Outside the hospital room the nurses come and go, tending to bells and baths and paperwork.
The rain drums insistently on the window: A tropical storm is bringing up to a foot of rain to parts of the East Coast. The worst of it is falling farther south, in the mid-Atlantic, where cars will be swept from roads and coffins torn from graveyards.
Here in coastal Connecticut, the rain is at worst a mild annoyance to the man lying in the hospital room.
He is almost 62, wiry in build, with a hawklike nose and the mien of one who is forcing himself to be patient. He is waiting to find out exactly what his doctors saw the day before, when they ran a catheter through his body and into his damaged heart.
As a lover of technology and creativity, he is quietly fascinated by the idea that a beating heart can be analyzed, diagnosed and treated in a way that allows the patient to sit up the following morning and eat scrambled eggs and toast.
But his enthusiasm is tempered by proximity. He would rather appreciate this sort of medical derring-do through a four-page spread of color photos in Life magazine. But this is his heart, his arteries, his body in the hospital johnny. This is entirely too close to home.
He is roughly 13 months removed from the heart attack that left him fighting for breath, unable to rise from his bed.
If there is anything keeping him calm on this rainy impatient morning, it is the desire to avoid that helpless feeling, ever again. This procedure, he tells himself, will help the doctors give him the best possible diagnosis — one that allows him to wring every last day from a life that seems more precious and tenuous than it once did.
It will give him more time with the daughter he hopes to walk down the aisle; with his first grandchild, who was just down to see him two months earlier; with his wife and elderly mother, who wait at home.
On this second morning of summer, it feels like the doctors are trying to extend his lifetime by making every minute pass as slowly as possible.
He fidgets, shifting his weight. The rain peppers the window. The nurses bustle from room to room, talking of dosage charts.
He lets his mind stray to the tropical storm and feels sheltered, protected. No rain will drench him; no flood currents will draw him away. There are walls and a roof between him and the storm, and people to take care of him.
That reminds him where he is, and the comfort evaporates. He is in a hospital, surrounded by sick people. Other sick people. His heart isn’t working right, and there is no shelter or escape from that.
He will get out of the hospital later that day, as it happens. But the unpredictable condition of his heart will be a fact of life for as long as he lives. It is a storm that will not pass, a flood that will never completely subside.
He closes his eyes but sleep evades him.