Several years ago while living Overseas, I met a woman many years my senior. I’ll call her Anna. She was a plain but not unattractive woman, with dark eyes and thick black hair. We hit it off immediately. It was several weeks into our relationship when she decided to invite me for one of her home-cooked Italian meals. Flattered, I eagerly counted the days off for the big night. Finally, the soiree was at hand. I got in my car, arriving at Anna’s house in no time flat. I rushed up the three flights of stairs in no time, knocked at her door and waited for a response. In a few seconds she opened the door with a warm smile and a glass of red wine. We kissed and I took the proffered wine. “Come on in, and make yourself comfortable.”, she says, turning back toward the living room. We sit in the living room and sip on our wine, exchanged the usual preliminary pleasantries. “Nice place you’ve got here.”, I say, absorbing the furnishing and decor of the apartment. “Yeah, it’s not bad for a lonely divorcee I guess.”, she says curtly. The minutes pass as do the glasses of wine. Feeling relaxed, and less inhibited, I get up and casually walk over to a rather large bookcase I admired. “I got that from my settlement.”, she giggled. Barely taking notice of her words, I begin to pore over the titles of her books. “I’ll go and tend to dinner and leave you to your books”. With Anna busying herself with dinner, I am left standing in front of the bookcase. Sipping my wine, I begin looking over an assortment of books. However, one book catches my eye. The book reads, “General Anesthesiology-Praxis”. “Hum, what could a woman want with a book like this?”, I think to myself. I take the book off the shelf, open it and begin thumbing through it. I quickly find a diagram and picture section in the middle — the usual banal stuff, typical for a medical textbook: “intubated” patients, their eyes taped shut, a few high tech looking contraptions — nothing very interesting. I turn the page. It is altogether different. This page is much more interesting, a veritable “anesthesia fetishist’s” visual feast. One picture frame I find to be of great interest. The picture frame shows a shiny black mask held over the nose and mouth of what appears to be a young looking female. Her eyes are open, but there is a vacant look to them. The photograph shows the eyes of a young woman drunk with gas. I scrutinize the young woman’s image, her eyes intrigue me. …The eyes, drunk with anesthesia, heavy eyes in the last moments before going under. Unfocused and totally surrendering…. I too had once been on the receiving end of the anesthesiologist’s mask. At the time I was only 11 years old and undergoing a tonsillectomy. I still remember an unidentifiable female lowering a black mask upon me, instructing me to count backwards as she stroked my quivering cheek… then the darkness of forced sleep. The memory of that nurse stroking my cheek and firmly but gently anesthetizing me, although in a sense frightening, nevertheless filled me with a obsession to be gassed again. “Want another glass of wine hon?” Anna returns to check up on me, her words startle me out of my reverie. “Ugh, yeah, sure.” I say hoarsely, replacing the book to its rightful spot. She fills my glass and we both return to the soft couch. “Its funny, but I’ve never asked you what you do.” I say coyly, feigning total ignorance. “You never asked. I’m an anesthesiology nurse. I work at the 306th military hospital.”, she answers back demurely. “Oh, that must be interesting.” I reply, trying to sound disinterested. “Yeah, I’ve been in the field of anesthesiology for some ten years now, and five years before that, I was an intensive care specialist. But, anesthesiology is the most rewarding.”
We have both already finished our third glass of wine when I ask her about the kinds of reactions she gets from patients in the OR. No longer feeling coy from the wine, I now have the insatiable urge to hear how an anesthesiologist really “works their patients”. “What do you mean, reactions?”, she asks, smiling quizzically. “You know, do some patients become violent or terrified?”, I retort, prodding Anna for tantalizing story. “No, they’re usually somewhat sedated, so by the time I apply oxygen to further relax the patient, its lights out baby.” I looked at her hands as she continued to talk. Her words became an unintelligible buzz as I fixate on her hands. I imagine her soft hand caressing my check as the other gently but firmly applies a smooth black mask, her face looking down at me as she shamelessly puts me under. A couple of weeks had passed when I receive a call from Anna. She tells me she’ll be late getting off work late tonight. I would like it if you come to the hospital at the end of my shift. “You can come over, I’ll shower, and we can get a bite to eat somewhere”, she says matter-of-factly. It takes me about ten minutes to drive my car to the large military hospital. I park my car in the nearly empty visitor’s parking lot, and head toward the main entrance. I follow Anna’s directions for getting to her office, winding through color-coded corridors. I arrive at her office and notice a note marked “come in John”. I come in and seat myself next to her book and paper cluttered desk. Several minutes pass, and I find my eyes roving her desk. There are many official looking forms. I hesitate at first, but overwhelming curiosity wins over. I pick up one of the forms and peruse it.
…’23 year old female patient, nasal reconstruction. Anxious… 5mg Ruphypnol preoperative…Induction smooth’.
I again imagine smooth latex covered hands steadying the patient’s head, finally resting on the young woman’s cheek. The other gently but firmly places the thick latex mask firmly over the nose and mouth, the gas bag inflating … Again, my revelry is cut short by Anna’s unannounced entrance. I fumble with the paper, but she pays me no heed. “Come with me I want to show you around the place”. She leads the way in her surgical garb as we walk another series of corridors. I am surprised by how few people we meet along the corridor. After many twists and turns, we get to a set of double doors. On the door is marked OR personnel. “Don’t worry about that, your with me.”, she says, sensing my trepidation. With a graceful sweep of her arm, the doors open and we find ourselves in a room. Anna switches on a large ceiling light, its light is blinding, almost startling. The operating room had a quality I never could imagine, a clinical coldness about it. I feel a lump in my throat, as anticipation overcomes me. I glance about me, studying the almost surreal quality of the operating room’s stark white and green. “Here have a seat on the table, and I’ll give you a quick rundown of the place.” She begins with a perfunctory explanation of the various gadgets and gizmos. My throat tightens as I expect the piece de resistance. I glance about nonchalantly, looking for any hint of rubber mask or tubing Nothing. “Well, that’s about it”, she says coolly. My heart sinks. “Oh, I almost forgot, I want to show you something I think you’ll like. Close your eyes.” A lump is in my throat and my heart is pounding. I’m not sure what to feel. I hear the faint sound of coaster wheels. “Lie back.”, Anna instructs in an almost clinically detached voice. “What’s going on?”, I ask with a quiver in my voice. Again she repeats her orders, “Just lie back.” I lie back clumsily and wait. Suddenly, I hear a very soft hiss. I open my eyes and raise my head, only to have it nudged gently back onto the table. I turn my head to the left, noticing a black latex anesthesia mask next to my head. “Well, this is certainly what you were dying to know about, right?”, Anna asks, her voice now taking on a pussycat quality. A mixture of sexual arousal and fear washes over me. Memories flood my brain — Memories blurred with the passage of time, but nonetheless elicited by the sight of the mask softly hissing. I only manage a weak “wait”. “Wait for what?”, she coos. I say nothing, only managing to swallow the knot in my throat. “I’ll show you what the patient goes through. Usually they’re a bit woozy, but you’ll do.” Without skipping a beat and playing in character, she pulls a pair of latex gloves from her pocket and dons them. With a deft movement of one hand she turns the valve back on and the gentle hiss resumes. The other hand brings the mask closer in, fitting it snugly over my nose and mouth. The smell of latex and oxygen is thick and pungent. The feel of the smooth rubber of the mask, and the feeling of slight suffocation sends shutters through my body. “This is just to ease your breathing, just breath nice and deep. There now, you’re doing fine.”, Anna coos, adjusting the mask ever so slightly. “I don’t…” Before I can finish my sentence, a heavy sweet smell fills my nostrils and the back of my throat. I hesitate to breath for a moment, my eyes certainly widening in surprise. “Breath out hard and fill the bag.” I am nervous yet aroused. Her words, firm but reassuring, promise an experience to be remembered: of what, I am not yet sure. I turn my head and see the gas bag fully inflated. I look at it almost mesmerized by its jet blackness. Anna squeezes the bag and I get a lung full of the gas. My next exhalation is now less willful as the last. It is more of a grunt than a blowing out. The gas has flooded over me and I feel warm. Anna looks down at me. She’s smiling, so I think: it’s getting hard to tell as my vision is now blurring. My breathing is smooth now, no longer the anxious staccato it was just moments ago. Again I exhale and Anna responds in kind by pressing the gas bag yet another deep inhalation of gas. My eyes are getting very heavy and my ears are starting to ringing. I no longer can smell the gas. Even with the several lung fulls of gas I have sucked down, I struggle vainly to tell Anna enough… yet another inhalation… I breath in deeply. By now, all that comes out my mouth is a defeated, disembodied sigh. I no longer can control my eyes, as they loll like loose marbles. Anna’s face becomes a blur in my ever-diminishing field of vision… Then darkness enfolds me.
Anna removes the mask from his face, looking down at her handiwork and smiling wryly as her “victim” enjoyed his anesthetic slumber. Satisfied that he would sleep a while, she turns the valve on the cylinder, shutting off the flow of gas. Anna sets the rubber mask next to his face. A mischievous look crossed her face, as she now relishes the helplessness of her “victim”… While it seemed to me it took a ‘long time’ to go under, it only took about fifteen seconds, maybe a little more. Anna would later tell me. “I wish I had a video recorder to show you how hot you looked going under,” she teases. Many years have passed and Anna and I are still together. I had my chance to gas her finally, as a birthday present to me — and preserved the moment with her video recorder.
But that’s another story.
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