Day three of a four day heat wave, high of 93 degrees. Around here, a common gripe is that there’s no spring. Clearly there’s some truth to that. Less than a week before, a low of thirty-some degrees had me running my space heater all night. Then, a sudden, catastrophic, mid-week break in season and I was scrambling for summer clothes, rummaging through the dusty storage basement for my set of floor fans, and sleeping splay-legged on a bare memory-foam mattress, my comforter and sheets in a heap on the side of the bed. Indeed, if spring is defined as California weather- a string of 70 degree days like pearls on a necklace one after the next- there’s no spring to be had here.
Day three of the four day heat wave, a week ago exactly, nearly broke me. And thus began one of the more pronounced events of my life.
Number one favorite thing about the emergency room: heated blankets. In my wet bathing suit, having been fished out of the Charles River an hour earlier, and without my shoes, I was shivering uncontrollably.
“Would you like a warm blanket?” asked a nurse, passing by.
“I have a blanket,” I said.
“A warm one,” he repeated. “from the oven.”
Second favorite thing about the emergency room: it’s totally cool, even encouraged, to bleed absolutely everywhere. On their floors, on their blankets, on the chairs, on the beds. Nobody thinks you’re a freak; nobody’s concerned about their furniture; they just smile and pull on a pair of gloves. You don’t have to apologize; you don’t even have to clean up after yourself. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of freedom with my personal fluids.
2pm, earlier that day, I blinked in the bright sun, my feet treading water. I was a bobbing head. All around me, the Charles River heaved and sparkled.
“Does it look bad?” I asked a pair in a canoe. They’d stopped about 10 feet from me.
I looked at them earnestly. They looked at each other.
“Does it look bad?” I asked again.
I’d been in the water for about five minutes. And it was the only thought I had. “How bad is it?” ran in a loop in my head. “How bad?”
My face felt unfamiliar. I kept touching it. I kept touching it and getting blood on my hands and washing them off in the water and then washing my face with the river and touching my face again and thinking, “how bad is it how bad is it.” I let the board and sail drift downstream away from me. I treaded water in place and looked down the river and was completely occupied by the memory– which felt unreal but yet so vivid it was almost physical– of a few minutes ago when I was whole and unbroken and learning to windsurf and the day was hot and wet and beautiful and life was neverending.
My desire to inhabit that memory ached worse than my nose.
CL > boston > boston/camb/brook > personals > missed connections
Posting ID: 3844761278 Posted: 2013-06-02, 1:52PM EDT
gentleman stranger who went to get me water (Cambridge)
I’m sorry, the ambulance came. You went to get me water at the hotel down the road while I waited in the grass. No one was there when you got back probably.
I was the girl with my face smashed by a mast on the Charles yesterday.
I just wanted to say thanks for your kindness, I was really thirsty.
Around hour three in the emergency room, while waiting for my x-ray results, it suddenly occurred to me how much all this was going to cost. I looked up a ride in the ambulance, a stay in the emergency room, x-rays, stitches… The pain in my nose had worn off, replaced by a numbness, and with it the shock and instinct for self-preservation. I felt, all at once, a desperate need to avoid further costs. I didn’t have any brain trauma; my life wasn’t in danger. What if it wasn’t broken? I thought. What if this had all been an overreaction? Will my insurance pay?
Then, the doctor came in. My nose was broken on the right side, he said. I was sad but weirdly relieved.
Then: actually, it’s broken on both sides. Our radiologist is looking at it.
Later: actually, your nose is in 5 pieces. Here’s the number for plastic surgery.
That dizzy feeling came back.
Me: I’ll just tell them I was in a bar fight.
Mom: haha or that your boyfriend beat you up.
Me: can’t make that joke in this country, mom.
I listened as my mom went through various stages of grief and shock.
“Hi mom, I just got home from the ER, I broke my nose windsurfing.”
NO. WHAT. WHEN.
“It was this afternoon, around 2pm.”
I can’t believe you didn’t call me earlier?!
Truthfully, I wasn’t ready for her freak-out on top of my own. “I was in the ER, mom, they would have called you if I was going to die.”
I told her what I thought to be true: It’s going to be ok; they’ll fix me up, I promised her.
This had the intended effect.
“Maybe they can make your nose prettier while they’re at it,” she laughed.
My mom’s never much liked my nose.
Lies I’ve told about my nose:
- Kicked by a horse
- Bobbing for apples
- Bar fight; you should see the other guy
- Dog ate it
- Nose job, it was too big
- It’s an ironic hipster band aid I’m wearing
- An accident. Involving a bear. And a school bus full of children.
- Honestly, I have no idea
Thursday I learned that they won’t be able to put me back. Not the way I was. For me, this was the biggest shock since the hit five days before.
I asked what about the dent and the bump.
“It’s an imprecise procedure,” was the plastic surgeon’s reply, talking about closed reduction.
They would put me under, prop my nose up, and try to snap the bones back into place. The chances of it being better after the resetting? 30%. Given it looks pretty straight already. The chances of it being worse? About 10%. The chances of it being put back to the way it was? “Zero,” he said. Can’t erase the past.
In an attempt to regain my sense of humor about this whole thing, I posted a series of photos on Facebook.
The fun thing about having an asymmetric nose is I get to look different now depending on which way I’m facing #reconstructivesurgeryyesorno
I didn’t smile in the photos, because I didn’t feel very happy.
I ran into Dr. Hillel’s clinic friday morning for a second opinion around 9:55am, 10 minutes late as usual to all my appointments.
“You must be Lulu.”
I apologized profusely.
“Let’s get you in there, the doctor will want to pack your nose right away.”
“He’ll want to what my nose?”
Thinking back, I guess if I was going to have an all-too-conscious and not-enough-novocaine resetting of my nose, this is the way I’d want it to happen: an old, congenial, but no-nonsense doctor; a complete surprise.
The first indication that something very different was happening from what I expected, was the heavy touch when the doctor examined my nose. He was feeling for the exact position of the bone fragments. He chatted to me about windsurfing (he’s an avid windsurfer) while he stuffed my nose full of novocaine-soaked rags.
He placed a bib around my neck to catch any blood, picked up a metal implement resembling the back end of a spoon, and said that I may hear some clicks from bones popping back into place. I had the vague sensation I was in some kind of mafia movie.
Getting ready, he told me he’d broken his nose three times in his life. The last time being kneed by his brother in a swimming pool.
“Did you put your nose back yourself?” I asked.
He laughed. Then leaned my chair back.
The clicks, when they came, were merciful– three in all.