The Health Proxy Conversation

[Alex Bildsoe]

INT. – DAY – KINGSTON HOSPITAL – ROOM 205
 
The hospital room is divided in two by a curtain. The side closer to the door 
has the bed of ALEX, a 32-year-old woman with long, dishevelled blond pigtails 
who is lying half upright and holding her phone. The side closer to the window 
has the bed of VERA, a 99-year-old woman who is propped up fully upright in bed, 
her jaw opening and closing continuously from a neurological condition. Two 
nurses, MO and ROSE, stand next to VERA trying to get her to eat from the tray 
of food in front of her.
 
The sound of medical machines beeping and nurses talking in the hallway fill the 
fluorescent lit room. Extra chairs stand in a row opposite the beds, causing the 
room’s walkway to be crowded. 
 
ALEX is staring blankly ahead from her bed, then looks at the phone in her hands 
and dials her sister. CAROLINE answers right away.
 
ALEX: 
Haaaay Liney.

CAROLINE: 
Hey Nanners, how’s it going?
 
The sound of VERA’S voice fills the room. 

VERA: 
I’m so. I’m so. I’m so. I’m so. I’m 
so. I’m so. I’m so. I’m so sorry. I’m 
so sorry. I’m so sorry.
 
ROSE, a female nurse with a mischievous smile, leans forward over VERA and holds 
a piece of bread near VERA’s mouth. ROSE speaks loudly.
 
ROSE: 
VERA!!! You don’t need to apologize! 
Eat your food! Eat, Vera!
 
ALEX turns her head away from the curtain.
 
ALEX: 
It’s, you know, it’s fine and weird. 
They just gave me some more morphine 
so that’s good.

CAROLINE: 
Oh yeah, that sounds nice. When are you 
going into surgery?
 
ROSE puts down the bread and picks up a little plastic cup.
 
ROSE: 
Here’s some apple juice, Vera! Drink 
some juice!

VERA: 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.                      
I’m so sorry. I’m sooo sorry.
 
ROSE: 
YOU DON’T NEED TO APOLOGIZE!
 
ALEX: 
Um, they said before noon…so it’s 11:30 
right now, probably really soon. Yeah.
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry.
 
CAROLINE: 
What did you say?
 
ALEX cups her hand around the phone and her mouth and leans further away from 
the curtain, trying to escape the noise.
 
ALEX: 
I said, like really soon. Before noon.
 
VERA: 
I’m sooo sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so 
sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m 
so. I’m so.

CAROLINE: 
What’s going on there? Is there someone 
like, yelling or something?
 
ALEX: 
Ummm…yeah. My roommate…the old 
lady in the bed next to me. She’s freaking 
out. She’s like 99.
 
ROSE: 
DRINK YOUR JUICE VERA!! 
YOU NEED TO EAT!
 
CAROLINE: 
Ok, wow.
 
ALEX: 
Yeah, it’s….
 
VERA: 
AhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHH. 
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
 
ALEX: 
...fun.
 
ROSE: 
Oh Jesus. She can’t hear me! 
She’s deaf!
 
The other nurse, MO, a smallish woman with a jolly smoker’s face, waves ROSE 
aside and steps towards VERA.

MO: 
She can hear me. She could hear 
me before. Vera? Vera! You need 
to eat something!
 
VERA: 
I’m...
 
ALEX: 
Actually, I needed to ask you about 
something. Talk it through a bit.
 
CAROLINE: 
Sure! What is it?
 
MO: 
I think she can hear me.
 
VERA: 
I’m...
 
ALEX: 
I need to pick a person to, like…if 
something were to happen to me in 
surgery, not that this surgery is very 
intense or anything, I mean it’s just 
basic, well not basic but you know 
what I’m saying.
 
CAROLINE: 
Yep.
 
VERA: 
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhh.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhhh.
 
ROSE: 
VERA!!!!
 
ALEX: 
They want me to have a representative 
to make decisions for me, just in case I’m 
like in a coma or the surgery gets fucked 
up or something. I was trying to think of 
who I should pick for that.
 
CAROLINE: 
Oh! Oh. Yep. I can do that, yep. I’m the 
right one to pick for that.
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. 
 
ALEX: 
Ok, cool…right. I was trying to pick 
between you and mom and dad.
 
MO: 
You’ve got to eat something. You’ve just 
got to try.
 
CAROLINE: 
What Nan?
 
VERA: 
Ahhhhhh so sorry.
 
ALEX: 
I said I was just trying to decide who to 
pick…I thought maybe dad because well,
he’s good at making decisions under
pressure.
 
CAROLINE: 
Yep. Yep. Definitely. He’s the best.
 
VERA: 
So so so so so so so so. Aaahh so sorry. 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
 
ROSE shifts to a shouting stance and directs herself towards VERA.
 
ROSE:
STOP APOLOGIZING VERA YOU 
HAVE NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE 
FOR YOU ARE IN A HOSPITAL AND 
WE ARE SUPPOSED TO TAKE CARE 
OF YOU SO STOP THERE’S NO 
NEED TO APOLOGIZE! She can’t hear 
me. My voice isn’t getting through to her.
 
ALEX shifts her body a bit to the right, away from the curtain, and winces. She 
holds the bottom of the phone so close to her mouth that it is touching her lips.
 
ALEX: 
For sure, yeah. Well, will you do it then? 
I’ve just got to fill out some paperwork.
 
CAROLINE: 
Yep, put me down. Sign me up.
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
 
MO: 
The pitch of your voice or something, 
it’s not getting through to her.
 
ALEX: 
Ok great. Well, yeah, not great. But you 
know. So… if I’m like, in a coma or I’m 
gonna spend the rest of my life 
unconscious as a vegetable, please don’t 
give me the feeding tube.
 
MO picks up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and holds it by VERA’s mouth. VERA moves 
her head away and continues her talking.
 
MO: 
Here Vera! Try this! Eat this!
 
CAROLINE: 
Right.
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
 
ALEX: 
You never know like, when people are 
unconscious and lying in bed and they
can’t talk or move…what are they 
thinking? Are they thinking? They 
could be alive in there and paralyzed 
and in a ton of pain and no one would 
ever know and we are keeping them 
alive. It sounds so fucked up. Just pull 
the plug on me, ok?
 
A woman with bangs and a jacket enters the room, passing through ALEX’s side 
without a glance and continuing to VERA’s bed. She goes to the far side of the 
bed and touches VERA’s arm.
 
GRANDDAUGHTER: 
Grandma? Grandma! It’s me, your 
granddaughter. It’s me.
 
MO: 
I think she can hear you.
 
VERA: 
Mmm
 
CAROLINE: 
I got it, yeah. That’s messed up.
 
ALEX: 
What?
 
CAROLINE: 
That’s messed up. I won’t do that. 
Just sign me up.
 
GRANDDAUGHTER: 
Hi. I love you! I love you?
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry.
 
The SURGICAL NURSE, a tattooed man with a ponytail, enters the room and stands 
at the end of ALEX’S bed, leaning towards her.
 
SURGICAL NURSE: 
Hi Alexandra. I’m just finishing up 
some final paperwork and then I’ll be 
back in a bit to bring you upstairs.
 
ALEX: 
Oh, ok.
 
CAROLINE: 
What?
 
VERA: 
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
 
ALEX: 
They are taking me to surgery soon.
 
ROSE: 
NO NEED VERA NO NEED!
 
CAROLINE: 
Ok. Well Nan, you will be fine. 
Text us when you can, when you’re out.
 
VERA: 
I’m soooooo sorry.
 
GRANDDAUGHTER: 
What are you sorry for?
 
ALEX: 
Cat’s going to text you.
 
CAROLINE: 
Ok good. I love you. This will be easy.
 
ALEX: 
Thank you, I love you too. Bye Liney.
 
CAROLINE: 
Bye Nan.
 
ALEX ends the call and puts the phone on her lap, then reaches over for a purple 
folder and pen on the bedside table. She pulls out a packet of paper and begins 
flipping through it. VERA continues shouting.

‘The Health Proxy Conversation’ is an excerpt from ‘Appendix’ first published in The New Manifesto, Issue 13. You can find out more about this quarterly zine here.

Alexandra Bildsoe writes, draws, and makes zines in the Hudson Valley of New York. She studied studio art at Beloit College, authorial illustration at Falmouth University, and storytelling/story listening/potion making at The Miracles of Everyday Life. Alexandra will send you zines, if you subscribe! Alexandrabildsoe.com for details! 

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