At the hospital, Susie supports a clearly suffering Vivian. Vivian says she was at home reading and then suddenly felt terrible, so she decided to come in. Susie asks if someone drove her, and Vivian says she took a taxi. Susie brings Vivian some juice and goes to get Jason, who is on call that night. Jason enters and, without looking at Vivian, asks, “How are you feeling, Professor Bearing?” Vivian says, “My teeth—are chattering.”
As Vivian’s health drastically deteriorates, Susie acts more and more as a supporter and friend, while Jason continues to remain detached and “clinical.” Once again its suggested that Vivian has no close friends, as she had no one to call to drive her to the hospital.
Susie gives Jason the stats on Vivian’s vitals, and suggests that Kelekian should lower the dose for the next cycle of chemo. Jason dismisses this, saying that Vivian is “tough. She can take it.” He leaves, and Susie takes Vivian to her room and tends to her, wiping her face with a wet washcloth. Susie exits.
Again Susie is concerned about Vivian as a human being who is clearly suffering, while Jason is focused on his research. If they were to lower Vivian’s dose, the study would be ruined. Thus Jason callously speaks for Vivian and dismisses Susie’s concerns.
After a while Kelekian and Jason enter, both of them with surgical masks. Kelekian talks to Vivian, and says she’s “doing swell.” She is going to be isolated for a couple of days, and he tells her to “think of it as a vacation.” Kelekian then leaves, as Jason puts on a paper gown, mask, and gloves. Vivian explains to the audience that she is in isolation because the chemo has destroyed her immune system, so “every living thing is a health hazard” to her right now.
Kelekian, like Jason, feels entitled to speak for Vivian about her own health and is insistent that she keep going in her treatment as part of the study. Vivian already lacked close relationships with others, but now she is literally isolated from any human contact at all. At her most vulnerable she is also made to feel entirely alone.
Jason comes in to Vivian’s room, complaining to himself about how much prep he has to do just to come into the room and read a chart. He then remembers “Clinical,” and asks how Vivian is doing, and then immediately leaves. Vivian continues her explanation to the audience: she isn’t in isolation because of the cancer, but rather because of the treatment. “My treatment imperils my health.” She muses on the paradox of this, and imagines Donne writing a poem about it. She then imagines herself teaching this poem, and her students being perplexed by it. She says she could “draw so much from the poems”—she “could be so powerful.”
Jason is especially self-absorbed and even cruel in his detachment here, as he complains about having to wear certain equipment while Vivian is suffering and dying in the same room, and he has to remind himself to even address her at all. In her increasingly desperate state, Vivian again reaches out to language and Donne in an attempt to find a sense of agency. She is totally helpless, but finds some solace in imagining herself in a position of power, back in a world where she was the one in control.