I’m walking down Commercial Road on a warm spring day in Melbourne’s south. The green man pings, letting me cross to the food court with excellent, unrestricted wifi. My phone rings, and the nurse is asking me to come back to the ward. There’s doctors that want to chat to me. I say sure. My former destination so close until I turn around and trudge back.
A touch frustrating, because I checked if there was anything they wanted from me before I left. During my week of hospital stay at The Alfred, they’ve been lovely about letting me go out and keep active. Still, must be important if they’ve called me back.
In the ward, passing the nurse’s station, I see the familiar doctors. It must be rounds but at a weird time. Predicting these events in a hospital is like predicting weather.
I sit and wait, reading, when three doctors – a small contingent for rounds – enter in full sterile-field gowns, blue latex gloves and orange face masks. That’s not normal procedure. I sit up and place the book aside.
As the main doctor runs through her description of the new bug that’s emerged in my sputum, how they don’t know what it is, how they have to take full precautions until they can confirm, I can’t stop staring at her face mask. It’s shaped like a duck’s beak. There’s a ridged fold over the mouth, so it opens to match the height of the wearer’s face, and as the doctor talks, the fold opens and closes like a cartoon duck’s talking to me. The duck beak asks if I’ve been in contact with anyone who spent time in third world countries, if I’ve a secret hobby digging in dirt, if, despite my marital status, I’ve been engaging in sex with men, and I’m struggling to hold back laughter. It looks like a goddamn duck person is telling me I have to be in isolation for the weekend, and it’s hilarious!
Once the doctors are finished with their first visit, saying they’ll be back a few times today, they give me the face masks I have to wear if I leave the room. The same duck bills. I have to try one. It’s too funny.