Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

On Second Thought, Maybe I Don’t Want to Know

The day I punched a hole in the windshield of my car with my face, I never lost consciousness. I thought things that make sense to you when your body’s in shock, things like, oh, that’s probably blood falling from my face, I’d better catch it in my hands. When the EMT’s showed up and asked me – they’re required by law to ask people who are conscious – which hospital I preferred, I settled on “whichever one is closest,” but apparently they needed me to say a name. “Hennepin County Medical?” they persisted. That’s fine, really, now could we get over the small talk and get me somewhere where they can fix whatever’s left of me?

I was on my way to work when I drove into the semi I didn’t see, and it was after noon by the time I was out of the ER, so I asked to use the phone. I got the managing director of the theater I worked at on the first call. Hey Bill, I explained, I was in a car accident this morning. I’m okay, but I’m not going to make it in to work today. I’m at HCMC, and I’m okay, but, you know… I caught Bill mid-story. I never found out what was going on, but he was laughing at something someone else was saying while we were talking, and even though I wanted to assure him that I was fundamentally okay, a little “gosh, is it serious” wouldn’t have been amiss. Note to self: play up the drama next time.

The ER docs got most of the glass out of my eyes (several pieces at my urging – PATIENT: I can feel some glass in my eye. NURSE: Doctor, the patient is complaining of glass in his eye. PATIENT: Do the doctor’s ears not work, because I just said that.) but there were a couple of fragments that they wanted to remove with greater care, so I’d be going into the OR at some point. So there I am, in the hospital, feeling vaguely sorry for myself, bored, and a little too sore to move easily. Do you have a telephone I can use?

I called Laurel, the other half of the relationship I was recently no longer in, and left a message saying I’m really not flaking out, but I need to cancel tonight on account of my car is an accordion, and let’s try to be friends on another occasion, how about. I called a couple of other people and left messages. I called Ann, who happened to be at home and had a little time before rehearsal at 2pm, what’s up? Could you come down and keep me company for a bit? She was there in record time.

Ann was not a liar, and for her honesty at the moment I will always be grateful. She found me in the ER in less than 30 minutes door to door. I got to ask the question that had been bugging me for some time, now that the danger was obviously past. I look pretty bad, don’t I? Ann didn’t give me any words, but her face and her nod and her speed all said yeah, you look pretty bad.

Before my trip to the ER they moved me up to a room. The bandage over my eye was getting loose and I had to use the bathroom, so I took my IV drip and shuffled over to the toilet in the room and looked in the mirror. My nose was cut wide open in two places across the nostrils, there were tiny red lacerations all over, and the bandage over my eye that I thought was getting loose was actually the skin that wasn’t connected anymore. Laurel picked me up and brought me home that night, after the ER, and while I sat and waited for her in my hospital scrubs, black leather jacket, black engineer boots, looking for all the world like a surreal clown who’d been on the bad end of a badly received joke, a cop came up to ask me if I was sure I should be checking out of the hospital and had I done anything illegal. We eventually got that sorted out, and Laurel eventually told me that when she saw me in my room, she nearly threw up. Emotion, not disgust. I was too tired at that point to realize that I was falling in and out of sleep.

Maria saw me before I could tell her I’d been in an accident, and my mom just kept hugging me, and those were both days later. Everyone reflected my state to me. They couldn’t help it, I was, if I may say, rather a dramatic sight.

We never did get to see Lucka. Hana told us that she thought Lucka didn’t want our reflections. No hair, no teeth, wheelchair, gaunt. When we talked to her on the phone, you’d never know from her voice that she was even sick, except that she got tired quickly. If you hadn’t seen her change, Hana said, it was pretty shocking. For me, not dying, Ann affirmed that I was a mess, but I knew I was okay. Lucka needed to believe that she could be okay, and any of us reflecting something different would belie whatever we might choose to say.

I wanted to see her, and I’m sorry I didn’t. But we called, we tried, we dropped off food, movies, snacks. We might have been the best friends to her that we could have been – for her. But it’s un-satsifying, because we want to believe that had we seen her, we could have been better friends – for us. And one of the many, many horrible things about this is never being able to know.

I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that not knowing has to be okay. Did I make the right decision? I made the best one I could given what I knew, and I’ll never get more information. Live with uncertainty.

Lucka died yesterday morning at sunrise. With her sister. No new reflections.

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2 responses

  1. What a harrowing post. I’m sorry for your loss.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm

  2. Luc

    In 2006 my former boss and mentor died in Cleveland. We must have been connected in some way because I elected to work for a deeply passionate mean german genius for over 9 years. We retired together from the “company” and he died 7 years later. I have just started to mourn him. Ever so slowly. When he was in the hospital I could not get myself to go. I heard that everyone were showing up. Dancers from “before my time…” and currently interested followers were camping in his hotel room. But my connection to him was exhausted. I couldn’t bring myself to see him dying. I also never brought myself to see his partner die 10 years before – and he went without my getting the requisite “vision from the guru.” Maybe when you are 75 and everyone you know has died… starting with the last world war, you don’t need me to show up and reflect on you. My dad is still alive and I dread the day he will get sick and die. Same with my mom. Same with my sister. Same with my wife. Same with you. But I plan to die alone. Quietly listening to the summer crickets. Free from the reflections of others. I did not know Lucka but I feel connected by name and attitude. It is auspicious that I would find this link this morning on Facebook and be touched by such beautiful writing. I will pray for her.

    July 4, 2010 at 11:22 am

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