When my daughter nearly fell face first in to her desk today, it reminded me of the time I DID fall face first into the coping of my local community center pool when I was eight years old: we attendees of our urban summer day camp were permitted to go to "The Cenna" twice-a-week.
That particular day, I was breaking the easily breakable rules by running from away from a lanky, older Puerto Rican boy, with red elastic swim trunks and a thin gold chain clinging to his neck. He was trying his best to kiss me in public, and fenced in by chain-link, all I could do was run.
I sat aside with some counselor I didn't know, bleeding into my bloody, wadded-up tank top after my chin hit the concrete, waiting for my mother.
My mom came to pick me up in our blue Escort wagon. I screamed when she told me I had to go to the hospital for stitches. Needless to say, when I arrived to the big, white hospital, I had conjured up an image of the activities to come and was terrified.
So when the doctor who tried to sew me up lay me down on an exam table to shoot me with Novocaine, I freaked. I screamed and wailed. My mom sat helpless to the side of me as I did everything in my bony power to avoid the fate I had imagined in my head. I hadn't been to a hospital since being born. I eventually got my mother and doctor to believe that I had to go to the bathroom. Once in that ochre, wallpapered lavatory, I locked myself in and refused to come out. They had to call for a janitor to get the door open. I fluctuated between screaming my best horrific sounds or sitting in silence, refusing to open the door.
Once, forceably removed by an orderly and flailing in the best acting job I had performed to-date, they wrestled my arms from my body and put me in a straight jacket.
My mother watched as the baby she bore from her womb was now subdued, hands pinned over and behind my back by orderlies, canvas and leather. Imagine what she was thinking she gave birth to.
I didn’t stop yelling during this forcible take-down, of course. Yet when the needle of Novocaine hit my raw chin bone, it was a feeling and a texture so different than anything I had ever experienced, I was mesmerized. The sandy scrape of metal against naked bone was eerily excellent.
As the doctor sewed and pulled my thin, young skin I said, "I like the way this feels, this feels good."
The nurse, my mom, the doctors, and even the orderly in his white, too-tight-garb, laughed in harmony. 'Betcha the janitor was laughing at my Exorcist behavior as he walked down the flourescent-lit hall to another scene.
I guess hospitals, like obstacles, are never as bad as we think they will be.