I have no memory of “the scene.” My entire neighborhood was standing around me in a circle, apparently, and I was bleeding everywhere.
This makes me experience two decidedly conflicting emotions: massive embarrassment and pure badass.
The source of the blood was mostly my face and my feet. Of course, my brain was bleeding as well, but that was internal and likely the cause of my fogginess and confusion.
I am very excited that my brain was bleeding. This is a rite-of-passage injury. I am now bona fide.
So I don’t remember a thing, not a single thing, until one fleeting moment in an ambulance. I was being restrained, and things were being inserted into my arms and my pants were being ripped from my body and I said: “But I don’t remember buying a scooter!”
I bought a scooter. An ex-boyfriend had one, and I intended to buy one from the moment I rode on the back of his for the first time. It was fun as hell. But then, he knew how to drive one.
It’s not as much fun when you drive your scooter into a parked car at 20 miles per hour and stop yourself with your head.
Though, really, since I don’t remember it, I guess it’s safe to say that I might have enjoyed it. I do so many stupid things, it seems, that I must enjoy doing them – at least on some level.
I was in the ambulance, insisting that I did not buy a scooter and being restrained and stripped, and then the next thing I remember is being prepped for a CAT scan.
“Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” The stranger asked me.
“I fucking hope not,” I said.
“Okay, we’re going to put this lead blanket on you to protect your uterus,” he said to me, while I clawed at my neck brace.
“Fuck, go ahead and leave it off, for all I care,” I slurred.
Then the next thing I remember is being placed in another room, when a man with a computer on wheels came to terrify me by telling me I was not covered by insurance.
You see, my health insurance payment was due May 1st. This was May 2nd. I’d forgotten to pay. And at the time, I didn’t know about the grace period (thank god for the grace period) you were granted before your coverage lapsed.
I will never forget to pay my health insurance bill again. Not ever again.
So the mean man came and told me “you’re screwed!” and then a neurosurgeon came into the room and said a bunch of stuff. What I heard was “You have bleeding in your brain. You need brain surgery. You have to pay for it out of pocket because you’re stupid and you didn’t pay your insurance. Brain surgery costs somewhere around $100,000. You are very stupid, and by the way, you are a major disappointment to your mother and father.”
I started crying. I was really confused and I was bleeding everywhere and I was a disappointment.
What the neurosurgeon actually said was that I had petechial hemorrhaging and I needed to be kept overnight for observation. No brain surgery. Sounds worse than it is. But man, the headaches for the days following….
Another doctor: “I’m going to give you pain medication now.”
Me: “What? What are you giving me?”
“What do you want? Morphine?”
I refused pain medication. Three reasons:
(1) I was confused, and I didn’t want to be more confused. I didn’t know what was happening or why it was happening. I wanted to piece things together, not become more foggy.
(2) I didn’t know how much morphine costs, and I assumed it would be too expensive, especially since I thought I was now paying out of pocket for all of these expenses.
(3) If the doctor didn’t know which medication I needed and wanted my input, I didn’t want her to give me anything at all.
According to my many friends who were with me, though I wasn’t exactly aware of their presence, I had spent most of my time in the emergency room up to this point cussing and cracking jokes at the hospital staff.
This is incredible to me, because in my memory, I was very frightened. I was terrified. Imagine, you’re in the hospital and you’re bleeding and there are people doing things to you and you have no idea why you’re there or what happened. At one point, I remember wondering if I’d experienced a dissociative fugue, but head trauma seemed more likely given my surroundings.
Another doctor came in to X-ray my feet. I fought tooth and nail with him, claiming that I did not need this service, that it cost too much, that they needed to let me go home. He proceeded to X-ray my feet regardless.
My chin was stitched up. Six stitches. I squeezed my friend Lisa’s hand while they did it. Moments prior to the stitching, the doctor had confused Lisa for my mother, so she was very angry. Lisa does not look any older than I look. My theory is that she looks twenty years more mature than I look, especially given the way I am told I was behaving.
Apparently I made a few phone calls around this time. My little brother, my friend Jeremy, and possibly a few others. To my little brother, I hysterically cried. To Jeremy, I laughed and made fun of myself.
I remember wanting to call my sister, because she is a doctor and she is smart and she would tell me what to do. But in my disorientation, I came to the conclusion that I could not call her because she would be asleep and her husband and kids would be asleep and they all needed the rest.
They took me to the room I was to spend the night in. I had no pants on. I was wearing underwear and my white v-neck, which was covered in blood and iodine. I was still very bloody.
My friends, Sadie and Dach, accompanied me into my room.
A few nurses came in. They were supposed to wash out the wounds on my feet. I thought they were indentured servants.
This, I found to be very offensive, so I refused to let them wash my feet. “It’s degrading to them!” I argued.
Sadie had to wash my feet.
Then there was about ten minutes of arguing with Sadie because she wanted to help me out of my bloody shirt and into a fresh shirt she’d brought for me from home.
“No! I want to wear this one! It’s cool! I like it! It’s cool!”
The nurse told me my other friends were going to my apartment to get me some things, and asked me if I wanted anything special from home.
“Sexual Murder! Sexual Murder! Sexual Murder!”
This is the book I am reading. Luckily my friends pieced that together and explained what I was talking about to the nurse.
I also insisted my friends bring me my night cream and my It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVDs.
A nurse tried to give me Vicodin and some anti-anxiety medication. I refused both, because I didn’t want anything habit-forming and I didn’t want to pay for it. I stumbled through a not-so-eloquent explanation of how I worked in a clinic with many clients who struggled with addictions to painkillers and benzodiazepines and how I’d seen too many people fight that battle to start it myself.
The nurse told me that’s why she didn’t ride motorcycles.
Jason arrived. He was staying the night with me in my hospital room. I was standing, refusing to get into bed, bleeding and babbling.
The nurse asked me if I had any allergies.
“I can’t have lobster. I’m allergic to lobster. Don’t give me lobster,” I said.
I was at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. It’s a Jewish hospital. And it’s a hospital. They aren’t serving shellfish, and they’re definitely not serving lobster.
Jason was the best. He stayed up all night with me, held me and calmed me down when the doctors came in to do things that scared me. He explained what they were doing to me and why, and got me ice packs for my feet and sent the nurses away when they came to do vital checks once I had finally fallen asleep for a moment.
He didn’t seem to mind that I bled on him, or that I was even afraid when the nurses came to take my temperature, or that I looked like a corpse, or that I cried on and off all night long.
Men, pay attention. This is how all men should be.
A neurosurgeon came into my room with about six residents. He did the checks that I had gone through every half hour with a different neurosurgeon, and then said to me: “Great. Everything looks great. You’re looking great.”
“Yeah, this is the best I’ve ever looked. I’m going to the prom tomorrow,” I said.
Outside my room, there were two policemen with guns. They were guarding the room next to mine. There was a criminal in it. They wouldn’t tell me what he’d done.
In the morning, Jason had to go to work, so Dach came and switched places with him. I tried to talk to Dach for a while, but they gave me more anti-seizure medication and that stuff makes you sleepy, so I passed out. Sadie arrived while I was sleeping. Sadie made up a song about my injuries and Dach told me stories about how he’d injured himself in the past.
I was taken to have another CAT scan. An old lady was being wheeled around on her hospital bed by a black dude. She was complaining to him. “Don’t go over bumps! Be careful! Not so fast!”
He looked at me and said: “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Later he read the tattoo on my back and told me he’d heard about me, that I was making all the folks in the hospital laugh. I didn’t remember being that much of a clown, but I’m not at all surprised.
They released me in the afternoon. I went home and fell asleep.
I went to work the next day. I was still very out of it, very spotty.
To be perfectly honest, today is the first day I feel actually lucid. I think I’m back to normal again. Of course, I can’t walk well, and I have a giant stitched up wound on my chin and I have a bruise that still continues to grow on my inner thigh (I’m fascinated by this bruise) and my feet are tore the fuck up and I have a chipped tooth and I have a constant, terrible headache from the head trauma. But I feel pretty awesome.
There is something almost thrilling about having control completely ripped away from you, about being unaware of your surroundings, about not being able to account for nearly ten hours of your life, and then only have fleeting moments of understanding for the following twenty hours. It is horrifying at first. But at some point, when you start to gather yourself, it becomes fascinating, and it’s almost disappointing when you begin to pull it back together. You have to go back to being responsible for yourself. No more excuses. No more tales of what you’ve done while you were temporarily “away.” No more pleasant dissociation. In a way, I love to lose control. In that same way, I love when I learn that I’ve lost moments of time. And also in that same way, I love being injured.
It’s something new. It’s not boring. It’s a story to tell. It’s mixing up the routine.
And I finally told my parents. They were pissed I didn’t tell them sooner. Mom never wanted me to get a scooter in the first place. I promised I’d mention that.
I made it clear to my brothers that they had to wait two weeks before making fun of me. After two weeks, they are free to make fun of me for the rest of my life. But I get two weeks to heal.
I already want to get on the scooter again.