creative writing

Last Night I Saw Andrea Gibson

andreagibsonfanart

and I made this for her

Last night I saw Andrea Gibson and it was as if my entire existence lead up to that moment. I stood toward the back beside Lauren with no one in front of me. I held on to her nonstop throughout. I had the clearest line of vision and the perfect amount of distance. Any closer and I think her words would have punched actual holes through my chest. I remember holding my breath for the longest sentences and only remembering to exhale when she stopped speaking.

I first knew her through her love poems and I was pleased to hear some of those. However, the most important thing she does is dismantle the patriarchy and educate about white privilege among other topics. I loved every second of the roller coaster. It was painful and I laughed. It was lighthearted and I cried. It was so important. I felt like Jack Kerouac the first time he heard Howl. My heart was beating out of my chest as I was constantly drawn out like a long thread.

I am rarely so inspired, but I have never been more discouraged. I felt meaning and passion and at once worthless. I don’t deserve to breathe her air. I don’t even deserve to be here (actual thoughts). Then panic: I have nothing important to say with my art. I may be talented, or whatever, but I don’t do anything important with my work other than indulge my own feelings. Seeing performance about social justice and things that matter really puts you in your place.

It left me changed for the better. I can only hope to become part of something much, much larger than myself. No, I can also try, even if it hurts. After all, if there’s one thing we know, it’s that it hurts to become.

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77 Days at the Bottom of the Ocean

Yesterday was the day I’ve been waiting for. Yesterday I was told that I have a clean bill of health…and it only cost me $90 to get this information. To be honest, I have been having a very hard time writing this post. Every time I sit down at my computer I start writing and then stop. Maybe I’ll get a sentence out but nothing felt right. I sat here and sipped enough coffee to know that there was something wrong with the way I was approaching this (and all of my writing lately) and today I think I finally figured it out. I wanted to convey the despair and the pain, but to be perfectly honest, the memory of this experience isn’t a bad one.

I am as surprised as you are, trust me. Yes, this was a very difficult experience wrought with tears and agony, but when I think back on it now, I actually feel happy…

I remember fantasizing about this day.  I laid motionless in a twin bed situated near the window in my Aunt’s guest room. It was beautiful outside but impossibly hot and humid. Still, it made me think of home. I envisioned the sun coming in through the windows making the wood floors glow. I’d walk slowly on my own two feet and set my things down in the spotless, empty space and breathe a sigh of relief because it was finally over.

AuntTerriGuestRoom

 

It wasn’t anything like that, of course.

It was not a triumphant return. I arrived, washed up on the shore of my messy shoe-box in the Tenderloin. I was still feeling my pain meds, still reeling from the turbulence, happy to be on the ground but emotionally and physically drained. Somewhere during the 35th minute on the phone with Comcast  I just gave up, collapsed, and cried.

Comcast

I thought back to the day I left for Maryland back on May 3rd.  After my injury everything changed so abruptly, I think I was just in shock. Of course I fought some depression. My life up until that point was entirely dependent on my ability to walk and so was my job. Oh God, what have I done?

Car

So what did my life look like over the past 84 days?

It looked like doctors appointments and x- rays. It looked like telling this story over and over again.

XRAY

It looked like hopping and crutches and struggling to dress myself. It looked like staring out of windows and writing in my journal. It looked like crying. It looked like Oxycodone.

Pills

But it also looked like blueberry pancakes and coffee.

Pancakes

It looked like wearing her clothes to bed, waking up to a hand on my shoulder and turning over to Lauren sitting there with a coffee, or a smoothie, or flowers.

 

SmoothieKing

It looked like drawing with Emma. It looked like learning guitar with Elise. It looked like folding laundry and having a very important talk with Lauren’s mother about homosexuality and relationships. It looked like long car rides with the windows down. It looked like me always sideways in the backseat holding her hand from the driver’s seat.

HandHolding

It looked like watching planes land. It looked like reading out loud in the park. It looked like music, writing, movies, laughing, art, and sleeping. And coffee. It looked like lots and lots of coffee.

Dunkin

I guess what I have realized now that I have finally resurfaced, is that this injury was a bad one, but it was also one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

KissSelfie

Trimalleolar Displaced Ankle Fracture: A Brief Medical History Pt. 2

Definitely the coolest I have ever/will ever look.

Definitely the coolest I have ever/will ever look.

“I’m gonna do one more loop. I’ll be right back”

Next thing I knew I was on the ground clutching my shin, mouth agape, staring at my left foot in shock.

My toes on my left foot were parallel with the pavement. No. My foot was rotated a full 90 degrees to the left. This is not happening.

Oddly enough, I was actually not convinced anything was wrong. I patted at the side of my foot to confirm my suspicion that my shoe had somehow gotten twisted over my foot because there is no way that was possible. I didn’t fall that hard, I wasn’t going fast, I was attempting nothing more complicated than basic forward motion on a deserted, dry parking lot in the middle of the day. What the fucking fuck.

Much to my dismay (read: horror) my foot actually was turned that way. There was no pain, no blood, just pure panic as everything came at me at once.

My flight

Work

Insurance

Hospital

Lauren

And who is going to check on my kombucha fermenting in the pantry?!

WHY GOD WHY?!

I yelled for her and she came running over. I pounded the ground with my fist and looked back at my foot in utter disbelief.  I waited for tears that never came. I don’t believe I let out any discernible words or phrases, only quick, shallow gulps of air, a long string of ohmigod’s, and intermittent gagging.

Shortly after Lauren arrived by my side, calm as ever, Steve the grounds keeper drove up and beckoned me to the curb. I had twisted myself waiting for Lauren to reach me such that my foot vaguely pointed in the right direction. I considered the possibility that I was risking further damage but I literally could not look at my foot without wanting to puke. I could taste bile.

“Do you want me to call an ambulance? What do you want to do?”

I rocked back and forth.

“Uhm….. I…… Uhm……”

I looked at my foot, then back at Steve.

“I really feel as though *gasp* decision making should not *gag* be up to me. “

I ended up deciding against the ambulance despite having health insurance. Call it pride, call it stubbornness, but rugby left me in the solid mindset that you get an ambulance if and only if you are carrying your own head. I could talk, I wasn’t even crying, so I had Lauren drive me.

Through no fault of Lauren’s, who is an impeccable driver, this turned out to be one of the most painful experience of my life. Remind me next time, to opt for the ambulance.

Although, had Lauren not been there, I surely would have died. She is an angel. Period. She maintained a completely calm demeanor the entire time, almost taking to me as if I were a child, but in the most comforting way.

“Ohmigod Lauren this hurts so badly, this is so bad.”

“I know, baby. Tell me how much it hurts. We’re going to get you there as soon as we can. First were going to go straight, then we make a left and the hospital is right there. You know, Elise and Luke were born here. Where were you born again?”

“I was born at H-Hopkins.”

“Oh wow.”

“I know, I’m hella fancy.”

And before I knew it we were there. She did all the talking and I just sat there, exhausted and in pain, asking the nurse how their days were going.

In the waiting room I made my first phone call. I called my manager, Niamh.

“Hey Niamh, it’s Katie. “

“Hi Katie, this is Niamh.”

“So I have good news and bad news. The good news, is that I asked Lauren to move to SF and be my girlfriend and she said yes.”

“Oh awesome! “

“The bad news is that I almost certainly broke my ankle.”

The rest of the conversation was fine, but it made me sad. I hate disappointing people, I hate letting people down who depend on me. It’s literally the worst feeling. But that was the main stressed I had to deal with other than my ankle, so once that was over I could focus more readily on the  matter at hand.

I spoke with Amanda, the triage nurse who, in addition to being adorable in bright red Ray-Bans, made me feel hopeful.

“It could just be dislocated. I’ve seen stuff like that happen before. “

“Yeah?  Sometimes people come in with their limbs twisted around and just walk out of here?”

“Well… Maybe not walk out… “

Okay well, that was promising. Maybe this was going to be fine after all. It could just be dislocated…You know you’re in trouble when that is your bright side point of view.

Next thing I knew I was being wheeled to the x-ray room – where the magic happens. I hopped (literally) up on the table and that was the last time I saw my foot in its state of contortion.

“I don’t want to look.”

“Okay, you don’t have to look.”

I put my hood up over my eyes.

Lauren and the nurses ran back and forth in and out of the room as they snapped pictures and I agonized without looking at my dangling limb.

“I’m going to need you to roll up her pant leg, can you do that?”

“Sure.”

*roll roll roll*

“And take her socks and shoes off. Thanks.”

I had to ask

“Any bones sticking out?”

“….Uh…No….”

Just this gruesome fucking shit.

Just this gruesome fucking shit.

I was not entirely sure. I couldn’t see my foot but I could see Lauren and the nurses looking at each other. Not the most comforting.

I would find out later, upon asking why I was given a prescription for antibiotics, that there was a small but deep “abrasion” on my foot. This may or may not be due to a bone piercing through and going back in. It’s a mystery, but we hope that’s not what happened. In any case, I am to report to the ER immediately if I experience any symptoms of infection, which according to my doctor are not that dissimilar to turning into a zombie. Red streaks resembling scratches, high fever, sweating etc.

My pant leg had blood on it which explains why it was quickly tossed in the garbage after it was cut off and I was immediately distracted. BTW, I now have a sweet pair of grey shorts that have an amazing story behind them. Jealous?

Once I was back on the gurney it hit me that the worst part was yet to come. I just knew it. In the meantime, the doctors were able to amuse themselves with these:

I'm pretty sure that doesn't go there.

I’m pretty sure that doesn’t go there.

I mean, that's not bad right?

I mean, that’s not bad right?

I could be okay.

I could be okay.

“Well, your ankle is definitely broken.”

Actually “broken” is sort of an understatement. What you are looking at here is a “trimalleolar displaced ankle fracture.” a fancy term for “you have broken every major bone in your ankle in at least one place, in addition to dislocating it.”

*tears*

“It doesn’t appear to be dislocated, but it might be it just hasn’t shown up on the x-ray. Also it looks like from where the breaks are, it’s an unstable fracture and you’re going to need surgery” (For the record: it was definitely dislocated…hella dislocated)

Lauren sat beside me and I just buried my face into her and cried. I sobbed. This cannot be happening. Can’t. Even.

I’m not really sure exactly what happened after that. I just remember Lauren attempting to comfort me while I processed and sobbed and then I was given two Percoset and left to cry for 15 minutes.

The plan was that I would get a shot of Novocaine in my ankle so they could set it. Fine. Yes. Do that. I don’t care, I just want to die.

“It’s okay, they just have to put you back into place for now. Then maybe later you can get a new robot ankle.”

Ugh. I love you.

“Do you want me to tell you what I’m about to do or–“

“Absolutely not. kthanks.” (I actually said “kthanks”)

“Okay then.”

I stared at Lauren tears in my eyes. I was not looking forward to this. The shot of Novocaine was on par with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced (the irony is not lost on me) but feeling my bones grinding together was a new level of discomfort.

Yeah, let’s go with discomfort.

“Lauren, this is so bad. This is actually the worst.”

“I know,baby. I know it is. It really is.” as she hugged me from her seated position at my side.

She held me and I clawed and cried and sobbed. I may have bit her, I’m not sure. For the 25 seconds (i.e. the eternity) the nurses were pulling and twisting my foot I felt no pain, yet, I still felt it. All of it. And I heard it (that was probably the worst part).

One final pop and I actually felt some relief. That must have been when they put my ankle back in its socket. Ahhh.

When it was over, the nurses practically high-fived each other while they remarked on how well that went. Pam even mentioned how she’d never seen a bone move that far before. Huh. I took a look at my foot again for the first time since it happened. It was all snug in its cast.

Snug.

Snug.

By this time the Percoset and the Novocaine were doing a wonderful job on me. I was feeling more like my normal self.

“Uhm, excuse me, nurse. Can we address this rather serious situation?” I said pointing to my arm. I had sustained a tiny scrape and it stung. I wanted a band-aid.

“It’s pretty bad, I think we should take care of this.” in my best dead-pan delivery I could manage. The nurses laughed and dressed my “wound.”

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be interesting. If Sami Peterson taught me anything, it is that when painful things happen, the best coping mechanism is often “I am such a sad beautiful creature.” All things considered I am very lucky. I am lucky that my health insurance kicked in FIVE DAYS prior to this incident, I am lucky my boss loves me and I have a job whenever I am able to return. I am lucky this happened in a place where I have friends and family and Lauren to take care of me. Blah blah blah *bright side* blah blah blah *it could always be worse*

But really, if the past few days have taught me anything it is that life can change drastically in an instant, and the better you are able to roll with the punches, the easier it will be. I have actually found myself quite happy despite everything. There are several inconveniences: yes, I need surgery. This will require me to stay in Maryland for at least another 6-7 weeks. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to San Francisco, or how the surgery will go. Yeah, I won’t be able to work for 12 weeks which makes me feel like a loser and everything I loved about my former lifestyle is now gone (a large part of my life depended on the ability to walk, it turns out).

However, I get unexpected time on the same coast as much of my extended family, I get to spend a lot of quality time with Lauren (unf. amazing), I can still do artwork, and read, and as my mom pointed out, I didn’t crack my head open so I am still very much myself.

It will be challenging, I still cannot believe this has happened to me, but this is just another valley of ayahuasca, another Camino. I will emerge from this an better version of myself, with a new appreciation for my body and my spirit.

And hopefully, if I’m lucky, a new robot ankle as well. 

I Just…I Can’t Today.

“This cannot be happening.” I was staring at a bloody tissue that I just took out of my ear. I also stared at the swollen muscle in my forearm. I threw the tissue away and popped 800 milligrams of ibuprofen.

“What are your plans for today? Do you want to head to the market with me?”

Yeah. I should probably do a thing. I still can’t believe this. I was so close. So close to being done with it. I sat down and began a Google search

“Blood coming out of ear.”

Cancer. Also perforated eardrum. Hmm…

“If your eardrum had burst then you’d know.” Josh explained.

“Yeah well, I’m not in that much pain. And I can still kind of hear. I’m okay, right?”

“Yeah like, I think your body is just dealing with that infection you had before. It’s just cleansing itself.”

Yeah. My body is doing me a favor. It’s working properly. It’s a champ. I’m definitely going to the market. And you know what, I’m not going to see a doctor because eff that. I’m done with doctors. I am fine. I’m totally fine.

Josh and I took an Uber to Mission Beach and I got myself a free coffee. I chatted with Mackenzie and was feeling pretty good. Soon we were on our way to the ferry building with a wad of cash and plans to get ramen. I chatted with Tommy, I called my mom. She also thought it was something minor. Like, everything is all connected there, so it’s reasonable to think that this will run its course in a day or so. Besides, I was feeling fine. I even decided to walk home. After I finished some delicious ramen, I was off. One ear-bud in, cruising down Market street on a sunny day. No problem.

It wasn’t until I got back to the apartment that I started to get uncomfortable. Like, lots and lots of pain. And then it hit me: I wasn’t feeling any pain before because of the 800 milligrams of ibuprofen I took for my wrist. I. am. an. idiot.

It hit me all at once. Excruciating. I was frantically Googling free clinics and my head was throbbing. I called an appointment-only clinic just in case they had something available. Unfortunately they did not. I then sprinted to the free clinic a few blocks from my apartment to try and get there before they closed. I was met with chains and padlocks on the doors. I stood there for a few moments, taking it all in. So much pain. Crack heads walked in front of me, behind me, they said things to me. I just stood there in shock and pain.

I said out loud to myself: “I should go to the hospital.” 

Then silently answered myself: “No, you cannot afford that. Just go home and take more pain killers and deal with it. Who knows, maybe it will go away tomorrow? Yeah, okay.”

I made it home, immediately took another 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. I laid down on Zach’s bed fully clothed, shoes on and everything, and waited. Why is this happening to me? I have been in such a state for days and days and I found myself slipping into these daydreams where someone was sitting on the bed beside me, and just had a hand on my shoulder or back. The mere thought of human contact brought me to tears. And so I just cried silently until I fell asleep.

This morning it wasn’t better. I went to the farmer’s market and barely made it home without crying. I sat down and really contemplated my situation.

“I should probably go to the doctor.”

But I really don’t want to. My insurance from work doesn’t kick in for 90 days, which might as well be an eternity at this point. But I should do something. As I mentioned in my Brief Medical History, my concern is that I have a ruptured eardrum caused by the staph infection I had. It’s the only things that fits my symptoms, and it’s the only reasonable explanation. If that is the case, it will require me to go on antibiotics, which I am quite unable to take because I’m literally, deathly allergic to antibiotics. I am afraid. I don’t want this news. I don’t want to see a doctor. But I have to because there is no other option.

I decide to take a walk. I end up at Lush (because I was probably subconsciously going there the entire time). I’m convinced Lush exists to remedy bad days and celebrate extremely good ones.  I leave with a rainbow and glitter bubble bar because I just can’t think of anything better than. When I get home I call the clinic.

“Are you in any pain?”

(define pain?)

“Well, not right now. But I did take a lot of ibuprofen earlier so it’s hard to say.”

“And you said there was blood?”

“Yes.”

“Hold on, please.”

*holds*

“Can you come in today at 2:45?”

“Uh, sure. I mean, is this something urgent. Should I be worried?”

“No, I think the doctor doesn’t think this will take very long so she can fit you in.”

Well that’s good news right? I’m feeling better about this. Things are looking up. I cab over to make sure I make my appointment on time and after an hour in the waiting room I finally see a doctor. She asks me to start from the beginning, and I tell her the whole story. I start with January 1st and I’m crying, again, obviously.

“Wow, you’ve had a really tough month. 2014 hasn’t gone so well so far has it?”

No, wait. That’s not true. Things are awesome actually, everything except this. Except that my body is betraying me every chance it gets, despite being as healthy as possible. I try to explain this to her, but she’s right. January hasn’t been going very well. I mention that the irony is not lost on me. She asks me to describe my lifestyle. I tell her I don’t drink or smoke (anything), I walk between 3-6 miles every day, I am vegan (the good, whole-food kind), I take vitamins, I exercise, I don’t put anything on my skin I wouldn’t eat. This is all just some horrible cosmic joke at this point.

“Well it does look perforated, and infected. I would say you’re right and that it was due to the staph. Let me get my resident and she can take a look just to be sure.”

*sigh*

“It’s a really good thing you came in to see us when you did. You know that right?”

“Yes. I know. Thank you.”

She made very direct eye contact with me. I could tell she was feeling sorry for me. I allowed it though because I was also feeling sorry for me.

As soon as she shut the door I threw off my glasses and buried my face in the crook of my arm. It’s done. I can’t believe that is what happened. The worst-case scenario. And that’s when I decided I was so desperate, I might as well post a super ultra-needy cry of desperation over social media about needing someone to just come and hug me. I regret nothing. I knew no one was available. I knew I would be alone the entire night, but it was important to me that someone at least know that I was in need of this. It was the best I could do. I was helpless. I was alone, on a cold table, getting bad news. I was scared. And there was no one there but me. 

She returned with her resident and I was examined a second time.

“Unfortunately, you need to take this antibiotic. The thing is, we are currently out of stock and there is a shortage. It’s expensive, but we will try to help you as much as we can, okay?”

“Ok.” I’m terrified.

“There is no reason to believe that you will have a reaction to this. Of course we can’t be 100% sure until you take it. But, it’s the only thing we can do right now. If you don’t treat it well…you run a lot of risks there as well.”

“It doesn’t sound like I have much of a choice, do I?”

“No, you don’t.”

Hoping for the best

Hoping for the best

It’s not so much that all of this was happening. I don’t really want to be told that it’s going to be okay, or that the money isn’t a big deal. I know it’s going to be fine. My course of action is clear, all things considered I’m taken care of. I know I can deal with it. I’m an adult and I’ve probably gone through worse. It’s just that, I have been so relentlessly sick with one thing after another for and taking care of myself for a solid month. It’s really getting to me. I really do just want a hug and to cry on someone. As incredibly hackneyed and melodramatic as that sounds. 

I left the doctor’s office and got on the bus, the first bus that stopped. Messages were pouring in from my embarrassing status update. I decided to hop off early when I noticed that I was at Divisadero and Hyde. I grabbed my stuff and realized I didn’t have my wallet so I pried the doors open (practically) and found it on the floor. God, could you imagine? I just sat on the sidewalk in disbelief for a moment. Thinking of what could have happened had I not realized it when I did. It was settled, I was going to take comfort in The Mill after all. I actually didn’t think I had time, but I decided to prioritize this experience I had been looking forward to all day, because of the terrible state I was in. And to celebrate not losing my wallet on SF public transit. 

I asked the guy at the counter to give me something vegan that would fix the worst day. He told me he knew just the thing and charged me for that and a coffee. I didn’t even care what it cost. He ended up bringing me a thick slice of wheat toast with honey, almond butter, pumpkin butter, and a pinch of sea salt along with my favorite coffee.

This was definitely the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience with food. I was suddenly okay with my solitude. I realized that I should take this opportunity to get better at dealing with things on my own. After all, it’s not like I am truly alone. There are so many people who love and care about me (as evidence by my phone blowing up so much it ran out of battery). This wasn’t so bad. I was going to be okay. I had my coffee and toast and a way out. It may not have been cuddles, or a hug, but the effect on me was pretty damn close.

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