Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sudden fall, part 2

(Writing from a seaside villa in France. Life is grand, for you kind and hardy souls still reading. A break was called for, and a break this is. The story from before, however, continues...)

"I think I might've cracked a tooth," I say from the bathroom. I'm inspecting the damage to my face in the mirror. Not too bad. A scrape from the tip of my nose to my mouth. It jogs a bit to the right as it courses over my top lip. My boss will tell me later today it looks like the scar after harelip surgery.

Right now it just looks like I have a nosebleed.

A goose-egg is growing on my chin. It's already starting to bruise up.

I go back to the living room, where Mr. Billy is icing his foot with a bag of frozen peas. I get another bag and hold it to my face. I look over at Mr. Billy. "We're the disaster twins."

He tells me I shouldn't go in to work. I don't answer that. In only a few days, we'll be leaving the country for a three week vacation. There's just too much to do to miss a day.

I do, however, take time out to see the dentist.

"That's not a crack," she says, peering in (while I breathe out, relieved). "That's bits of sidewalk. I'll just buff it out."

My teeth appear to be intact, but there may be other damage. She can't tell - not even with x-rays - because of the swelling. I may have fractured my jaw.

"Soft food for a month," she says. Soft food? Is she crazy? I'm going to France! No crusty French bread?

"Just the soft, inside part."


On the bus back to work, I think of all the delicious soft French foods I can eat, while people's eyes slide off me. The bruise is in full bloom already. I feel like I'm wearing blinking lights on my face.

Eclairs, pot de creme, onion soup, pate.

Nobody wants to look at me. This isn't an insouciant, adventurous bruise. Something along the cheekbone, maybe, would speak of a branch in my way as I snowboarded down a pristine mountain.

Brie, chocolate mousse.

A bruise on the chin, a scrape on the mouth - on a woman's mouth - these are ugly. People see only bad crazy things that end up here. Somewhere out on the edge of sweaty half-dreams, where the money runs out, the addictions take over, that thing lives. That thing that most never ask themselves - How far can I fall and still live? A face like mine answers, Farther than you dare imagine.

Cafe au lait, I think. Ratatouille.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sudden fall, part 1

Two cars screech to a stop in the middle of the street. I watch the drivers jump out and run in my direction. This is interesting.

"Are you okay?"

"We saw you fall."

I'm on the ground, looking up at them. I just fell down, no big deal. A third person appears from somewhere behind me. I should probably get up, but it's not so bad, down here on the sidewalk.

I touch my face, and look at my fingers. Hm, blood. Maybe my nose is bleeding.

"Do you need a ride to the hospital?"

I look at the woman. It must have been a spectacular fall, to make her stop her car. I remember starting to fall, trying to catch myself. Taking giant steps, arms windmilling, all flapping limbs like Stan Laurel. My glasses are a couple of feet away. I pick them up and put them on. They aren't broken. Not even scratched.

"I just live right here, thanks," I say, gesturing vaguely behind me.

"Do you need help up the street?"

They really want to help. I thank them again. I'm just three steps from my front door. What was it the hobbit said? "It is a dangerous business going out your front door."

I find my keys, my purse, my book bag. I stand up. No problem. I unlock the door I just locked and walk inside.

"You're back," Mr. Billy calls from upstairs. He's laid up with a mashed foot.

"I fell down," I say, heading up the stairs. I sit down on the couch beside him. I'm sweating, and my vision starts to tunnel in. I put my head between my knees. Maybe I'll be a little late for work.

With my head between my knees, it occurs to me. This was a "sudden fall," a "drop attack," an "otolithic crisis of Tumarkin." Curse you, Tumarkin!

Let me back up.

Several weeks ago, I was tentatively diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. Dig the picture of the guy falling down. That's what happened to me, only I landed on my face instead of my ass.

I've been dealing with the whole Meniere's thing like the bowl of mush I am. Whining a lot. Hey, it's just dizziness. I should be able to deal with that. Had to change my diet, my work schedule, my sleep schedule. I can't drive anymore. That's all okay. I'm lucky to be able to make those adjustments.

But reading is difficult during a dizzy spell. This is not fair. Reading is the thing I do when I can't do anything else. When I was grounded as a kid, when I was recovering from surgeries, when I rode the bus, when I had to sit in a waiting room, I could always read. I'm a writer, dammit. If I can't read, I sure as hell can't write.

But drugs help. Diet helps. Reducing stress, reducing my workload - all of that helps. I was getting past the whining. Just the meat suit reminding me that my flesh outfit is me and I am it and we're in this thing together. All in all, it's a pretty good ensemble. My face fits me: kind of goofy-looking and friendly. I'm a decent dancer. I'm not especially tall or short or fat or skinny. Most of my parts work the way they should.

And then I fell down, and things got a little more interesting.

Friday, May 09, 2008

ping ping

Today I rode the train downtown. Morning train commuters are more self-contained than bus commuters. It's quiet, everyone in his own bubble. I stand all the way downtown.

It's a different crowd on the way back. Almost noon. A tall, thin woman sits beside me with her daughter. She is pregnant, but long and slender above and below her tidy, rounded belly. Clear-skinned, high cheekbones.

"I bet there won't be any kids there," the girl bumps her toes against the seat in front of her. Embroidery sparkles at the bottoms of her leggings.

"I bet there'll be a lot," says mom.

"I bet none," daughter sneaking a smile up at mom.

"I bet a lot! Look look, do you recognize it? There's the park."

They get off, whispering together, and mom's seat is taken by a stringy man in a beard. His jeans hang loose from his thighs.

He might be homeless, but I don't know for sure.

I look up at the next stop to see a transit cop standing at the front of the car.

"I need everybody to show me proof of payment. Ticket stub, fast pass."

She seems to have materialized in place. Full transit cop gear. Jacket, badge, heavy things strung from her belt.

The stringy man beside me bolts for the door, crossing directly in front of the transit cop. It's too late. The doors are closed, and he pings back and forth in the stairwell, pushing the door releases, palms open against the doors.

"You won't get out that way, sir," the transit cop says to him, softly. She doesn't want to bust a homeless man.

He's trapped, and he knows it. He buzzes past her again, toward the back of the car. She watches after him, then lifts a chin at the passenger closest to her. He shows his fast pass.

I lift out my pass, looking over my shoulder toward the back of the car. What can they do to a homeless guy? Normally it's a fine, but if someone doesn't have ID, doesn't have an address? It's not like she can arrest him, can she?

I can't see the stringy man, but I can hear him bumping up against each door of the car like a pinball. I imagine him fretting to the end of the car, pinned against the back door, heart thrumming in his chest.