To the people who have followed this blog since the beginning, I appreciate your patience and constant encouragement to finish the work on my book. To those visiting for the first time, welcome to my story. I began this blog as a way of unpacking some of the lessons I have learned over the course of my life’s journey. It has slowly turned into a sort of memoir- or, as I call it, a “mis-rememoir”.
I have finished writing the first draft and have completed two edits. Once I find an editor to do a final review, I will be ready for publishing. In the meantime, I wanted to share a taste of what I have been working on and see what y’all think. I am nervous and excited to hear any feedback (good or bad). This is the first chapter in its entirety.
Here goes nothing:
The Misremembered Life of MyKO
A Misrememoir by
My eyes open to the image of a face reflecting back at me in disbelief. Although everything is blurry, I can see dried blood caked around a gaping wound in the middle of my forehead. A gash measuring four inches in length is splayed open running diagonally from the middle of my forehead to a point right between my eyes. Periodically, warm trickles of blood stream over the bridge of my nose and into my eyes causing them to sting intensely, blinding me momentarily.
The attending physician has decided to leave the wound open in the event that it becomes infected; A nurse is preparing a shot that will be injected directly into the wound. As she inserts the needle, a watery stream of blood pours straight into my left eye, the sting of which is worse than the shot.
I am told I cannot lie back. Under no circumstances am I to close my eyes or sleep. I am not supposed to stand up. If I need to vomit, I should try to keep my head up and not bend over. They can’t give me any pain medicine, not even aspirin for my raging headache. In a few minutes I will need to drink in sixteen ounces of a liquid containing a special die that will assist the doctors in determining the full extent of my injuries. They are waiting for me to stop vomiting before they give me the liquid. They can’t give me any water until I have drunk the liquid dye.
My wife, Eleanor, has kept up her façade of optimism for the last four hours since rushing me here. Somehow she has been able to suppress her gag reflex and fight through her normally squeamish constitution. As someone who recoils at the first sight of blood, her ability to tend to my wound and then drive me to the hospital was nothing short of heroic.
I vaguely remember the ride here:
Eleanor chose the backroads to avoid the traffic that chokes the most direct path. I could feel every bump jostling me as I tried to hold still, fighting back the urge to wretch, each turn starting my head spinning again.
The skin on my face felt sticky, like it had been painted with grease paint at a carnival. I could feel it crackling and splitting every time I opened or closed my eyes. I could sense pressure building under my skin between my eyebrows.
Our normally “new car” smelling Honda Odyssey reeked of onion, the aroma of which was so strong that my eyes watered as if I was chopping one right there in the passenger seat. The odor was strangely calming and provided a distraction from the intense nausea.
When the traffic finally relented, we arrived at the hospital to find the ER entrance free and clear. Driving much faster than normal, Eleanor collided with one of the concrete pylons installed in front of the double doors that led to the emergency department, offering one final jolt to punctuate the wild ride.
Opening the door, I spilled out onto the pavement. My left leg was unsteady and my left arm too limp to stop my fall. And yet, somehow, the cold, wet pavement was a relief over riding shotgun. Eleanor collected me off the ground and propped me up on one of the pylons before hurrying inside for help.
After a few minutes, she returned with a young man pushing a wheelchair. They sat me gently into the chair and wheeled me into the intake area for the ER. Coming through the automatic double-doors, it felt like entering the atrium of a mega church, everything shiny and polished, massive expanses of stained glass windows climbing ridiculously high into the night’s sky. Perfectly manicured ferns and palm trees created a medical oasis in the middle of a cul de sac jungle.
Wheeling up to one of the numerous intake desks, a portly woman sat behind the counter, her eyes not moving from her computer screen. The nameplate on the desk said “Trudy- Trust Me, I’ve Seen Worse”. Her penciled-on eyebrows looked like vinyl stickers and her blush was two shades too pink for her pale skin. A lopsided clump of stringy dishwater-blonde hair was fighting its way out of a hair tie that had been used well beyond its useful life.
As we waited for Trudy to decide if we deserved her attention, I had a gander at the fellow being attended in the next booth: He was an older man, probably in his late seventies or early eighties. He was dressed in a bright pink cycling get-up that would normally be skin-tight but hung as loosely as did the leathery skin on his arms. I couldn’t suppress my laughter; Is this what a fairy godmother would wear to the Tour de France?
From what I could ascertain, a motorist had run into him while he was stopped at a stop sign. I wondered if the fashion police were now authorized to use deadly force in extreme cases of fashion faux pas- If so, this guy must’ve been let off with a warning.
Trudy finally tired of making us wait needlessly and spoke without turning her eyes to me. “What can I do for you,” she said flatly.
“I think I need to see a doctor,” I said.
“What seems to be the problem?” she asked. She turned her head as the words left her mouth. “Oh,” she said after seeing my face. “Yeah, you’ll probably need to have that looked at.”
Trudy returned her gaze back to the computer screen and began typing furiously. Even in my dazed state I was impressed by her incredible poise. How was she able to type so quickly with such long, elaborately painted fake finger nails? Her keyboard prowess suggested a relation to Edward Scissorhands.
The wait for Trudy to finish writing her manuscript was interminable. As the minutes passed by, the pain in my head became more acute. The sterile smell of the hospital mixed with Trudy’s cheap perfume stirred my stomach. “I think I am going to throw up,” I muttered.
“Aw, hell no!” Trudy replied, spinning in her chair like a ballerina performing a perfect pirouette. She snatched up the phone from her desk and barked over the loud speaker, “Triage in ER, stat!”
As we waited for the nurse to arrive, Trudy muttered under her breath. “No. Uh uh. Hell no, not again. I ain’t trynna have no blood and puke on my desk again.”
“It’s about damn time,” she exclaimed as the nurse came through the sliding double-doors. “Y’all gonna need to do his intake inside ‘cuz cleanin’ puke ain’t in my job description!”
The nurse whisked me through the double-doors and into the ER as Trudy continued to complain about how she got blood and vomit under her finger nails the last time a patient was sick at her desk.
Now we are in a private room. The nurse closes the sliding glass doors and transfers me to a bed. She raises the head of the bed so I am sitting almost completely upright. Lying back on the bed, I close my eyes and sleep comes in an instant.
Now the nurse is calling my name and Eleanor is shaking me. “Mr. Liar! Mr. Liar! Michael! Wake up!” They are both shouting at me. Apparently, falling asleep when presenting with head trauma is frowned upon in this establishment. Shaking off sleep, I see my reflection for the first time in the sliding door glass.
When the nurse turns on the overhead light and points it in my face, she notices a make-shift band aid on my wound and shoots a puzzled look to Eleanor. “It’s onion skin. It’s to stop the bleeding,” Eleanor explains.
The onion skin trick is an old-school home remedy which has been passed down over many generations in Eleanor’s family: peeling a layer of onion so thin that it is transparent, it is applied like a band aid. Something in the onion is believed to work as a coagulant. In my case, it stopped the torrent of blood streaming out long enough to get me to the hospital without bleeding all over the car.
I examine the badge hanging from the nurse’s neck as she examines my wound; her name is Brandy and she can’t be more than twenty-three years old. A brief moment of panic grips me as I marvel at how beautiful Brandy is- Eleanor can be jealous from time to time and I don’t need to complicate matters by appearing to gawk at the woman assessing the gash on my face.
Brandy uses a pair of tweezers to remove the onion skin. As I feel her tug at it, the bond it has made with my skin breaks and the effect is like a levy giving way. A torrent of blood rushes out and I see it dripping down onto my shirt and pants a second before it floods my left eye. The surprise causes me to jerk my head which rips the rest of the onion skin off opening the wound completely.
Brandy looks as though she is going to pass out, throw up or both. She reaches over to the tray laden with medical supplies for a wad of gauze and presses it to my forehead stopping the flow. She motions to Eleanor to hold it in place while Brandy calls for the attending physician.
An elderly gentleman enters the room and soberly assesses the situation. He instructs Brandy to prepare a new bandage and a tetanus shot. After administering the shot, he enumerates the battery of tests that will be needed. He looked at me gravely and lamented that it was going to be a long night for us.
Eleanor did her best to lift my spirits as the hours slowly dragged on in the ER. Against her advice, I stood to take a closer look in the tiny mirror mounted on the wall. I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The sight of the open wound and the swelling bruise was ghastly. I sat back down quickly as my stomach began to turn.
She joked that the nurses had brought in pain meds and gave them to her to ease the pain of having to look at me in such a state. On the bright side, she offered, if I throw on some round glasses and wear a cloak for Halloween, surely everyone would know I was Harry Potter. Even with my face split open and my head pounding, that one got a laugh.
Mindless reality TV shows and talking heads on cable news programs are the only offerings on the silent TV screen in the room. It’s all the same because I cannot tilt my head up high enough to see it without feeling the rush of bile come up my throat. The assortment of tabloid, fitness and women’s magazines are not much more interesting.
There is a shift change at ten o’clock. An older, much more stern nurse comes in to check on me. She has a bottle that contains what I assume is the liquid with the die in it. My stomach lurches as I recall the way Brandy described what I could expect of the taste. Bertha, my new nurse sets the bottle down on the counter and takes a seat at the computer without a word or eye contact. Judging by her bedside manner, this must be her second job; her other job, of course, would be working the counter at the DMV alongside Trudy.
With the congeniality of an entitled teenager, she confirms my personal information and asks me the same questions Brandy asked nearly four and a half hours prior. Finally looking up from her computer screen, she stands and fidgets with the stethoscope draped around her neck and takes my vitals. “I need to know exactly how you did this to yourself and all of your symptoms,” she said, her question felt like an accusation.
I can’t capture the words that are running free in my head- Everything is swept up in the tornado spinning inside my skull. My head throbs like a bell being rung at high noon. Pain turns to nausea and now I can’t focus.
Bertha stares at me impatiently, unimpressed with my suffering. She turns to Eleanor, her eyes repeating the question. Eleanor does her best to piece together what I have mumbled to her.
Hearing this, Bertha thanks Eleanor with a smile for breaking the silence and turns to me and begins speaking in the way people do when addressing someone who doesn’t speak the language. Practically shouting, she asks, “How…Are…You…Feeling?”
With the stupidest grin I can muster, I point up to my forehead, as if to say, “what do you think?”. I do my best to explain that my head is pounding and spinning, my ears are ringing, I can’t see out of my right eye, my left arm from the elbow to the fingertips is numb, I can’t feel my left foot and, if she doesn’t do something quickly, I am going to throw up on her.
Just then, another nurse, a tall man with tattooed sleeves on both arms, came into the room to assist Bertha with wheeling me to the MRI machine. He unlocked the wheels and raised the rails on either side of the bed as Bertha explained to Eleanor that this procedure could take several hours to complete. Eleanor nodded and said she would wait there in the lobby. The nurses rolled me out into the hallway, down a series of corridors, down an elevator and through maze of passages before we arrived in the coldest room in the entire facility.
Now in the MRI room, Bertha explains that the doctors are waiting until I undergo another battery of tests before they give me medicine for my pain and nausea. The initial X-Rays discovered what the doctors believed was swelling around my brain as the result of a massive concussion. This was news to me because I didn’t remember being X-Rayed.
Because wood fragments were retrieved from the wound appeared to have been chemically treated, the doctor wanted to observe how my body responded to the tetanus shot they had given me. There would be several hours of tests and waiting for results before pain medicine and stitches.
As she spoke she shook the contents of the water bottle, opened it and gave it to me. Her face lit up with a sudden elation, her voice took on a mocking tone. “Now be a good boy and drink this all up. You have to drink every last drop. If you don’t keep it down, I’ll have to give you another one” she snickered as her words trailed off. The male nurse shook his head, a confirmation that Bertha torments patients regularly.
I was so thirsty in that moment I would’ve gulped water from the dog’s bowl. I grabbed the bottle and drank greedily, swallowing mouthfuls at a time. I was halfway into the bottle before the taste registered and the flow of traffic down my throat changed directions. A mouthful of the semi-gelatinous liquid rolled down onto my gown. Not wanting to prolong this affair more than necessary, I chugged the remainder of the bottle’s contents and willed myself not to let it come back up.
The male nurse helped me into a new hospital gown and laid me into position on a table. He explained that I would need to wait several hours before the rest of the tests would begin. In the meantime, I was to keep my eyes open and try not to throw up. If it was alright, he was going to ask a few questions to assess my condition
My head was foggy:
What day is it? I dunno, Tuesday? Sunday?
Who is the President? Did I forget to vote?
Do you know where you are? In an ice cave? Hell?
Let’s try something simpler: What’s your name? I’m MyKO.
Can you remember what happened to you, MyKO?
Maybe I fell? I remember being on the ground. It was wet and cold. There was a tarp covering me. When I got out from under the tarp, it was dark. Then I was in my kitchen and Eleanor was telling me that everything was going to be fine. Blood was everywhere. Then we were in the car. I was trying not to get blood on the seats or throw up on the floor. Now I am here.
The tattooed nurse looked up from his computer and asked, “so, you don’t remember how you got that gash on your head?” The incredulity in his question was punctuated by the furrowing of his brow.
Pieces of what I remembered from that afternoon swirled around as if they were circling down the drain. Every time I reach down for a thought, pain and nausea swat my hand away. I can’t be bothered to fish for details when all I can do is try to survive the relentless throbbing and ceaseless spinning.
The next few hours I spent lying prostrate on a table that moved slowly in and out of a massive cylinder that made a series of loud clicking noises every few minutes. Time protracted, each second was elongated by another beat of the drum in my head. His encouragements to hold still were fast becoming frustrated demands. The pain was a prison sentence I was to serve in that tunnel.
Some time in the early hours of the next morning, a new doctor came bearing news. He was young and dangerously good looking- He could have been a model or an actor playing a part. His well groomed blond hair accentuated the sharp blue eyes that made me feel at ease with the news he had come to deliver.
He had good news and bad news. First, the good news: The nurse would be on her way with some pain meds and something for the nausea. In a few minutes, he would be stitching me up. Lucky for me, he trained as a plastic surgeon and he should be able to fix up this nasty gash on my forehead leaving only a faint line that will look like a wrinkle between my brows.
And now for the bad news: He regretted to report that the tests showed that there was bruising on my brain and it was hard to give a prognosis at this early stage. Furthermore, the tests suggested a pattern of past injuries that were cause for concern. I would need to meet with specialists in the coming days to discuss treatment.
As promised, Bertha arrived with a syringe full of happy and little cup full of relief. The effect of the drugs hit me just as Dr. Beefcake began stitching. Although my recollection of the events of that day are not entirely lucid, I will never forget what it was like to watch as someone sewed my face back together.