I’m doing the best I can here, without my skin.
It started with tiny incisions that I tried to plug with aspirin, but then a sharp edge got hold and the migraine peeled me raw. I haven’t had time to grow my skin back before the start of my writing workshop, so I sit on my meditation pillow and listen to my heart stagger around in my chest.
My last four day headache started with a bad decision regarding the placement of a ladder. The silver feet slipped a little and I thought, I’ll just grab hold of this roof beam, take some weight off the ladder so it stops sliding.
Then I heard a snap and saw Raine’s face close to mine. She looked scared. There were voices and hands. I was packed up, tucked in, compacted onto a spine board. People were running around, talking about coast guard versus chopper and making bloody boot prints on the deck.
Before the second day of workshop, I look at pictures of my mother. Later in the morning, her face floats through my meditation. In a breath, I am on my back on the deck again, lying in the broken glass, looking up. But it’s not my partner I see – it’s my mom. She is talking to me and running her fingernail in soft circles around my ear like she used to do when I was little and feeling sick. I lay immobilized on the spine board and watch her lips, strain to make out her words but I can’t hear anything. I create a script for her:
Oh my sweet girl, you’ll be alright. Mama’s here, Love.
I cringe at my screenwriting: she could never say that. The best she could do would be to sing a hymn into my ear – borrowed words of comfort.
The meditation ends and I wipe tears from my cheeks, step outside to compose myself.
Take it to the page, the workshop leader says, and so I try, but I can’t remember. I feel the sensation of falling when I turn my head, stoop to tie my shoes, when the room grows stuffy. But I can’t remember.
Racing electrons out of orbit crisscross the surface of my body where my skin used to be – full of light or darkness. Maybe both.
The headache never leaves – floats at times but inevitably buzzes back to the scene of the crime, hunkering down behind my left eye.
I have been nauseous for most of these four days. Sitting by doors, tissue at hand, making exit strategies for every new configuration of the workshop day.
I think I’m gonna puke, I said to the ambulance crew. A voice: That’s okay. We’ll just tip the board over. You go ahead if you need to.
The scar is itchy numb when we meditate on the last day. I always wanted to thank the doctor who stitched my face – took such time in the midst of all that chaos. No power, people everywhere. Then he tried to hurry me out the door with the IV port still in my arm. Making room for more.
I think I’m gonna puke, I said to the stranger in the helicopter who kept waking me up to ask if I was okay. My hair was caught in the joint of the spine board, which I explained to him. I even showed him where. But now I remember that my hands where pinned to my side so perhaps my memory of pointing to the sore spot is flawed. Perhaps my mumbling was misinterpreted. Perhaps I said nothing at all.
We sit, we write, and I am pulled constantly back by the pain in my skull to a lost memory, a blank page in a journal about a fall – it goes right after the slipping ladder and before the spine board. An injury not so bad, really, but still alive and wandering below my surface like the chigger larvae.
I jump at loud noises, I bump my shoulder on a door jam and stutter the rest of the day. I have lost whole files of memory, randomly selected from the recent or distant past; I have no idea what all has been lost.
I think I’m gonna puke, I said to the emergency room nurse. She put a little kidney bowl beside my face and they tipped the board. The bowl looked pretty small.
I’m sorry, I said as she wiped the wall. That’s okay, she said pleasantly. We’re used to it. What did you have for lunch, before the accident? The doctor wants to know.
Did I have lunch? Did I have a before? Existence can be reduced to one bubble at a time – right then, a smelly cubicle with a water-stained ceiling. Already the chopper ride faded.
Raine arrived while I was having a CT scan. Heard me kibitzing with the technician and wept with relief. The small chopper has no room for family – she had to sit through two agonizing ferry rides to find out if I was alive or dead.
She brought some clothes to replace those cut off me, but she forgot shoes. I left the hospital in sock feet, the painkillers and I giggling together. What did we have for lunch, I slurred. Borscht, she replied, hanging on to my arm tightly. Ah!
In the hotel room, I laid in the bath while she cried softly and gently washed the blood out of my hair.
She remembers what I cannot. What is trapped in her mind is trapped in my body and we move on, move past, move around. But every once in a while that blank page makes me dizzy and nauseous. I want to stick my finger down my throat, bring it up, get it out – but the bowl looks pretty small.
I focus on the workshop. I fill that page with other things – a perfect lake, the soft brown body of a squirrel. A bit of skin returns. I listen to others, inhabit their stories for a few minutes and I’m glad for my open, raw heart.
I do the best I can without my skin. I live beyond my scars. We all do.