A Forensic Study of a Writer’s Fall by James LaFond
Two weeks ago at this wee hour [2:30 a.m.], I was being wheeled into an emergency room bay at Franklin Square Hospital after having awakened at 12:11 a.m., on my feet, feeling like I had just come through a standing KO, blood running down my face.
Over the next three days I would be asked to recount the sequence of events and my history of waking up in the wrong circumstances ad nauseam.
A chill in the back of my neck challenged the warm fountain that was my face.
I had lost four hours.
The last time I looked at the computer monitor, as I considered the last few minutes of a podcast before crawling onto my futon mattress and under the quilt made by Ishmael’s wife on the floor to my right, the computer screen read 8:14 p.m., a view that stands clear, unnervingly clear, in my mind.
My first thought was the mess and my embarrassment.
The shot I had poured for myself was gone, but the beer was still there, un-drunk, warm and flat. I wasn’t drunk in the least, not even buzzed. Should I pour it out?
Yes, I did, somehow, for the empty mug was here, when I returned, un-washed.
There was a lot of blood. I could see where my nose hit and bled on the edge of the white desk and where it hit again on the keyboard tray below, and at my feet there was blood in a star pattern where my face had obviously smacked.
These were all deductions.
I recalled nothing but the two bracketing times.
I grabbed a red shirt and soaked it on my face as I stood, weaving, heavily concussed, but in no pain. It felt as if I had just eaten a left, a hard straight one, just some pressure and numbness on the nose.
The red shirt was soaked.
I grabbed a black shirt and soaked that.
“This is bad,” I thought to my stunned self. “I’ll have to tell Steve, ask him for a ride to the hospital. No, I can fix this. It’s just a broken nose.”
The black shirt and red shirt soaked, I put them on, then grabbed a burgundy washcloth so that the blood wouldn’t show. By the time I got my socks and shoes and a jacket on [my son told me I also turned off my computer, which I do not recall] the wash cloth was soaked and I pocketed it, grabbing an embarrassing sky blue cloth.
I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.
I saw a piece of bone poking out of the top of my nose—which was off center—with blood squirting up in front of my eye every time my heart beat.
I applied pressure, cleaned up the blood, so that my dyke roommate wouldn’t think I was carving up black bitches in her bathroom, and walked into the TV room to find Steeve. With an amazed look he offered a ride and took me to the ER, where the lady behind the desk took one look at my face and said, “Oh, hell—head of the line—what happened to you, sir?”
“Beware old white desks with cosmetic surgery ambitions.”
For three days I was wheeled around on stretchers by nice young people, catered to by an army of little Filipina babes and had to deal with only one dindu tech, stoked with bitterness and hatred—my mission to make her smile.
I was a fall risk, so anytime I got out of bed to stretch in that ridiculous backless gown, some nurse, aid or tech would come running. Once it was her. She told me to sit down and took my blood pressure. I don’t know how blood pressure works, so asked her what the numbers were and what they meant.
She snapped, “124 over 80!”
“Is that good or bad?”
She beamed eyes of envy at me and snarked, “Oh it's real good.”
I then got up and began stretching, hanging my head down by the floor. I was in terrible pain in my hip and knee and back from spending more time laying down in 24-hours than I normally spend in a week or two.
She suggested a prone stretch and I told her I head done that one thrice.
She then looked at me and said, “Okay, I would feel better if you did this facing the bed.”
I then looked out in the open hallway, where I would be facing away from, if I complied and said, with a nod at her rumble seat and a wink, “If I had a nice ass I might.”
She shook her head in disgust and postured, but could not hold back the smile as she declared me crazy and went on her ebony way.
Many, many tests later, on the third day I was permitted to take a shower, but only if this smoking hot Goth-girl nurse's aid and the cut-as-porcelain doll Filipina nurse assisted me. I had numerous sticky pads stuck to my hairy chest and belly which they had to remove. The Filipina nurse scrunched her face in empathy and squeaked, “They should have shaved you. This must be so painful, as she tugged for two minutes on one tenacious pad, which caused my skin to separate into a cut when she finally pried it loose with the hair attached. The Goth-girl then asked, “Fast or slow?”
Determined not to flinch, I said, “Rip ‘em off, baby.”
And with gusto she tore all the rest of the pads off, the Filipino nurse wincing at the fabric-tearing sound of my hair ripping out in patches as the Goth-girl raised both of her eye-bows in excitement and snarled, “Now you know how it feels when we have to get waxed!”
I could not help myself, “So you’re getting in too?”
They both giggled and vacated the hairy space…
The food was excellent, the nutrition staff consisting of gay men who sneered at me and more little porcelain dolls who treated me like some important chief.
I once had a female transporter—I think that was for the ultrasound of my arteries—who was popular among the older ladies on the housekeeping staff, who asked about her fiancé, apparently a hospital employee who had moved onto something better. They asked about the many Christmas gifts that they suspected she had been showered with and she responded that it was so and that she felt so inadequate because she could only afford to get him a sweater. The older black lady said, “Oh don’t you worry, Girl!”
I was surprised how much transporters talked to me and she was no exception, “Mister James, is there something better than a sweater—my mother was no help at all.”
That statement said a lot to me, that there was no dad in her life. It then occurred that I had neglected my duty and not appraised the young lass.
She was now walking me from the side as she swung the stretcher around for a turn and I sat up and checked her out—a pleasing brunette shorty, only five feet tall, maybe 100 pounds, with perfect proportions and really big brown eyes.
I laid back down and said, “Put a bow in your hair and sit under the tree.”
She giggled, “That’s what he told me.”
I told her, “Stick with him—you’ve got one of the few men left out there.”
Eventually, my pretty Hindu doctorette, came for a serious interview and wanted to know everything about my decision to stop working. I told her that I had been passing out at my desk for almost a year and that for the past few months I have not recalled going to bed and would often wake to obvious signs that I had fallen out of my chair.
“And you did not think to seek medical care?”
She then asked about work and I told her about straining myself yelling at the first set of muggers on my last trip to work, because, “I didn’t want to stab them.”
“You were going to stab them?” she asked, taking a step away.
“You saw no other logical course of action?” she asked, as she crossed her arms in judgment.
Remembering that my friend Doc Lumsden told me that MD’s were now supposed to question patients about aggression and weapons in their lives, I decided to risk the censure of this fine Semitic philly, I answered “None.”
She backed all the way up against the cabinets, snuggled herself with crossed arms and then said, “All tests have come back negative. Despite a total lack of regard for your health you still possess it. You are experiencing sleep paralysis, a condition which, when seated and asleep mimics a seizure. This is brought on by severe sleep deprivation. I did this in my residency. It is not something a person does for decades without serious consequences. This will eventually cause brain damage. You must sleep, eight to ten hours a day, at night.”
After watching my son’s house for the holidays I found myself back home, faced with cleaning up a mess that was much worse than it looked at a glance, with blood on redwood stain. As I spent an hour on my hands and knees with dish liquid and alcohol, using up a roll of paper towels, I tracked the struggle of my unconscious self over the course of seven feet of hardwood floor.
I had thought I hit desk, keyboard and then floor, and do know that I bruised my left knee when I pivoted unconscious in my swivel chair and slapped my face on the floor. My hard palate is still bruised. I had counted myself lucky not to lose teeth. Now, as I traced the numerous different bleeds and impacts I began to pity the poor mindless bastard that struggled across this floor for what might have been minutes or even hours, where I had thought it was seconds.
-Blood squirted from my nose at the impact on the desk edge, but I seemed to have slept there long enough to make 4 nose prints and abate the blood flow.
-My dry nose then dragged across the key-board, leaving some blood on the tray.
-A star-burst of blood seems to have resulted from me falling to a knee as the a chair pivoted, then standing and stepping back, then falling face first right next to the seat.
-I then raised myself to squirt blood to the right across my Tribes binder and my face pancaked again.
-I attempted to drag myself with bloody hands into bed. Thank God I didn’t make it. My right hand reached the mattress.
-Then my face hit the floor again, causing the last of three starbursts. I laid there and apparently moved my face in stages, that caused four distinct, resting nose prints.
-At about 12:10-11 I stood, blood running and squirting, from approximately the same position where I had stood after falling to my knee, before taking the hardest fall.
I’ll never know.
But that animal that crawled blindly across this hardwood floor in its own blood lived a life of its own for whatever time was granted him, between an arrogant man’s refusal to write off a poor day’s effort and a concussed mind’s attempt to piece together that point in time when body and mind failed a driven will as one faltered being.
It feels like no accident that the coldest winter in recent memory now chills this desk.
Winter in a Dying City
(c) 2017 James LaFond