68 Degrees

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

I tried to distribute the weight of my body evenly in the soles of my Crocs. My hair was contained in a cap and my mouth was smothered by a cotton mask. Each time I exhaled, the mask filled with the smell of the coffee on my own breath. The thermostat read 68 degrees and a thin, gray-blue shirt and drawstring pants were draped over my body. It was my first time in an operating room. My knees hurt, my teeth were chattering, and my breath smelled terrible, but I had never been more comfortable in my life.

Dr. Mills explained the case: the patient had returned to the hospital with a malignant growth on his colon after a year in remission. I could see three small scars from the previous laparoscopic surgery on the torso of the patient. This time, however, he would leave the hospital with an addition to his collection: a fifty centimeter incision from the bottom of the diaphragm to the top of the pelvis. After ten minutes of slicing through layers of skin, fat, and muscle, the organs were exposed and the procedure commenced. I was overwhelmed by the scent of the inside of the human body which encompassed the worst of burning wood and sewage. The surgeon removed intestines from the body cavity and placed them on ice next to him. He...

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