Bad Vibrations

I fell in the bathroom six hours ago. Way to go me, right? 

It took a while to lose the fuzziness of the concussion, but it’s much nicer now that I don’t feel like I’m about to start drooling. 

You know what really sucks, though? A jerky, vibrating CT scan with a concussion. When you have to lie on the swollen side of your head. The bouncing was not fun.

I also injured my ankle a bit. Got some X-rays of that bad boy.

And I only had to announce my LMP and explain my fertility status seven times so far this ER visit.

I’ll keep you posted on the rest of my miserable weekend–because I will definitely be sore tomorrow. When I fall, I do it right.

Radio Silence

Life is hard. Ah, that old prosaism. It’s true, though no one will ever understand its extent. How can we? Every event, every action, every happening; we think that wasn’t so bad or at least I survived or it can’t get any worse.

Sometimes it can. Sometimes it does.

People are unfathomable. Why do we do the things we do? Why has “integrity” become a hot buzzword in businessland instead of an honest-to-goodness value that we teach our children? What happened to the concept of honor?

I know, I know that good people exist in this world. I know that good things happen. I believe in the power of random acts of kindness. I know firsthand the feeling of warmth that comes from simply being nice.

And yet.

I also know the dreamlike feeling of metaphorically running in quicksand. I know the pain and confusion and emptiness of broken trust. I know the staticky sound of radio silence in my head when it seems that the whole world is against me.

I know that the depths of madness into which life can spiral are infinite.

Still, I am grateful. I am thankful not to know the next bump in the road, not to know when it’s a cliff instead of a pothole. Not to know when my world is ending.

I have never felt such empathy for poor Cassandra, burdened with her foreknowledge, as trusted as the boy who cried wolf. In comparison, Sisyphus had it easy. Oh, those ancient Greeks. Such an understanding of the human condition.

How bad can it get?

Never ask. Never. Life will take your question as a challenge. You do not have the patience of Job.

We all have a point of despair. Every time that point is reached, we cry, we break, we die a little inside. Every time the wound heals, that point is pushed a little farther back. And like a bone is stronger in the place it once was broken, we can take a little more. We made it through the last one, we can make it through this one. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Until that strength becomes the burden. Life is hard, but surviving the tragedies can bring that pervasive pill of bitterness, the black hole that sucks the joy from everyday living.

Why bother to trust again? Why bother to love again? Why bother to try again? It will all end badly; it always does.

But it doesn’t. Everything does not turn to ashes, and even from ashes, a phoenix may rise.

Life is hard.

There is no shame in despair. There is no shame in surrender. But one decision is not the right decision for us all.

There is no shame in fighting for truth and honor and justice. There is no shame in trying to be strong.

There is no shame in surviving.

The shame lies in the heart of the liar.

Knowing the Stories

We hear all the time about knowing the whole story, or not knowing it. I read a book once in which a couple of the characters made a game of making up background stories while they people-watched. It’s something I think about sometimes while I’m cooling my heels at my kiosk.

I find that I’m not willing to make up a backstory for the people I see walking by. It was one thing for me and my coworkers to diagnose the patients walking into the ER when I was a registration clerk; it’s easy to deduce ‘cut herself washing dishes when a glass broke’ from a woman in her mid-thirties walking through the doors with a towel wrapped around her hand at 830pm. It’s something else when it’s just people, no clues, just shopping or mall-walking.

But there is someone in particular who catches my attention. The manager (I assume, from his demeanor) of one of the shoe stores I’m surrounded by. Because I’ll never forget him. I know him, but I don’t know him at all.

When I was seventeen, I went to the mall a lot. Duh, right? One night stands out in my mind, especially when I look through the shop window and see this guy working in his store.

My boyfriend and I went to the mall, and as we were walking to the entrance, a friend of mine was walking out. He was close by the doors, and we were still out in the parking lot, when I saw three guys running toward my friend. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t look like the type of people this friend would have known, although they did look like people I’d know. They ran up and two of them grabbed him so the third could get a good punch in, right to the face. My friend dropped, and they ran off, leaving my friend bleeding on the ground. I started running, and by the time I got there, he was seizing. Someone called 911, and before I knew it there were cops and paramedics pushing the crowd away so they could take care of him. What luck the mall is next door to the fire and police stations, eh?

The cops took a few statements from some people, and my boyfriend led me back to the car. It was hours before I could talk and unclench my fists.

The next day I called the hospital and got my friend’s room. He was asleep, but his mom told me about his broken cheekbone and jaw. She thanked me for trying to help him. I hadn’t done anything but keep any misled Samaritans from trying to shove a stick in his mouth while he was seizing, but she thanked me for that.

It was a few more days before we could visit him. I went with another friend who’d dated him a few times, and he told us he knew who it was, because they’d been bothering him for a couple of days. They thought he was someone else. It turns out the guy had a roll of quarters in his fist. My friend said the guy had been arrested.

A broken face for a mistaken identity. I don’t understand how someone can justify that. It was only a few weeks later that I started seeing the attacker at the mall again. I might have seen him a million times before and never paid attention, but now he was somebody. He was one of the bad guys, and I couldn’t help but recognize him. From seeing him so soon, I could only gather that he didn’t do much, if any, jail time for what he’d done.

My friend didn’t want to talk about it, and I can’t blame him for that. He moved away, and I lost touch with him. I moved away. The blood is long gone from the pavement. The hospital room is even gone now.

But some days, I am again staring at a man who severely injured a friend of mine. When he’s behind his register, it’s almost the same distance that we were apart that night.

When I stand there at work and think about knowing people’s stories, I can’t help but wonder if anyone he works with knows that one. Or if anyone in his life knows that one. I wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he ever even admitted to himself that he hurt the wrong person.

No one can guess a story like this from a casual encounter while buying a new pair of Jordans. No one.

But in the same way, no one can guess our story, mine and Ian’s and Abby’s, by seeing our debate over strawberries versus tomatoes in the produce department.

I’m left with an unwelcome feeling of connection with a person I wish had never entered my life in such a way. I wish he’d made a different decision. I wish his was a familiar face only because I’m in front of his store a few hours a week. I wish the story I know was a story that someone had made up, knowing nothing of the person they’d just caught a glimpse of.

I do appreciate that it’s me that has to look at him, and not my friend. It is hard to have to face the person who unapologetically knows they’ve caused you so much pain, and on a regular schedule.