I'm sorry I didn't actually catch your name. I couldn't read your badge because -- as you may remember -- I was near death, and my vision was compromised by smatterings of hot wet pain, or as you kept calling them in your classically understated way, tears. Now a full week on from The Event, I just want to check in with you and make sure you're doing OK. I've been worried about you, and I hope you know there's no shame in being a little shaken by such a traumatic experience. I'm just glad we both kept our heads under all that pressure. If you ever need someone to talk to about it, about anything, I'm here. I offer because you shouldn't have to suffer alone and because it's something I've heard other heroes say.
This is just a metaphor, I'd prefer it if we didn't hold hands.
Also, hey, as long as I have your attention, I feel like I need to clear the air about a few things that happened the night you stitched up my face. It's silly, but I recall seeing a few suppressed smiles and subtle eye rolls from you during The Event, and I want to make sure you didn't mistake my proud pallor and moans of courage for something a little closer to cowardice. If for some reason you did write me off as "weak" despite my frequent and unmistakable declarations to the contrary, I'd like to take a minute to explain away each of the moments that may have seemed, from your perspective, particularly embarrassing for me. I can't blame you for getting confused, it was a mad three hours for all of us.
That Part Where I Took Off My Clothes and Wept in the Lobby
By now you've no doubt read the full account of my injury as dictated to the ER nurse from the floor of the main entrance (I lacked the strength to pull myself clear of the automatic doors). If for some reason you haven't, the tragedy occurs at the end of Chapter 8, assuming she adhered to my rigid layout requests.
I'm confident everyone in the hospital has read it by now.
The abbreviated version is that some friends and I were swimming late at night in a Las Vegas hotel. I dove, spectacularly, from the edge of the water and flew easily 45 feet in midair, and at least 2. When I finally let gravity win, my angle of approach was perfect, my splash polite, but I had underestimated the distance of the far wall. I am used to swimming in a 50-meter pool, and this was, if I recall correctly, a hot tub. My face and the wall embraced like old friends, or more accurately, like a water balloon filled with blood and cartilage hugging a slab of concrete.
"Oops," was my first clear thought, followed closely by "Uh-oh." And finally, once I had time to weigh the situation fully, "Oh no, the source of my powers!"
Now, you may be thinking, "How does any of this explain why you took off your pants in the waiting room of the ER and cried in that windowsill?" Well, there are two answers, really. One is that in my rush to get to the hospital while still hoping to appear presentable, I put on jeans but failed to take off my sopping wet swimsuit first. And the second is that I was very very drunk.
Which I would have thought was obvious.
Now, nobody likes wearing wet jeans, so I hope that progression makes a little more sense now. As for the crying, I'd expect a doctor to know that emotions are heightened by alcohol, and I refuse to apologize for preparing myself for the worst-case scenario. It may not have been obvious to you, but behind the swelling scabs and blood-soaked towel, I am very handsome. Some would say abusively so. I don't expect you to understand how catastrophic it would be for a handsome person to lose his handsomeness (how could you, with that sloping forehead, that ear hair?), but my whole identity and my entire life hinge on me being good-looking, forever. That's why, when we first met, instead of introducing myself like a normal person, I instead asked you through deep sobs who was going to love me now. See? Not so weird after all.
That Part Where I Requested to Be Carried to My Room
There's no way you could have known this at the time, but I am a big fan of blood staying inside bodies. Loose blood makes me very anxious, particularly when it is my own. While some people have called it a "crippling phobia," I prefer to think of it as a "realistic understanding and respect for the value of life, goddammit." Everything about exposed blood looks and smells like a warning, and anyone who is comfortable ignoring that warning probably has a numb and calloused soul.
"We have traded in our instincts for money."
I am not cavalier about letting blood go; it's mine, I made it, and it's mine.
Now, as you saw, a facial wound coupled with hot water and topped up with alcohol is the perfect combination for a blood storm, something I genuinely try to avoid by passing out. But in this circumstance, the nurse at the front desk told me several times that passing out was the one thing I wasn't allowed to do. So I had to lie there on my windowsill, with my life force seeping into a towel while I waited for you to come help me.
On top of all of that, I'm no idiot, Doc. I know that somewhere behind those double doors that lead to the serious side of the hospital, you have gallons of blood hidden. You probably have whole trash bags of blood back there, filled so full that their seams are stretching, and now snapping. Frankly, I'm surprised every time an elevator door opens in a hospital and The Shining wave of blood doesn't come roaring out. You have all gotten very lucky for a very long time.
Pictured: Surely at least one hospital, right now.
So I hope with that context, it's a little clearer why I refused to move when you asked me to follow you through those doors. And why, when you turned to look at me, I made the request to be carried. I'm not crazy, you are just dead inside from cutting up cadavers your whole life.
Cont. on page 2
That Part Where I Freaked Out in the MRI Machine
Let me preface this by saying that I'm not claustrophobic. I was even sort of looking forward to the MRI, or at least the moment when you and a full team of doctors returned to my room with the results on a translucent sheet, all of you stumbling over each other to tell me you had never before captured an imagination so magnificent.
But here's the thing. As soon as that machine started moving, I had a horrible thought that I was lying on the tongue of some giant robot head and I was about to be eaten. You had dropped me into that room as a sacrifice and then run to the room adjacent to watch it consume me. As silly as that sounds, it would have been even more silly to just let it happen if it turned out to be true. I was 86 percent certain it was an MRI machine, but how stupid would I have felt if, just this once, you really were feeding me to some mechanized beast and I just lay there? The answer is pretty stupid.
"Burble garble, slurp."
I am a survivor by nature, precisely because I never sit idly by when I suspect something might be trying to ingest me. That's why I punched it in the roof of the mouth and crawled out while you yelled at me from next door. But in a way, it's really your fault for not explicitly telling me before we started that this was not a sacrifice and that the MRI machine couldn't smell my wounds. I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but I'm sure your future patients would appreciate a heads-up like that.
That Part Where I Locked Myself in the Bathroom Until You Found a Smaller Needle
Of all the ups and downs we shared that evening, I suspect the first, second and fourth attempts to suture my face were probably the hardest on you. I'm sorry for that. Still, I think it's important to point out that what might have looked like my fearlessness wavering was actually another big misunderstanding. One I'm sure you and I will laugh about over a beer someday in the distant future when we meet up each year at your place on the anniversary of The Event.
You don't have a hot tub, do you?
Here's what really happened: Right after you showed me the size of the hook you wanted to stab between my eyes, I decided I needed to throw up. These two things were completely unrelated.
I've heard that patients aren't supposed to eat before major surgery, and given the severity of my wound, I knew we didn't have time to wait for me to digest all that buffet shrimp and ice cream I pounded to sober up on the way out of the hotel. I was only trying to give the procedure the greatest chance of success. Also, come on, you could have caught a deep sea fish with that needle.
There's no way it was designed for anything other than torture.
Now, I understand you had been through a lot already that night, and admittedly, some of it looked a lot like my fault at first glance. But I could hear in your tone of voice when you were shouting through the bathroom door that you weren't in any condition emotionally to be performing an operation. Some people fold in high-stress situations, and I can't fault you for that. You are only human. I just wanted to give you a chance to cool off and settle down before stitching up my favorite part of me. The last thing either of us needed, the last thing our friendship needed that night/dawn, was a revenge suture.
I appreciate your willingness to find a smaller needle and to describe it to me through the door. By that point I think we finally started operating as a team and everything went a lot smoother. In fact, the next two times I locked myself in the bathroom didn't feel nearly as long.
In the end, I think we can both walk away feeling proud of the way we handled the whole fiasco. Even now, like a butterfly emerging from a brown and scaly chrysalis, my face has already started to heal and surface from under the scabs. And when people ask me to tell them the story of how it happened, I always tell them about you, about the night we saved my face together and how I helped soften your deadened heart. See you in a year, old friend.
For more from Soren, check out Dear Hotmail: What The Hell Happened to You? and A Letter to God Following the Cancellation of the Rapture.