In my grandfather’s hospital, the ghosts are transient.
If only because they are retracing their steps—they were alive
here last, or lived here first. So much of his life was spent
here: peering into the intimate clockwork of each person.
As a child I would watch my father reset the clocks
inside of people, as Papang did. The job requires the sureness
of hands. I have no such certitude, and I am almost never
on time. But who is always so sure? The day after my brother
was born, Papang’s heart gave—he collapsed on the bathroom floor.
I imagine how my father must have fumbled for the vital
signs, watching the seconds run out of him too quickly, standing witness
to how life beckoned in the birthing room next door and death
passed in this one, leaving my father to become a father
on his own. Everybody trusts doctors, nobody trusts them
to die. I will never know Papang, except in memorial
parks and hospitals, the portrait of him in our living
room, and his name. A thief tried to steal the brass lettering of it
at the clinic entrance, but it is safely kept
in my father’s own name, and my brother’s after him.
In the office I am only an observer; words are no good
for saving lives. Only, sometimes, for comfort.
I imagine Papang must visit the child born
in the other room, and so the rest of us. Nowadays,
the clocks in the hospital all work. My brother reads
x-rays, raises his own son. My father’s hair is white.
When I am called, late as usual, I squeeze through the patience
of patients filing across the waiting room, which is sometimes fuller
when people bring their ghosts with them. Sometimes I find myself
checking my watch too frequently, hoping there is no emergency.