Grandpa introduces me to Melvin, the man behind the curtain divider separating the A and B sections of room 506. Melvin tells me he’s in for a pulled groin. He’s in his early seventies, short, with the same sort of hard-worn face all septuagenarians in Oklahoma seem to share. His most distinguishing trait is an ill-behaved shock of red hair. When Melvin’'s back is turned, Grandpa points to his own head and mouths the word: dyed. Melvin is lonely. After our first half hour of conversation, I could tell you about Melvin'’s time in the Army during the Korean War (at which time he was stationed in El Paso, Texas, working as a typist), either of his two marriages, including the reasons the first one didn’t work out, and the totally legitimate excuses each of his family members gave for not yet visiting him in the hospital. I have also helped him tie his gown, filled his plastic water decanter, and served as an interpreter when his doctor tried to explain the implications of, and potential treatments for, diabetes. Melvin is not shy.


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