Operation Fever

Nicole Oquendo

Imagine Mrs. Dressler sitting there, neck stretched out, saliva molten, aware of every ruffle in her dress, the weight of the stuffed hummingbird perched on her hat, the stiffness of her corset, new automobiles on Washington Avenue, people buried alive in coal mine explosions, or that Oklahoma has become the forty-sixth state,

Holes were drilled deep into the head, doctors digging out bits of dust and bone to insert the point of a hypodermic needle, to cure dependence on food, alcohol, bad behavior.

[Injection] should always be practiced in two stages,
the needle being first separated and introduced alone,
so that if it happen to penetrate a vein this may be made known
by the issue of a droplet of blood.

In desperation, Mrs. Dressler plotted to slide her gloved fingers over the hypodermic needle entering her at Fordham Hospital, plotted to wrap around it and slide it between her fingers and could not help herself,

As late as the 1890s, some surgeon’s needles required so much force to be pushed through the skin that they had to be inserted or removed with forceps. Others would cut the surgeon’s fingers. Some had the heads of spears, of bayonets.

Mrs. Dressler has not lost everything. She might have been thinking of her ex-husband as she lay half propped up against a wall at 724 Washington Avenue, or in Fordham Hospital, or Bellevue, thinking of what to eat, or topless automobiles,

In Paris, 1896, women in high society took pains to inject themselves with the extracts of violet and lavender. The rule, the ritual, was that only one scent was used at a time, pushed under the skin through hypodermic syringes.

Aware of the sharpness of the needle as she, Mrs. Dressler in 1907, places it between her lips and presses down on it with her teeth to feel its coldness, its frigidity on her tongue before she swallows it down, swallows the needle,

Much of the news coverage regarding an actual ticker-tape parade on a stretch of lower Broadway where ticker-tape parades for heroes like astronauts and Olympic champions are commonplace, considered by interviewed Vietnam veterans to be worth the wait, centered upon the addiction stories of some of the 25,000 marching veterans.

And that needle travelled down Mrs. Dressler’s throat sharp and hard and down and into her and rusted there, rusted there with the others deteriorating so badly that when doctors finally learned of it and cut her open it was impossible to find them all, impossible to know how many there had been and would be resting there inside of her, fragmented,

If the point of the needle be very fine and sharp, it may be passed through the skin into this tissue without appreciable pain, which, however, will be felt if it be
carried too far.

Stone needles have been found excavated from Chinese ruins, and bronze needles, and gold and silver needles, but mostly stone needles with a sharp edge.

Mrs. Dressler returned to Fordham Hospital a month later, and so the doctors rested her on a table and peeled her apart, again, lifting one organ after another slowly, deliberately, finding needles, looking for more needles, working past the rust and more needles, that they left some inside of her she complained, they left some inside of her and they must dig inside of her to find them,

Mr. Wakefield has been divorced twice and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He lives on tranquilizers.

It’s possible that Mrs. Dressler practiced Berlin Work, a type of needlepoint that required stiff canvas, that she stitched diagonally in a consistent pattern from bottom left to top right, entering the hard fabric over and over with wool and silk in a variety of colors, that she created patterns.

Mr. Clouart wonders if someone who wasn’t in the war can understand the sadness and monotony of his life now.

And another month later Mrs. Dressler returned with more pains, oh no you must look again because there must be some left, serious symptoms, there must be some left, rising danger, same story she tells them again to cut her open and dig around and there is no choice but to do it all over,

But you see it is impossible that we will find any more, and New Years Eve is so soon, the first ball drop, and they cut her open anyway and sewed her up but this time she coughed, choked, heaved, popping open all over.

To Meditate


, some lipstick, some fire, at the root he’s a liar, devil, blood, meat, half heart, strawberries, when he speaks, algae, rubies, has always been, tomatoes, takes never gives, poison, carpet, rare, roses, Vietnamese river, Vietnamese delta, says he’s been places, Mars, not sure which, brick, cherries, the color lining most Marine Corps. Insignias, but not his, torture, cardinal, lava, placenta, stop,

Swadhisthana, Swadhisthana

, peaches, carrots, amber, autumn leaves, wherever he is, explosions, goldfish, citrine, tigers, he is violent, seeds, peel, groves, the code name for an herbicide and defoliant—contaminated with TCDD—used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War, pumpkins, poppies, we are not speaking, skinned salmon, i don’t answer, monarch butterflies, blossoms, bird beaks, over twenty years of this, identity, agent, he says he was a Colonel, unsure,

Manipura, Manipura, Manipura

, jacket, sun, canary, chains, beer he is drinking too much, bananas, when he drinks he cannot be trusted, danger, when c.s. lewis says if the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there was no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. dark would be without meaning he really means, macaroni, butter, what is the meaning of this, lemon, the center star on Vietnam’s flag, fever, what does it matter if he lies, highlighter, for me it means the whole world, slow down,

Anahata, Anahata, Anahata, Anahata

, grass, chrysalis, can you please call me back his message says, cactus, whisper to myself i will not because i don’t want to hear about your planes your recon your jungle, it’s said that the first Vietnamese people were descended from the Dragon Lord Lac Long Quân, freshly cut, trees, not sure how many tours, leaves, comes home to America, missing time, turtles, apples, frogs, now here is the mystery, prisoner of war, not prisoner of war, pistachio, to be tortured, peppers, peas, moss, lizards, sympathy, discovery, ringring, i don’t answer, message missing the information, emerald, what are you, cucumber, pickle, artichoke, beer bottles, limes, he was never the same,

Vishuddha, Vishuddha, Vishuddha, Vishuddha, Vishuddha

, sky, or was he, sapphire, liar, ocean, poison dart frogs, blood in the body, before oxygen, when he told me about surgeries that never happened, after oxygen, berries, when he really fell off that building, prints, but not as far as he said, no, irises without pigmentation, every color but, velvet, collar, surgeries that happened and he says he walked away from, accidents, in the room, ribbon, backdrop for all of those stars, pens, for some reason i can’t figure me out until i figure you out, a whisper, bandana, walking away from a rolledover truck, witnesses to the superhuman, whose time, tempest, empty, raindrop, digital clock, earth’s horizon, invulnerable, bones made of pure metal, metal holding together his bones, jeans, forget-me-nots, Ulysses butterfly, recovery room,

Ajna, Ajna, Ajna, Ajna, Ajna

, between, this one, you and i more similar, children, prisoners of war, indikon, the convenience of forgetting, inserting random memory, grapes, spreading spaces, narratives, buildings, abstracts and concretes, supervision, who is the real here, at the end we become the same, shellfish, dusk, passage of the clock, smaller muscles every, dragons, Sahasrara, the difference between truth and embellishment, the difference between indigo and, lilac, space between, plums, raisins, he’s too far gone, medals, hearts, bruised, whisper i love you but i don’t know how, unsettled, turnips, amethyst, heroes, onion paper, and i don’t want to be the same as, sea urchin, iris, thistle, same,

Namaste, Namaste, Namaste, Namaste, Namaste, Namaste, Namaste, Namaste

, incandescence, clouds, cream cheese, paper, sugar, parts of eggs, #FFFFFF, chalk, sour cream, hygiene, baking powder, bones, there’s nothing we can do, light, hwīt, 255 255 255, flash, eyes, dogs, cats, tie, ice, 17.8% of cars sold in 2009, snow, snow, ghosts, stars,            , heaven, soap, all together and all alone, nirvana, whitewash, storks, doves, death, black body radiation, he calls i don’t answer, chess opponent, calls again, angels, i answer, office copy, calendars, the clock it moves, milk, what if i died tonight he says, magic, what would you do then, crying, evidence, i’m driving down the highway at 110 miles an hour what would you do if i ended it all right here on the highway he says, lambs, coats, what would you do you never return my calls i’m driving down the highway, put the windows up i can’t hear you, at 110 miles an hour in my truck, engine revving, heat, the car is slowing down, you are not on the highway you are at a red light it doesn’t matter where the fuck i am, wedding dress, labels, i’m sorry for being a bad, you’re, where, surrender, i’m driving faster no you’re not the car isn’t moving, 1% chance, white dwarf, cotton, frosting, feathers, you are incredibly selfish to call my home at this time and blame you this is not blame this is a fact, chewy part at the center of a grapefruit, i’m going down there, polar bears, don’t go down there he will shoot you peter says, wolves, coma, mice, owls, ok, ringring, i’m sorry my battery is dead i’m not going, crash, what happenedidropped the phone, busted open my head, i’m not going, an eternity as energy communing as all other energy in the universe, this, fear, free from worldly troubles, rest, free from reincarnation, according to siddhārtha gautama at the death of one personality a new one comes into being much as the flame of a dying candle can serve to light the flame of another, begin again as cow, dove, man, i will call you tomorrow, this, blood cells, missed calls, tomorrow, i spoke to him this morning he was fine, loss, consciousness, eternity, rice, again tomorrow, flour, out of answers, possibilities, baking soda, teeth, nails,

NICOLE OQUENDO is an writer, artist, and teacher living in South Florida. Her essays and poetry have appeared in DIAGRAM, fillingStation, Storm Cellar, Gulf Stream, and Menacing Hedge, among others. She is also an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications, and the Nonfiction Editor of Best of the Net. You can follow her writing submission project at timetopublish.com