2014-02-18 11.31.40

The room’s walls were painted pale pink. Julia was hooked up to various machines. Her usually hidden flesh-pink colostomy bag was clipped to the metallic bed frame, its lavender hose disappearing under the blanket. Beside it, also attached to the bed frame, a clear plastic deflated balloon into which bright yellow urine was dripping through a narrow clear plastic hose. Claude asked the nun, “Sister, do you speak French?”

“No.”

The nun pinched Julia’s hand, told her, “I’ll be back with the chocolates your son sent, dearie.” She turned to Claude, asked, “Please see to it that she doesn’t talk. She’s quite a talker and it isn’t good for her heart.”

The nursing nun left the room. At the foot of the bed was a tripod with a movie camera aimed at Julia. The red light on top was lit. Julia was giddy, her straw-like hair askew.

“Sit, Claws.”

Claude sat in the chair that was upholstered with mint-green leather. The hue of Julia’s skin was mustard green, seeing Claude was making her even more giddy, also agitated.

“You know what the priest say at midnight on Easter? He say, ‘Risen from the dead, trampling death by dying … ’”

As the nun had pinched hers, she pinched Claude’s hand.

“Me die. My heart pop like pop art. Poor Andek. He think I dead. Help me, Claws, I want to go home. He think he no need me but he no know what he need. He need. He need.”

“You’re ill, Madam Warhol.”

“Don’t boss me. I’m strong. In Mikova I carry logs, sacks of potatoes, onions. Make me strong for life.”

“Then you want to leave?”

Julia nodded, so Claude pulled the needle attached to the IV out of her colorless, thin-skinned arm. A trail of blood trickled from the puncture. Claude pressed the wound with used gauze she took from the metal pan. Reaching under the blanket, she removed the catheter tube.

“You hurt me.”

“I’m sorry. I was once a nurse, I must have lost my skill.”

Claude also pulled off the heart monitor that was attached to her chest with tape. Claude reached out her hand, Julie grasped it, was pulled her out of bed.

“My things are there.”

She pointed to a metal locker that Claude opened, removed her coat, shoes, stockings, dress, scarf, pocketbook. While Julia held onto her colostomy bag, Claude helped her dress. She held Julia’s arm and helped her to the elevator bank at which three nuns stood. When the elevator door opened, two policemen got off. After them, she could hardly believe her eyes, Dr. Antoine Robaud got off, bringing back the shock of Lyon. Claude snatched at the sleeve of his white coat.    

“Monsieur. C’est vous?”

“Oui.”

The elevator door closed, with Julia and the three nuns inside.