If you’re anything like me, that is. The kind of person who at the sight or mention of Blood gets weak from head to toe. Like those pens you stand on end and the color drains, revealing a naked woman underneath. Except, instead of busty nude, you get floppy, boneless mass. Which is what I am right now, sitting in the waiting room of Urgent Care.
I lean my forehead against the cool of my palm, elbow on the arm of my chair. I try not to look at the sick people around me, try not to deduce what it is that brings them to this small, germy room. As long as they keep their distance I can hold my limp self together. I can pretend to be patient, care-giving wife while inside the bowels of Urgent Care, Jim is probably passed out himself.
This is our running joke. We’re both fainters. We come from long lines of fainters. We tell fainting stories at family gatherings. I have to lie down to hear most of them, even the ones I’ve heard before. I am working hard not to add to our repertoire.
What brings us here is Jim’s finger. And the deep slice he inflicted on it, by accident, yesterday. I knew it was bad by the way he staggered through the front door and announced, in a low, serious tone, “I got cut.”
It wasn’t a nonchalant “I got cut,” tossed out as he grabbed a Blue Sky soda from the fridge. Nor was it an “I got cut” spouted irately as he marched into the bathroom to fetch a Band-Aid. No, this version implied so much more.
It was a come-help-me-I-am-bleeding-profusely-and-am-about-to-faint-oh-my-God-I-can’t-even-look-at-it-it’s-so-deep “I-got-cut.” It was the kind of “I got cut” that caused me to drop my cheese grater and say, “No, don’t tell me,” to put my hand on my forehead then drop it to my side, to rub hard the thighs of my jeans, something I do to remind myself that I’m still here. The kind of “I got cut” that finally sent me hobbling, as if crippled, to the bed where I crumpled and yelled, weakly, “What do you need?”
Even writing this makes my heart race. I pull my legs up under my body, form myself into a fetal position (as much a fetal position as one can get while sitting in the waiting room of Urgent Care). An extremely overweight man gets up and stands by the door. It’s as if he senses my internal debate over whether or not to maintain full consciousness.
I hate it that I do this. I want to be strong. I want to be the kind of person others would never vote off the island. I’m strong in so many other ways.
I did manage to cut a strip of cloth out of a clean flannel pillowcase for Jim.
I didn’t clean or bandage the cut, which was hard for him to do on his own.
I did call three Urgent Care centers to see if any was not crowded.
I did clean up the blood that had dripped all over the bathroom.
I did drive him here, and I am sitting, waiting. Weak, but waiting.
Flash back to another time we were in a medical clinic together — 1991, the weeks before our wedding day. You used to have to take a blood test to get a marriage license. Jim and I went together. We entered our respective examination rooms at the same time, emerged at the same time, smiled that the other was still pink in the cheeks. We walked together — soon to be Husband And Wife — to the check-out counter to pay. Then this:
Jim: “I think I’ll go wait outside.”
Me: “What’s wrong?” (alarmed) “You’re not going to faint, are you??”
Jim: “Eh, I feel kind of woozy. I’ll be OK.” (off he scuttles)
Me: (standing there, thinking about him, sure he’s going to faint. soles of my feet start to hurt. shuffle from one foot to the other. what’s taking the guy so long to run my card through the card reader??)
Me: “You almost done?”
Guy: “I keep getting a busy signal.” (has his back to me) “Let me try again.”
Me: (feeling light-headed, picturing Jim sprawled out on the grass by the parking lot…the tunnel, here it comes…)
I ended up running back to my examination room, flinging open the door and flinging myself onto the table right before losing consciousness. I woke to Jim and the Guy standing over me, the Guy laughing about how one minute I was there, the next minute gone.
Kind of like today.
Oh, here’s Jim now. He seems jolly. An old man in a wheelchair asks what they did back there. “Well,” Jim begins, “the doctor squeezed it together so hard I almost screamed…”
“No, Jim, don’t,” I call from where I am. Heads turn my way. The old man’s mouth opens then closes, like he’s just seen something scary.