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El Clínico

I love my brother’s hair. It’s straight and dark blond. Most of the time his hairstyle is short. When he was a little boy, six or seven years old, he had the favorite 90s blond kid hair: bowl cut; Aaron Carter became famous with the same hairstyle.

My brother has changed his style more times than me. As a teenager, in high school, he challenged the authority of the nuns. He dyed his hair, so he was a platin blonder. He braided his hair for a couple of weeks, like 2003 David Beckham. He imitated Beckham’s hairstyle on many occasions.

When my brother was thirteen years old, El Yayo was who took us to school. Every morning El Yayo said my brother was disheveled. El Yayo spits his hand and used his saliva to comb my brother with that hand. My brother cried and cried after that spittle.

Three weeks ago, he was in Alvaro’s apartment, his best friend. He was cutting hair with an electric shaver when he received my call.

-Juan Jose, I am in a taxi with my mom. She broke a leg.

-Where? How? Where are you going?

-We were walking Caracas Downtown. She slipped. I am going to “El Clinico.” The taxi driver said its ER is closed because they are lack of medicines, but I will try. Where else can I go with my mom without insurance?

He runs to the hospital with the half of his head shaved.


We barely sleep today. I go to bed at eleven or twelve o’clock. My brother does not sleep; he is talking and playing video games with Alvaro all night. It is hard to relax and rest when your mother is in danger. My grandparents act like usual; her eldest daughter could die tomorrow, and they do not show any concern.

The last three weeks have been a nightmare. I had lost easily ten pounds because I did not eat. I am not able to eat or think about food. Yesterday, one coworker, a graphic designer in his forties with gray and mustache who never talked more than he had to, approached to me; “Maria, you have to stop the crazy diet you are on. You have lost too many pounds; it is not healthy.” He did not know about my situation.

My house is quiet. It is five in the morning. I am in my bed so tired. I think about not going, but I tell myself: “If something happens to her, you’ll regret the rest of your life for not getting up early and seeing your mom.”

The hospital is close to us. It is an advantage, living in Caracas without a car is easy, but most of the principal hospitals are in areas where having a vehicle is necessary. We could walk to “El Clinico” if we want, but we prefer to use the bus. Any bus that passes in front of our building leaves us near the hospital; we only have to walk five-ten minutes to be in the entrance. “El Clinico” is a university hospital, the only one in Caracas; it is inside of the Central University of Venezuela; the most prominent and oldest university in the country.

“El Clinico” is a piece of art. Carlos Raul Villanueva, a famous architect in the 1950’s, designed it. It is part of UNESCO world heritage. At the first time, it is necessary to know about all its history to appreciate this building because it looks dirty and abandoned. It has too many colors in its walls, stairs, floor, and hallways for the place where people need to rest. All these colors are old and lifeless. Most of its elevators and operating rooms are not working. Patients need their sheets and pillows, and their companions their mats.

If I have to choose what I dislike the most, it is its smell. It is a mix of sickness, dirtiness, tears, blood, sweat and a red cleaning product they use every morning to “clean” the floor. We are lucky; the ER has been closed for over six months, but that Saturday, they allowed me to enter with my mom. Orthopedics doctors said she had broken her femur of the left leg. It was a shock; the next date available to have surgery was in thirty days. On Monday, my mom had a heart attack. The third one. She was moved to the cardiology department. She needed surgery.

We arrive there after six in the morning. Cardiology is on the third floor. People do not use the principal entrance to access the building. They use a small one close to the emergency room. To enter the building, there is a line; we wait five minutes until we can speak with the guy who allows people to come in. He is any guy; he does not have any ID or uniform which identify him that he is in charge. We show him a little yellow piece of paper with my mom’s name written by hand.

My mom is in coronary care, a small room with only three beds. At least there, she has 24-hour-nurse, and we do not have to sleep in an old matt on the floor. We are there when they are going to go to the operation room. We are on time. We could see her.


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