Events: Emergency Room II
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
We never really know when life's ready to take a left-hand turn, do we? My little existence reminded me about that all over again this morning when I found myself too close to a heated political discussion. (Can't we all just get along? Friends don't let friends argue about politics. [Insert other easily-adaptable clichés here.])
This a.m., shortly before noon: me, in one of the local cafeterías, finishing up a cup of espresso and a glass of water. Lots of people about, all making conversation. Including three 30-something males positioned between me and the counter, talking loud politics. I finish up, get to my feet, grab now-empty coffee cup and glass, go to leave them at the bar. As I pass the 30-somethings, the hands of the one nearest me -- voice already loud in a fit of mid-argument pique -- fly out and up in an emphatic gesture, one striking my right hand, driving the water glass into my upper nose where it breaks apart, producing an explosion of blood.
Damn, what a moment -- so intense, so unexpected that I burst into astonished laughter. Until I saw many stunned faces staring at me, heard a strange silence, felt substantial quantities of blood running down my face. (Those darned head and face wounds get right down to the business of bleeding profusely.) People gathered around, napkins were proferred.
-- All broken bits of glass wound up in the water tumbler, leaving no pesky splinters and shards on floor, clothing, etc.
-- No blood wound up on clothes or shoes.
Don't know how I managed any of that.
Two kind individuals helped me get the bleeding contained, examining the wound as best they could. Deep, they said, but not too extensive. Activity in the cafetería had by then begun to resume some normalcy, people drifting back to food, conversation, etc. Some cast sideways glances at me, clearly discussing the entertainment I'd just provided. At some point, I looked around for the guy who'd triggered this joyous event, discovered he'd bolted in all the hubbub, along with his two argumates. Ah, well. Should I ever see him again, we'll have an especially meaningful memory to share.
Someone walked me to my building, I came upstairs on my own. Once inside, I eeled my way out of upper-body clothing, cleaned up my face, spent a long time applying direct pressure to the wound with paper towels to stop the bloodflow. The folks in the cafetería were right: deep cuts, not too extensive. Deep enough to warrant stitches. Applied a band-aid to spare the general public the sight of my new facial alteration, consulted a map, headed out to an emergency room.
In my only other E.R. experience here [see entries of February 18 and 19, 2002], I went to a huge hospital in one of Madrid's southwest neighborhoods. This time around, I found a small clinic a couple of Metro stops north of here. Small, efficient, uncrowded. With no waiting.
I showed up, they took my info., immediately ushered me in to see a 60ish female doctor. (Fast tangent: I recently learned that a slang word for doctor here is 'matasanos' -- literally, 'kill healthy ones.' Like the old Stateside term 'sawbones.') Formal, this woman, kind of stiff. Took notes while I told my story, instructed me to lay down on her examining table. She poked around the wound, cleaned it up. A P.A. joined her, they applied a local while filling me in on what they were about to do (there is nothing quite like the sensation of a large needle going into the side of one's nose), then tossed an operating blind over my face, began stitching away with happy abandon.
As they worked, a male stood in the hallway outside the office, talking on a mobile phone. Part of his side of the conversation: "¿Sí? ¿Sí? ¿Sí? ¿Sí? ¡Joder!" ("Yeah? Yeah? Yeah? Yeah? Fuck!!")
Post-sewing, they covered the stitches with a sizeable white bandage, then sent me downstairs for a fast x-ray (no waiting!), the resulting image materializing immediately. They informed me I was fine, scheduled me to return next week for stitches-removal, sent me back out into the sunlight.
I sported a discrete, skin-colored bandage during the trip to the E.R., attracting little attention on the street and in the Metro. The bugger the clinic slapped on me was designed to attract as much attention as possible. Many people stared, all attempted at least a pretense of discretion -- all except a young woman who glanced my way, then made a face of horror.
And it was a spectacular spring afternoon -- air warm, sunshine pouring down from blue skies, people sitting at tables outside restaurants eating, chatting. Plants on balcones have burst into flower in an abrupt, explosive show of primary colors, while drying laundry has also appeared on many of those same balconies, blossoming in a parallel show of color.
I live a charmed life. An experience like this comes along, passes quickly, I get a good story out of it. I may not tell it all that well, but the story itself is not bad. And it gets me counting my blessings, which are strewn throughout my life in ridiculous abundance.
Meanwhile, Easter weekend is underway here. Tonight's news showed video clips of long traffic jams extending out from Madrid toward the coast. The city is quiet, most commercial concerns will be closed tomorrow and Friday. A good opportunity to catch up on sleep, get some reading done, go to a movie. The weather folks have warned of a drop in temperature overnight, of colder days than we've had recently.
As with most everything in this life, that'll pass. On to the weekend.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Returned to Spanish class yesterday evening after nearly four weeks of desperately-needed time away. Between the events of mid-March Madrid and trying to do a poopload of writing, I ran out of gas, not to mention time and desire to study, so that my performance in the last classes attended back then deteriorated pretty drastically. A waste of my and everyone else's time.
So here it is, mid-April. Time for another round. I am by far the oldest student in this current group, last night consisting of two females, two males. The other male is a 23 or 24 year old American slacker, here to party -- amiably, entertainingly up-front about himself in a way that produced an amused, indulgent attitude from Jesús, our instructor, who then gave us a pile of homework. Time to drag the wading boots out of the closet and get back to work.
Went this morning to get the stitches taken out of my keepsake from last week's brush with a political conversation gone bad. [See entry of April 7.] Like my last experience at this clinic, no waiting -- this time taken to a unnervingly efficient extreme. Once the payment part of the process was out of the way -- the only phase taken at a leisurely velocity -- the balance of the routine shot by at near light speed. A late-20s physician's assistant tossed me into the consult room, whipped the stitches out, smeared orange disinfectant over half my face, shoved me back out into the sunshine. The receptionist waved cheerily as I flew out the door.
I spent a few careful minutes outside the clinic entrance wiping away disinfectant from everywhere but the actual area of the stitches, hoping to minimize attention received from local fellow humans. Seemed to do a decent job, attracted little notice on the trip home. Why, you might ask, does that concern me so? Because I've come to value street-invisibility as a means of taking photos of certain moments, certain individuals.
Case in point: a 30-something Asian guy who sat next to me on a bench at la Plaza de España last week. Appeared sedate enough as he approached -- once seated, though, he put on a display of behavioral tics that didn't quit until he got to his feet and wandered away. I sat quietly, camera on my knee, while the soul next to me said not a word, speaking instead through a long series of nervous gestures. At one point he pulled out a camera of his own, though it seemed to function as a focal point for angst, not as a way to capture the moment.
And then there are scenes that present themselves after their creators have moved on. This morning: an urban image of a very specific kind, with a strangely out-of-season accent:
Spring continues to settle in over this part of the world, the sunlight already adopting the look of summer. The air still holds a cool edge that direct sunlight washes away -- step into the shadows, though, it's clear that the transition to the warm season hasn't completely taken hold yet. Regardless, as increasingly intense sunshine reaches into courtyards and passageways between buildings, they've begun to produce explosions of color, heightening the city's contrasts of light and dark.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Somewhere during the course of yesterday evening I slipped into a foul, foul mood. Not exactly sure when, not exactly sure why. Just kind of edged its way in. Unusual for me, and not my idea of a good time. Woke up this morning in the same dark humor, then heard the sound of the swifts for the first time this year -- one of the local signs that spring has truly arrived. Usually an occasion guaranteed to lift whatever mood I'm in. Not today, though. Grumble, grumble.
Yesterday I received a call from the clinic whose E.R. I visited twice this last week. On both occasions, they'd put a deposit of 100 euros on my charge card -- they phoned to say the charges had been totaled up, they wanted to give me back 50 euros. (Two E.R. visits, including stitches, removing stitches, and an x-ray: 150 euros. Amazing.)
I had to go over there for the refund, decided to do it this a.m. Stuck my camera into a jacket pocket, stepped out into yet another beautiful morning: sun pouring down, sky blue and cloudless, air holding just the slightest chill.
At the clinic, they slipped me 50 euros in bills, I scribbled my signature on a release form then stepped back outside, feeling absurdly wealthy, a silly smile on my face. Decided to skip the Metro trip home, did it in a long, leisurely stroll instead, taking pix wherever anything caught my eye. Halfway along I realized that somewhere between a nice woman slapping 50 euros in my hand and a long meander on a spring day, the foul mood had evaporated.
Along the way home:
This week has not only been a week of regular life reasserting itself after the long, long Spanish Easter season, it's also the week the new government here takes over, el Partido Popular making way for the new Socialist administration. The transition has been reasonably low-profile, meaning blessedly low-key for most of us outside the wacky world of politics. Within that perverse universe, however, there's been a fair amount of complicated maneuvering in advance of today's investiture vote in the Parliament, setting a tone for what's to come. Today's parliamentary session featured lots of speeches and the first wrangling of the political season as Rajoy, the PP's defeated presidential candidate of the recent elections and now point-person, tried to become the noisy, annoying pebble in Zapatero's shoe. As a Spanish friend of mine, a news anchorperson on one of the local stations, put it: this was just foreplay, the real politics have yet to begin.
The local brilliant nightly fix of political satire, las Noticias del Guiñol, depicted Zapatero as a figure in a white robe, halo affixed to head, frustrating the hell out of Rajoy with a stream of hyper-positive spewings in the face of repeated provocations. (Zapatero, heaving a happy sigh after annoying Rajoy to the point of bolting: "Politics -- such an innocent game!")
Tomorrow morning I get on a train and head to Barcelona for a couple of days. Expect to hear about it.
Received via email today:
"By the way, I had another dream about you last night. You were in a film with Bette Davis and you looked just like Richard Gere. I went up to you and said you were great, and you told me to fuck off. I was so angry I slapped your face. Then [a mutual friend] told me off. Everyone was against me."