In forty minutes, I had passed three Doctors, the same nurse twice and two catering girls who were removing the breakfast implements from the semi-private rooms at the back of the 32 bedded surgical ward. I had only made it 10 metres down the corridor, but for a guy with a broken shoulder, three cracked ribs and an already boot casted broken ankle, it wasn’t half bad. It was my marathon de sables and I was already delirious that I had managed to get out of my own room. I had procrastinated long enough over what needed to be done. I had one hour to live or as I saw it, I would be murdered in my own hospital bed. I used my free hand, my right, the one that did everything for me, and stuck it on the wheelchair rim and pushed. Three more metres. I was running out of time.
A meandering medical team of fairly young junior Doctors passed by me, eager to visit a patient of theirs and get off the ward. They all wore white, below knee length coats, but made fashion statements beneath. One, a girl, who had shiny red heels on and wore a burnt orange dress smiled at me me as she hung out near the back of the group which now stood to my side. I kept my head down, as did she, unwilling for us both to engage in small talk. None of them were here to see me. She smiled though. That had to mean something.
I couldn’t trust any Doctor now, especially my own. He had been eager to fix me with a new ID bracelet in the middle of the night. Said something about needing my ID so that when the phlebotomist came along to take my bloods, all she would need to do is scan my wrist and technology would take care of the rest. ‘Your name is Diego Gonzalez.’ She had said. ‘I am Michael Brown, you must be mistaken.’ But she wasn’t. Showing me on her little console, clear as day that I was Diego Gonzalez. She looked edgy, more afraid than anything. She flinched as I tried to grab her console. ‘I am not going to hurt you, but I am not Diego Gonzalez, I am Michael Brown.’ She backed away, taking her console with her. There were three other guys in beds near and across from me. One, sat up with the same intensity and with the same trepidation that the phlebotomist had shown. “Hey nurse, this guy ain’t Diego Gonzalez. I know that guy, and he ain’t him.” Still she exited the room. He looked to me. “Why does she say that you are Diego? You don’t wanna be Diego man.” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to get into any more trouble. I was already in hospital for being in trouble. Still, I had to ask. “Who is Diego Gonzalez?” He didn’t tell me, but nodded deeply that I was in trouble. He looked at me as if thunder were on the horizon. I just knew I had to get out of the hospital. Some body was coming for me, of that, now I was certain.
For an hour, I weighed up my options. Quickly realising I had none. Spent the next forty five minutes wondering how I was going to get away from this hospital as quickly as I could. If the Doctor had switched up my ID bracelet for this Diego Gonzalez, then I knew that people inside were out to get me too. I couldn’t trust anybody. I made as little noise as possible and pulled the wheelchair that the Physiotherapist had given to me, closer to the bed. I used a bent board, called a banana board and pulled it towards me and slipped it under my ass and on top of the chair. It acted as a bridge and let me simply slide down and into the wheelchair. I was on enough pain meds to be able to do it fairly pain free. I was cautious though. The nurse and physio had given me the same advice. Move too much when pain free and when I came off them, the pain would feel twice as bad. I aimed my chair across the room and towards the guy who had warned me of the character, Diego Gonzalez. I needed more information. I edged my way towards him as he slept, his head covered by a thin hospital blanket. No sooner had I reached him, he had pulled the covers down. Unblinking, he was wide awake.
“Don’t ask a question that you don’t want to know the answers to.” He tried to warn me off but I was a few broken bones past a warning. “I need to know. I think my life may be in danger.” He looked me dead in the eye. “Only because I want him dead will I tell you anything. And if you say this to anyone, that you talked to me, then Michael Brown will be the one who will die instead.” More Spaniard in look, his sallow skin was paler now. I chanced a further drop in palor and asked. “Why am I wearing Diego Gonzalez’s hospital ID tag?“ He tried to laugh but blessed himself instead. ‘It means that puta survived a hit and he is somewhere in this hospital. It means that you have been caught up in being in his death wish. And it means that you are as good as dead.” Panicked, I held out to grab his hand but he tried to push me away. “Did you try to have him killed? Did you switch our hospital ID tags.” He looked at me, weighed up the options of what he wanted to happen and spilled his guts. “I am only telling you this because I want you to live. If they kill you, then Diego Gonzalez will break free. You staying alive is the only option.” Feeling confusion, I nodded, hoping to gain an insight by just listening. “I am a regular guy. Don’t drink, don’t do drugs. I keep myself to myself and mind my kids. Guy like Diego Gonzalez, he tries to burn all of that. He destroys neighborhoods by selling H and giving automatic weapons to children who all want to be him. When you wonder what kind of guy is ruining our world? That’s who Diego Gonzalez is. He is all of them. The pusher and the murderer.” He thought about not telling me the rest but relented. ‘Couple of us in the neighbourhood decide we have had enough, that we need thugs like Diego Gonzalez off the street so we try and set him up. We made it look like he was about to threaten the cops by placing anonymous phone calls in. We just wanted him arrested but it turned into world war 3 on the streets.’ Pulling down the covers, he showed off a thick white bandage across his abdomen. “I was hit in the cross fire, as were some cops, but Diego must have survived and is in this hospital somewhere.” You could read confusion on my face like a pamphlet. “But why me? Why not target you? Or Diego himself?” He guessed. “Age profile, build maybe. Diego looks like you a bit. Short brown hair, strong build, not that tall. You kind of look alike too, sort of.” He trailed off, lost in his lie. “Diego is like a ghost. We know what he looks like, kind of. But he goes months without coming out of his house. His enemies often do not know what he looks like. He puts on weight easily and he shaves his head and grows it long too, ‘ He wasn’t answering any of my questions. “Diego could have set this up himself. Having a Diego Gonzalez death in the news will free up some time for him to dissappear again, and all before they properly ID you.’ I could fill in the blanks myself. He meant when I was dead. ‘I will just tell the nurse that treated me yesterday. She treated Michael Brown. She knows who I am.’ My vain attempt at applying logic to the situation. ‘Look around man, those nurses ain’t on shift today. If they went to so much trouble to change your ID, then I reckon your file has been moved too.’ ‘But that’s all impossible. Somebody here will know who I am.’ Nodding a cold hard no, he said. ‘Man like Diego Gonzalez will have paid enough people off, that they will swear blind you ain’t Michael Brown. You are fucked.’ I saw the twisted logic in what he was saying. I was only in hospital a day and not many staff would even know if I was Michael Brown. `So what the hell do I do? Can I borrow your phone?’ Tutting, he pointed to a sign on the wall that said. Electronic devices are not permitted on this ward. ‘I have tried but they have some sort of signal jammer in the hospital.’ He said, lifting up his Sony Ericsson and showing me the vacant levels of reception that he was receiving.
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I had no means to communicate with the outside world and to all intents and purposes, I had taken on the identity of a known drug dealer and murderer. Hence I saw my options as being limited.
I turned my wheelchair and tentatively pushed myself to the outside of my room. Slowly, I gazed around the corner, awaiting the nurse that would ask Michael Brown where he was going. I could feel people stare now as they passed, like they knew me. Or more so, like they know how to look at a dangerous criminal. Eyes darted left and right as I tried to plead with someone to speak with me. They couldn’t get away from me quickly enough. I disgusted them. Like a drug pusher would do. I could spot the ones who had children, whom Diego Gonzalez would try to recruit into his gangs. They thought of that, as they tutted in my direction. I had given up a little bit of hope when a Nurse, dressed in dark blue and carrying an air of authority approached me. ‘What are you doing out here Mr. Gonzalez? You know you are to stay in your bed.’ My name is Michael Brown, there has been some sort of misunderstanding.’ I replied. “Bed 15B, Diego Gonzalez,” she paused, taking out a mobile scanner the size of a pack of cigarettes from her back pocket. Running it across my ID tag, she continued. ‘Diego Gonzalez. That’s you. The nurse in charge handed you over to the day staff. There will be no tricks Mr. Gonzalez.” Afraid of attracting more unwanted attention, I backed off, just nodding. “I just wanted to have a look down the corridor.” “Well fine, a look it is and then get back into bed and rest. The phlebotomist will be around soon to draw bloods.” and off she went, to spit more blood and thunder in a room further down the corridor.
I looked around, panicking even more so, wary that soon my own blood would have Diego Gonzalez name upon it. The phlebotomist would scan my ID bracelet, draw some blood and suddenly more evidence would be in place that I was not who they said I was. Wheeling back towards my bed, I hurriedly rooted through the single drawer of my bedside locker. I was looking for my wallet and identification but found only vacant space. I wheeled myself again out to the corridor and tried to think of what to do next.