Sunday, July 24, 2011

It Would Be Quite Funny If My Head Weren't Matted with Blood

For years I've had unexplained dizzy spells, normally brought on when standing from a seated position.  Multiple tests at Johns Hopkins Hospital left me with no answers (though, thousands of dollars later, I was told to drink more water.  OK).  Nothing bad has ever come of it, except for some weird scenes when I have had to sit down in the middle of a public place and one round of public humiliation for Sam when I fell off a chair in the middle of dinner in El Salvador.  Until...the night of a little comedy--and a lot of blood.

Sam and I were having midnight tacos at our favorite stand at the corner of Insurgentes and Hidalgo.  Great pastor--spit-roasted, chopped pork on two, small corn tortillas, covered with cilantro, diced onions and salsa.  Like all late-night taco carts, there's a silver stand with the guys grilling behind it, standing up on the sidewalk, and a row of about 6 metal bar stools lined up in front, down in the street, in front of the sizzling black griddle.  A Mexican guy sits next to us, looking a little stoned, and strikes up a conversation in pretty good English.  He'd worked in Chicago for a while, and was now back in San Miguel.  We talked for a while, then he insisted on buying our tacos because "I've never seen Mexicans eat street food.  With all the hot salsas.  You all eat carnitas too?  Get out.  I've never seen Mexicans do that."  I kept asking him if he meant Americans, but he seemed too buzzed to know what I meant.  

So we thank him profusely for his kindness and stand up to leave.  Next thing you know, I'm flat out in the street, passed out alongside the bar stools. (Sam later told me this had to be bad for business since no one could get to the counter to order).  There's crowd of people above me, including bystanders; the stoned Mexican (who probably wishes now he hadn't bought me a meal); a police officer; Sam; and two friends of ours--Claudia, a Mexican, and Francois, a French Canadian, both of whom were just walking by when I keeled over.  Before the officer showed up, when I was still in another world, the buzzed Mexican kept telling Sam that he had to get me out there, that if the police came they were going to arrest me.  He told Sam to drag my body off before anyone found me.

Francois reached behind my head to try to help me up and his hands came out covered in blood.  Another death knell for the taco stand--the wads of bloody napkins left at the scene.  Rather than wait for the ambulance that had been called, the four of us got in a taxi for Hospital General.  With a native speaker in the car, things went rather smoothly: we arrive at the emergency room, filled with the random assortment of characters one might find at 1am in any ER in any country.  Claudia tells Sam, don't wait here for a doctor, just go right in there and get a wheelchair, showing him to the double swinging doors that go into the OR itself.  So he does, and wheels me right past everyone, right up to a little collection of medical personnel.  

We're told that only one person can be in the room with me, sola una persona, very emphatically, so Sam has to leave so that my translator, Claudia, can speak for me.  I'm still in the wheelchair and they start cutting the hair off the back of my head. Claudia was behind me, but soon she's in front, upright for a second with someone else's hand under her nose, holding an alcohol-soaked Kleenex to revive her.  No dice--she crumples down, passes out cold, and is laid on her back on the examining table.  

Claudia is a beautiful woman with a great figure.  Tonight she's wearing a short skirt, cowboy boots and a low-cut blouse.  As they slide her back along the table, I am eye-level with her legs.  They are incredibly smooth and tan, not a single hair on either of them.  Her skirt has hiked up a bit higher.  Now, rather than just the woman cutting my hair off and the man holding the smelling salts, this little area is filled with, well, guys.  They've all come in for a look.

I ask the nurse, or whoever is working the back of my scalp, to get Sam.  She still insists, sola una persona.  So in my very muddled Spanish I point to Claudia and say, "Ella no es una persona."  She is not a person.  Por favor.  Traiga mi esposo.  Bring my husband.  I keep repeating, she is not a person.  And really, at this moment she is absolutely of no use to me.  But they refuse, and continue ministering to her.  So then I ask, as my head's starting to throb and it feels like the nurse has left the scissors in my mat of bloody hair, "Can you finish with mePuede terminar conmigoPor favor." I was trying to put the emphasis on me, but everyone seemed to have lost their focus.  I guess a little skin will do that do you.

After they haul Claudia out, I beg to be let out of my chair. I just need to be supine.  I insist they let me get on the table Claudia just left.  I'll lay face down.  It's old, black, plastic, and cracked, and smells of a year's worth of other patients.  There's no nice paper sleeve, white hospital sheet, saving my cheek from sticking to the sweat, breath, excretions of others.

My 4-inch gash sewn up, we all get back in our cab and go home.  Later Sam tells me of his conversation with Francois in the waiting room.  It began as an illustration of Mexican medical care, how a doctor at this very hospital had missed seven broken ribs on his x-ray.  Just adding to the insanity of the night is the rest of his tale: a couple of years ago Francois was dragged out of  La Cucaracha, a bar about two blocks from our house.  He was put in the trunk of a car, driven to the countryside, and thrown down a well. On his way down, and on his ascent back up and out, he broke several teeth and his jaw.  Sam asked him what he did to deserve all this. He said, in his funny little French accent, "I guess I was drunk and acting up."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Masonism, #68

"I always want to know what it would feel like not to be on the earth.  I always want to know what I'd feel like to be off the world.  What would Grammy be like?  What would she be like without us?"--Mason, age 7

"Isn't it pretty rare to walk on the edge of the rain?"--7/23/11