By Katie Walsh

January 18, 2021


When we get home from the hospital, I realize the electrodes are still stuck to my father’s chest and back. He says that it hurt too much when the nurse tried to remove them, so he told her to forget it. The confusion makes him this way, irritable and impatient. Now eager to get rid of them, he removes his shirt, standing skinny in the middle of his living room in his gray sweatpants, plucking at the small circles, pale leeches scattered across his chest. They still won’t come off. He’s frustrated and tired. “Kate, can you help me?”

I grab some alcohol wipes from the bathroom and begin swabbing around the outside of an electrode, trying to weaken the adhesive that’s pulling painfully on his skin and hair. It’s slow, quiet work. I start to peel the edge back, stopping when he flinches to swab again, peel again, murmuring “Almost, almost,” until the electrode finally lifts away.

I love him so very much.

I move onto the next, orbiting him, dropping them one by one onto the ottoman, stupid, stubborn scraps of medical waste. When I’m done, there are little red circles dotted across his skin, like an octopus has been draped around his shoulders.

I help him pull his shirt back on; it’s cold in the room. I smooth his messy hair down over his scalp. He shuffles into his bedroom, and I gather up the discarded electrodes, now a handful of white petals, and throw them away.


Katie Walsh is a writer from Massachusetts. She received her MFA from Columbia University, and has been published in Grist, the Louisville Review, the Boston Globe, and Juxtaprose Magazine. She currently lives in New York City.


Photo by Amaya courtesy of Pexels
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