After all these years – Julie Swope









I progress to my late forties and find myself in denial about falling. Even though I am a late bloomer of maturity, I am “matured” for thirty years or more. I am like a good aged wine at its peak before turning to vinegar. Thus, I am indomitable.

It is a summer Saturday night when the kids are visiting with their dad. I tote my Watchman along the city’s three blocks. Tis the summer, and, as usual I go barefoot.

Above my first floor office I have two apartments to maintain. It is time for a new renter. I am not in a financial position to hire someone to renew the decor; besides, I like painting walls and feeling the immediate gratification of changing a dingy grey wall to a buttercream yellow. I begin with the compact kitchen. I unscrew the light switches and outlets and place their plastic faces and tiny screwed eyes in a safe place. I know I will find them later. I scrub the walls of the residue of smoke and greasy cooking from the last tenants.

I take time to let the wall dry. I turn on the Watchman and tune in to  WITF for the English humor. I adore Hyacinth Bucket, who corrects her name in a high shrill voice to anyone who has to listen as—- “Bouquet.” She tilts her head to the left twirls the end of her hair, and smiles to the phone, as if the person on the other end can see her.

Half an hour later I am ready to paint. But, I see a fixture which needs to be removed. I pull my aluminum ladder to the window. There is a crusty, rusty white curtain rod which needs to be replaced. I am so nimble with the steps of a ladder. Think about it, each rung is exactly the same distance from each other. Each step is measured; I like the security. I will never stand on the top of a ladder – I know this is unsafe. I am careful as I step on the last rung. I jar the crusty, rusty white curtain rod a bit up and over to the right and the rod is securely in my hand. I toss it to the floor, as I think ” Yes, this room will be changed for ever.” I descend my ladder a bit quicker than I ascended, I missed the last step. In my bare feet I hear the sound of THUNK on the U-shaped end of the crusty, rusty white curtain rod as it embeds itself in the fleshiest part of my sole.

The white is gone from my life. I see only blood spurting red. I know enough to make a tourniquet. The rags around me harbor grease and the stains of stale smoke, but the object of a tourniquet  is to make it tight. And I do.  Although I think every thing is under control, I leave steps of blood on the stairs. I stop and enter my office and elevate my foot on the desk. Despite my correct procedures my foot is swelling.  And as much as I want to, I know I cannot walk home.

I call a friend and tell him the position I ‘m in — within twenty minutes he arrives. He has his first aide kit and applies a butterfly bandage, and provides me with a ride home. Yes, I am home free! I take my extra strength nighttime painkiller and go to sleep.

The next morning I awaken at seven. This is not usual for me; and neither is awakening in pain. My left foot is swollen to twice its dimension and I resign myself to a trip to the emergency room. I hate “emergency rooms”, they should be known as “the rooms of last resort.” From past experiences with the kids I know that “your emergency” is a three hour difference from when you will get treatment. I take a paperback, “The Doctors,” to help time flow.

I limp to the registration window with medical card in hand. The receptionist confirms my address, phone number, and xeroxes my card. “What is your emergency?” she asks — never gazing from her keyboard.

“I fell from a ladder and landed hard on the sole of my foot on a crusty, rusty, U-shaped end of a white aluminum curtain rod. I have a deep gash.”

“Were you wearing shoes?”

“I know it was careless, but, I wasn’t wearing shoes. I would not have cut my foot if I were.”

“That’s correct, take a seat.”

My foot is throbbing. I want to be taken  to a small white curtained compartment behind those double wooden doors. But as instructed I take a seat. I turn to the latest dog-eared page of my paperback book, “The Doctors,” in a effort to sidetrack my pain.

Forty minutes later I am in one of the ten white curtained compartments. I begin my next wait. At least the ER bed provides elevation for the swelling that has seeped beyond my ankle.

As thirty minutes plod away, my curtain is opened by a dashing young intern, not unlike the one I imagine in my novel. I repeat the information he reads from my registration, he lifts my left foot to the light. The title of my novel catches his eye as he says, “Hmm, I’ll be right back.” Finally progress. My next waiting begins.

“The Doctors,” as a novel, will never be a classic. Ironically, I read a part in the novel that takes place in an emergency room. I read of the partying that took place the night before with the ER staff. I notice that for a busy waiting room the back room is now eerily quiet, except for the busy chatter and occasional laugh from the staff. A small wheeled silver tray is beside my bed. A white linen cloth covers the surprise that lies ahead. The doctor returns.

He advises me to lie on my stomach so he will have a clearer view. I oblige. “The bad news is you need stitches, the good news is that I will numb the area,” he blankly states. The good news sounded good to me. He inserts the long thin needle into the center of my cut. My body jolts in pain. I have never felt this agony.

He waits five minutes and returns. I never felt the stitches, so the anesthetic worked. I gingerly keep any weight off my left foot as I search for my car. While my foot is numb, the memory of the pain is forever implanted in my brain. While I vow never to have stitches again, no matter what – I also vow to never ever, ever, ever take a novel to the hospital whose name is “The Doctors.”

I survive my forties and only have to survive the next fifteen years (as of this writing).


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