via Daily Prompt: Gingerly
Hearing that awful SNAP, the accompanying immediate numbness that will dissipate into pain, it’s almost like an out-of-body-experience, in a way. I balance my weight onto my right hand, which had slid along the asphalt, picking up loose debris and the remnants of oil that had dripped from some car’s engine. Parking lot pavement is just not the place to take a spill…
Thinking about what just occurred, and how utterly ridiculous it sounds, I can hear my own voice describing the scene to my friend, whom I’m supposed to meet for breakfast. I gingerly raise myself up onto my knees, then take the money from my left hand with my right. Is it possible for me to drive myself to an urgent care facility, or should I go to an ER? It could be an emergency, but there’s nothing life-threatening about breaking a limb. Just damn uncomfortable.
This brings to mind the occasion when I was a little girl, probably about four or five years old. I fell off my bed, dislocating my (well, what do you know?) left shoulder. I remember my sister walking with me, with one arm firmly holding me against her side, my loose arm held against me. I don’t remember, but I think it took only a day or so for my shoulder joint to be functional again, even if it was not healed completely. It was returned to a functioning joint, and that was what mattered. I treated it gently for a few days, then it was back to my regular activities…
Well, it’s not the time to reminisce.
I walk into the supermarket and approach the only cashier on duty. She turns her head, her straight hair ranging from bright bleached blonde to a dark brown that’s actually darker than my nominally-black-but-not-quite hair. Her puts her hand to her mouth and, with wide eyes, points a finger, and tells me, “Wait a second.” She picks up the phone next to the register and pages the manager, who comes out of the office. He takes one look at me and puts out his hand to guide me into the office, where I can sit while waiting for the paramedics. My phone, which is in the front right-hand pocket of my jeans, vibrates, indicating an incoming call. I pinch it out between my thumb and index finger. Strange. It occurs to me that it’s a strange sensation, feeling the rough broken edge of bone against the broken skin. The phone stops vibrating. My arm is starting to swell. I feel a bit faint, but am aware enough to listen to the manager as he gives the address of the store to whomever answered the phone. He offers me a drink of water, which sounds good to me because all I’ve had to drink this morning is a couple cups of coffee. He leaves me alone for a minute to fetch some water (though I wonder if he’s going to bring me a cup or a bottle).
He returns with a bottle of generic water. He twists it open and holds it for me to take. I take it in my right hand (I’ve put everything down on the manager’s desk) and take a few sips. The manager says that he hopes that they’ll get here soon to take me to the ER, because even though I’m not bleeding profusely, I’ve apparently become quite pale. “Do you want to lie down?” he offers. There isn’t really a place to lie down. I recline in the chair as much as I can, sliding my butt forward on the seat, closing my eyes.
I am awakened by voices. The paramedics have arrived. One of them, a youthful man with a beard, asks me if I think I can walk, or if they should bring a wheelchair. I think I can walk, I say. I try to rise from the chair, but I half-fall back down onto my butt, rocking the chair backward slightly. The second paramedic (slightly older than the first) wheels in a chair, and the two of them lift me into it. Handing me my keys and wallet, one gives me a towel to place around my left arm while the other pushes me out of the office and out the automatic sliding door to the awaiting ambulance.
I’ve only ever ridden in an ambulance once before, and that was very early in my pregnancy, after I became ill at my favorite tapas restaurant in Washington, DC. (it’s actually the only tapas restaurant I know in DC). I didn’t vomit, but it felt like I had a really bad case of food poisoning. It was embarrassing for my as-yet-unborn daughter’s father, to have his date taken out of the restaurant curled up on a wheelie bed. He rode in the back of the ambulance, looking around, taking in the scene. He didn’t bother taking my hand. We were not that kind of couple. In fact, we were really hardly a couple at all. It was a one night stand that just continued on and on… At the hospital, I went into the bathroom, and I must have lost a few pounds in there, sitting on the toilet! After getting it out of my system, I returned to the single bed. My daughter’s father looked around the room, taking in the scene. Maybe he was planning to write a play and needed to be able to recreate the trip in an ambulance and a hospital scene. But, no. I think he was just avoiding looking at me. Earlier that evening, he’d said to me, “You know, we could eat out like this a lot more if you get an abortion.”
I ask the paramedics if they can take me to the university health center where my GP’s office is. It’s actually the nearest one, so they oblige. I am taken to the two-story all-metal-and-glass-paneled building across the street from my GP’s office building, a two-story building made of light tan brick. They wheel me in, and, while one of them wheels me to an examination room, the other checks in at the desk. Well, not really a room, but a curtained-off area at the rear of the large room we came in.
I find Lisa in my contacts list and phone her. She’s surprised at the reason I cannot make it to breakfast, and offers to come to bring me home from the urgent care facility, where the paramedics left me in the hands of the center staff. “I was wondering where you were,” she says, “Do you need me to bring you anything?”
Well, what I really want is my car, because right now it’s sitting unattended in the parking lot. I suppose it’ll be fine for a few hours while I sort this out. “No, thanks. I’ll ask someone to fetch it later, if I don’t come myself to get it.”
“Okay,” she says, “I hope you feel better!”
The song starts in my head: “Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today, madam…”
The doctor pulls the curtain aside and says, “Not a great morning, is it?”
“No,” I answered, “I was just about to grab some milk to bring home before meeting my friend for breakfast.”
“Well, we’ll take a couple X-rays, get it set, and then you’ll be free to go get your milk.”
I’m not thinking about milk right now. Opening a cabinet door in the wall, a nurse pulls out an X-ray machine on an arm! First, she places a very heavy “smock” of sorts over my head onto my shoulders, so that it covers my body. She goes back to the machine in the cabinet. Extending its arm, she pulls it over, then places a metal plate between my arm and my now-protected body. She takes a few steps away, and I hear the high-pitched buzz of the X-ray shooting its beams through my arm. Next, she places the plate under my arm, and shoots a picture of the arm from above. Then she puts the machine away, takes the lead vest off me, and leaves.
The doctor returns. I only notice now that there’s a computer on a small table with wheels. He logs in, brings up a menu, then angles the screen so I can also see it. Bringing up the images of the X-rays, he lets out a little whistle. “Lucky you. It should go back together pretty easily. I’d give it probably four to six weeks. Are you right-handed?”
“Yes,” I reply, relieved, “Hey, I want to be awake while my arm is set. Can you just numb my arm so I can watch?”
[Well, that’s enough for now]