choice but watch, for that’s all you can do, and you’ll sit with your head in your hands, forehead hard against that glass impediment, and you’ll watch her stroll past the squinting corner of those streets and into those distant fields, and soon all you will know is a dot of her rebellion, the paling mark of her body skipping into the forests beyond.

Andrea Witzke Slot writes poetry, fiction, and academic work, sometimes mixing the three. She is the author of the poetry collection To Find a New Beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012), and her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Spoon River Poetry Review, Mezzo Cammin, Verse Daily, and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. Her academic work on poetry and social change can be found in the critical collections Inhabiting “La Patria”: Identity, Agency, and “Antojo” in the Work of Julia Alvarez (SUNY Press, 2013) and Dialogism and Poetry: Hearing Over (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).