Not the Best Start to the Week

Not the Best Start to the Week August 31, 2020


You may recall that yesterday I wrote a short blog post, ending by telling you that I was going outside to have fun with Rosie.

Well, that’s not what ended up happening. At least, not for more than a few minutes.

It was a beautiful evening. We haven’t had a beautiful evening in the longest time. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t cloudy; the sky blue and the low sun cast long shadows. My neighbors’ giant sunflowers were blooming across the street. Rosie and I had a chance to play exactly one round of hopscotch before it all went wrong.

A  tuxedo cat wandered onto the scene.

I’ve said a hundred times that LaBelle is infested with friendly cats. Neighbors leave out giant salad bowls of kibble to feed them, and they’re somewhat beneficial because they keep the rat population down. I’ve had to coax them out of my house when they climb in the window more than once. But this one wasn’t even a stray. It was an outdoor cat that belonged to my neighbor, Rosie’s playmate. He has several outdoor tuxedo cats who love to wander down and visit.

The cat ran figure eights between my ankles in a personable way.

I sat down by the sidewalk to admire Rosie’s chalk drawings, and the cat climbed into my lap.

I patted him, and he purred. And then, abruptly, he hissed and bit my hand– hard, not a play bite.

I watched the blood well up in one  puncture wound as three scratch streaks reddened. “Rosie, we need to ask your friend if the cats have all their shots.”

I knocked on her friend’s door and found that his tuxedo cats were at home that afternoon. I’d been bitten by a lookalike stray. I’m only grateful it went for me and not Rose.

Next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room with my Our Lady of Guadalupe face mask on. The personable triage nurse was making jokes about the lady who forgot her glasses and brought a raccoon inside. I was alone. Michael couldn’t go with me because he had to take care of Rose and do the grocery shopping.

I am terrified of the emergency room.

“Do you have anxiety?” she asked, watching the line on the monitor bounce.

I didn’t want to tell her that I’m badly iatrophobic due to a long string of medical emergencies a long time ago.  That cold, sterile smell of antiseptic is enough to make my flesh crawl. I knew just opening my mouth to mention this would make the line bounce even more, so I tried not to talk. I took long, deep breaths, but I kept setting off the monitor.

I took longer, deeper breaths while they poked my veins, which are small, and for the hour while I waited for labs. Then I held back tears as I always do when they said the pregnancy test was negative and they would go get my medicine as planned. Then I waited twenty more minutes, and then they came in with an enormous bouquet of needles.

“You’re going to hate us,” said the nurse.

That was the moment at which I couldn’t stop sobbing, but I didn’t hate the nurses. They were very kind about the whole thing. I hate the emergency room with all of my heart, but I didn’t hate the nurses.

By the time I was released, it was one o’clock in the morning. The only friend I knew whose phone was on that late was in bed with a bad headache and couldn’t drive, and the only taxicab service in town doesn’t run until six AM on Monday. I tried to walk home– bandage on my tiny wound that only ached a little, bandages on the opposite arm where they’d repeatedly stuck me for labs. A tetanus booster aching in my left arm, three rabies shots in one leg, two rabies shots in the other, the actual rabies vaccine in my right arm, and a gigantic amoxicillin pill slowly turning to acid in my empty stomach. I hadn’t eaten since lunch. Michael had been getting ready to go to the store to get things for supper five hours earlier when this nightmare started.

I got two blocks before I realized that I was so dizzy from the panic, the hunger and the amoxicillin that I was seeing double. I couldn’t walk. I made my way back to the ER and cried until I was sick.

I spent the night on the emergency room waiting room sofa, in my Our Lady of Guadalupe face mask, watching Charmed, which I don’t like. The triage nurse who’d made the joke about the raccoon brought me a blanket, but I couldn’t sleep.

At about five in the morning, I went to find a bathroom, and ended up in the chapel.

Trinity Health System has a Catholic chapel where they say Mass once a week. The Eucharist is reposed there. The door was open but the lights were off.

I sat there in the flicker of the sanctuary light.

I’ve missed Him.

He is everywhere present and filling all things, but I’ve missed Him like this: physically, tangibly, tasteably present. I’ve missed the intimacy. I’ve missed feeling fed.

I’ve gotten to Mass once in the past six weeks, the COVID emergency being what it is. Once we get a car we can drive to Pittsburgh, where they take reservations for very careful socially distanced Masses with mandatory masking and Communion in the parking lot, but there’s nothing like that here. And I don’t know how long it will be until I can get a car. I don’t even know how I’m going to get to the next two of my rabies shots that the hospital scheduled on Sundays. I’ll be in the same boat again next week and the week after.

I sat there, trapped, exhausted, humiliated and aching, breathing through that increasingly alarming Guadalupe face mask that had soaked up tears and snot for the past ten hours. I gazed at him, and He gazed at me.

That last paragraph just might be the best summary I’ve ever written, of my fourteen years in the Ohio Valley.

I took a taxi home as the sun came up over LaBelle.

Not the best start to the week.


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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