I was wheeled out of an elevator and through some rehab gym-like structure into an office on the edge of the wooden floor.  There, left sitting alone in my wheelchair, a full-page magazine advertisement under the glass desktop in front of me, grabbed my attention.  It was the picture of an ice-cold glass of Coca-Cola!  It was soo inviting... sooo icy…

cold coke

Was this part of my Rehab?  Or someone’s idea of cruel torture?  A fly walked across the cola-- but it was just a fly and much much worse, the ice-cold cola, a mere picture.

This great thirst had appeared a few weeks before when I found myself emerging from a dark mysterious world that I didn’t remember entering. My world had suddenly become a hospital bed.  I was full of tubes and thirsty as hell.  I hoarsely cried for water only to be told that eating and drinking was forbidden--too dangerous. 

The tubes kept me nurtured, but they didn’t quench my thirst or quell my hunger.  The hunger was bearable, but the dry throat definitely wasn’t!  My mouth felt like the Sahara Dessert--my lips like Death Valley.

“Konnichi wa.”

The soft female voice pulled my eyes away from the fantasy picture--standing over me was a young Japanese woman in a nurse uniform.  Even the warmth of her deep dark brown eyes couldn't overcome my intense desire for the ice-cold coke.

She introduced herself, “Rehab no Matsuda desu.”

I acknowledged Nurse Matsuda with a barely audible grunt and then from somewhere, she brought out a thermos.  The ice-cold cola picture, the warm dark brown eyes, everything I had ever known, were all replaced by the thermos in her hand.  THE THERMOS.  I hopefully watched as she poured water from the thermos into a glass.  My heart was pounding with excitement, my mouth itching in anticipation (it couldn’t water)!  Would I finally be able to quench my unbearable thirst?!  

She reached in her white pocket and pulled out one of those  MacDonalds’ like plastic coffee stirrers with a tiny spoon on the end.  I wondered if she was going to stir the water—why would she stir the water?

 mac spoon

She didn’t stir it.  Instead, stuck the stirrer’s tiny spoon end in the thermos and pulled out a droplet of water.  That was the BIGGEST DROP OF WATER I had ever seen.  Before I realized it, the spoon of water was centered in the middle of my arid mouth.  

“Yukkuri,” (“slowly”) she said, and released the drop onto the top of my tongue, where it rolled around to the back of it and down into my barren parched throat.  So sweet… sooo cool… beyond description!   I reflexively coughed.

It was a couple of weeks before I got another drop of water down my throat.  I never saw Nurse Matsuda again.

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Robert Red-Baer

1950-Went to Tinton Falls Elementary School, N.J.
1962-Went to Monmouth Regional HS, N.J.
1964-Graduated US Army NCO Acadamy, Germany
1971-Graduated University of Hawaii with honors
1973-Red Heart Follies (Hawaii)
1975-Japan Prime Minister's Award (Video), among many
1985-Professor Edogawa University, Chiba Japan
2010-Retired in Japan