I first encountered Sam Shepard when a friend suggested I see True West last time it was playing in NYC and loved it. Then I came across a short story on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast – Indianapolis Highway 74, also loved that, and looked for more.
That led me to the Audible version of The One Inside, with a foreword written / read by Patti Smith and the novella read by Bill Pullman.
Some of my favorite bits..
We checked into the hospital and they were expecting us. A room overlooking saguaro cacti and heat waves. Many people we passed seemed much worse off than me: bandaged heads, suspended legs and arms, muffled weeping of family members, horrible hacking from the chest, limping down the aisles of aluminum walkers. There was a bevy of nurses at each station–moving in very efficient order with clipboards and thermometers and stethoscopes–all dressed in dark, navy blue scrubs. Moving like a little army of ants. There were the usual forms and insurance claims to fill out–also living wills, so if you were to suddenly turn into a vegetable they wouldn’t keep you going indefinitely on life support. i often wondered what would happen if you were very much alive but looked dead, seemed dead, and were surrounded by the living who also believed you were dead but you had no way or means to communicate you weren’t dead. Very much like life as it is right now. A nurse came in and gave elaborate directions, all written down, on how Lila should get to her hotel. Again I had to explain she wasn’t my wife. Again I tried to signal to the outside world that I was marooned, that I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, who these people were all around me. Again no one listened or pretended they understood when they didn’t
They asked me about family. I told them I had none. My parents were dead. My sisters were far away. My children were scattered. I told them I shouldn’t even be there, taking up a hospital bed–that there were many others more deserving. They said they understood. They realized there was something wrong with me even if they didn’t know how to describe it. One nurse said that the minute I cam into the building she knew. I said, “What?” Knew what? She said there was something about me that was catastrophic. That’s the word she used – “catastrophic.” She had no idea why I was there, who I was, or where I’d come from. She just knew my condition was “catastrophic” and I’d always remained that way. “What way?” I asked her. She didn’t explain.