Waiting in line at the intake desk of the E.R., I tapped the edge of my insurance card against my hip, over and over and over.
The world’s calmest, slowest woman typed my driver’s license information into her computer.
“What happened to YOU?” the nice man behind me in line asked.
He looked me up and down.
“They should hurry you up.”
The calmest, slowest woman announced that her printer needed paper.
“Thanks,” I told the nice man behind me. Really I wanted to yell things. I don’t get mad that often, but when something hurts I get mad and impatient from some deep-down primal place.
The calmest, slowest woman returned with a ream of white paper. She arranged it carefully in the printer tray. She printed several documents. She did not look up at me.
“Do you have any ibuprofen?” I asked. I knew that the wave of adrenaline that had carried me from the curb to the cab to the hospital was about to fade, and the reality of these scrapes was about to blare forth.
“Ma’am, I am not a nurse,” she said, and continued typing.
And then I saw how impatient and illogical I was being, so like a child, so self-centered. Of course, if you work in an emergency room, “emergency mode” must become taxing. Impossible to sustain. Of course she would not move at lightning speed; we weren’t on television. I wasn’t in cardiac arrest, here. Of course she would not hand out medicine; I would have to wait for the triage nurse like everyone else.
“What about, like, a tissue?” I held up my bleeding arm.
“Ma’am, I am not a nurse.”
And then I was so glad that this calm, slow woman was not a nurse, because many people would die on her calm, slow watch.
I guess you could say I fell off my bike, but more accurately: I flew off my bike. And I remember the pavement closing in, my Superman arms, the way I fell in that softball game in ninth grade when I tripped going from third to home because HOME was so impossible, so deliciously deleriously un-me, and I’d been riding my bike the same way — with delicious delerium, thinking how fast I was going, how I was dodging these potholes in this construction zone, and I was a machine just as sure as my bike, just as sure as sunrise over a new lake on a new day with a new love with a birthday cake and then — FLLRLLOOM! — I am on the pavement. My bike is on me. We are spooning. Bike, why you gotta consumate our love right now? I was GOING PLACES. No one is stopping. A car-window yeller yells, “Are you ok?” I do not answer, and he takes my silence for okay-ness. A passerby walks over and lifts the bike off of me. “There, I did my good deed for the day,” he says and walks off. I am left to be bloody, and mad, and dizzy. But okay. Okay okay. Bloody on one arm and on my knees and hands, but sound of mind and sound of bone, and when I get into the cab to the E.R. (tetanus, sprains, who knows…) I am so grateful for the ability to move myself from point A to point B, still, somehow.
The way things happened, one thing after another, it seemed like time went by so fast you couldn’t tell if you were young or old.
– Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
I don’t know if I am young or old; but what I do know is that this has been an Oregon Trail year. I said this to Caitlin over ice cream sundaes last night. We dug dainty spoons into three scoops with fudge at Margie’s, both of us in the gold vinyl booth with the tabletop juke box, under harsh platinum-blonde light that made me think of 1960s beauty parlors, and in our sun dresses we were exactly the same age as when we met, but not the same.
It’s been an Oregon Trail year (not like the real Oregon Trail because those people were fording real rivers and dying of cholera, rest their souls and their covered wagons) but: like the game from third grade with the square-ish graphics leading us through the wilderness.
Like: you go to the general store and buy ALL THIS STUFF to last a billion years and then your wagon tips over about five seconds later while you’re fording a river. And you’re like, “I JUST FILLED THIS WAGON.”
Caitlin nods and says, “Or like, your ox dies.”
We ordered another gravy boat of hot fudge, and dug in, with dainty spoons.
Relatedly: this, from Deanna.
Patrick just posted this, and I must re-post. I exist in this state quite often (sometimes, depending on who you ask, too often), and it’s nice to see the terrain mapped.
But I find there’s another, less volitional mental activity that occurs while cutting grass, one that seemingly lowers a hook to snag things lurking beneath the surface of consciousness. Experts would call it “the incubation effect.” Most would call it “zoning out.” I call it “the dream-drift.” The mind wanders. Stray images and unkempt thoughts slipstream in from some far away cognitive Pacific. It’s strange, uncanny, pleasant, and just a bit unnerving, a kind of letting go which, for me, takes the form of a surrender to a mental whateverism, a kind of watching, one step removed, the products of unwilled mental activity, products broken free of any establishing context. It’s a being willing, not a willing — a willingness to be open, not a willed effort to establish a goal against which to measure myself.
– — Jerry DeNuccio, The Metaphysics of Cutting Grass
For me, this state always descends in the shower. Like: I’ve been working on an assignment for Write Club. Last night I busted out of the shower and dashed straight for my computer before all the ideas scattered themselves again. Lisa came home right as I was leaving the bathroom, and I found myself naked, wet, on the floor of my bedroom with my laptop, yelling through the door, “I can’t talk right now! I have to write this down!”
“For the last week I have been playing a game. I have been trying to predict what I would be doing in five minutes or in two minutes. I have found that no matter how hard I try I am more often wrong than right, and when I’m right it’s obvious that this outcome has been reached so precariously that the results seem accidental. I have also been struck with the radical difference between my fantasy about the future and the actual experience. My prediction is at most a vague picturing of a category of activity, whereas the experience itself is made up of mood, thoughts, bodily sensations, detailed perceptions, etc., none of which is exactly like what I have experienced before. I have discovered that when I am conscious of the radical unpredictability of the future — even the immediate future — I find it impossible to be discontent. Discontent seems to be a false concept of time. It leans on my expectation that what is to come will be ‘the same old thing.’ I cannot expect imminent change and remain judgmental of the present.
I am noticing that when I am bored I think I am tired of my surroundings but I am really tired of my thoughts. It is trite, repetitious, unobserved thinking that is producing the discontent. Adopting a quite awareness, a kind of listening attitude, usually freshens my mind and brings the situation I am in to life.”
– Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself
Woke up an hour late, rainy day; scrounged for umbrella, found one I’d stolen from the lost & found at my office; walked to the coffee shop and opened a Word doc to begin writing but read emails instead; rain stopped; walked to the office twenty minutes late; found our intern standing outside waiting for me holding his bag lunch; gazed up and down the street for my car — I often park it near the office; didn’t see it, panicked; let the intern into the building and then paced around and around the block thinking it’s been towed, it must’ve been towed; barely noticed the increasing rain; re-traced my week and remembered that I’d parked my car in Uptown three nights before because I’d been drinking wine in Becca’s front yard until 3am; began to notice the increasing rain splattering my glasses; remembered I’d forgotten my stolen umbrella at the coffee shop; walked down Clark St. towards Becca’s house — an empty stretch by the graveyard and construction site, no one around — and yelled: I AM IN CONSTANT SHAME MODE.
And then I looked left and saw the three people at the bus stop across the street, staring at me.
Found car; apologized to car; flicked on wipers; drove to coffee shop. Fetched umbrella. Began the day.