Monday, November 07, 2005

Vicki's Story, Part Four

Click here to read Part One.
Click here to read Part Two.
Click here to read Parth Three.

Part Four

My eyes were black. They were so swollen it looked as if they were hiding ping-pong balls instead of eyes behind them. A large tubular-shaped piece of cotton had been sutured to my nose. The cotton crawled up my nose, its whiteness buried in dark brown blood, strapped to my nose with dark black thread. It looked like a leech had crawled up my nose and died there in mid-motion. On both sides of my eyes, placed to the left and right of the bridge of my nose, were the infamous “buttons” that I had heard about for many months but could not, or perhaps would not, imagine. They were bigger than I expected – perhaps the size of quarters. An off-white rubbery button. Inside the buttons was a mass of tangled wire, woven together with bloody cotton balls. The inner knots, crusty with dried blood, protruded out of the center of the buttons. I reached up with my index finger and touched the center of the button as lightly as I could. It was hard as a rock. The mere touch sent a painful burning sensation through my nose. But perhaps the most grotesque thing of all was the pathetic expression upon my face. My mouth was down turned into a frown so deep it was almost like a caricature. “How could I expect anyone to look upon this?” I wondered. Here I was, looking at the reflection, staring in a trance at the grotesqueness of it all. And perhaps that’s why I never faulted the onlookers in the stores and on the streets too much. I myself was transfixed by the horror of it, sitting there alone in my hospital room, starring transfixed at that make-up mirror over and over again as if I were watching some sort of television show. And then, the mood would be broken, when I realized that the image in the mirror was no act of Hollywood, but indeed my very own face.

I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. It would have hurt to have touched the buttons to wipe away the tears.

I wish I could remember now what was going through my head at the time. But my guess is, it was nothing profound. I was eleven years old. It hurt to move and I was scared to tell the nurse I had to go to the bathroom for fear that walking there, or moving to maneuver a bedpan underneath me would hurt too badly. So, I sat there in pain, praying it away. Finally, after about a day of holding it, the nurse announced that if I didn’t go to the bathroom soon, I’d have to have an enema. She left the room and I asked my dad, “Dad, what’s an enema?” I can’t remember his exact metaphorical interpretation, but it was descriptive enough for me to hit the nurse call button immediately after that and tell her I had to go to the bathroom.

Now, around this time, I had a collection of stuffed animals. I had a special love for the stuffed bananas with faces on them – the kinds you could win at dime slides at the fair. I had a couple dozen of them in varying sizes. But being still a child, the thing I wanted more than anything in the world was one of the big three or four foot long ones – you know, the ones that no one could ever win.

A couple of days after my surgery, when my eyes were no longer swollen shut, my family came into my room. I looked at them and they all had huge smiles on their faces. When I asked what was going on, dad told me to turn my head and look to my right. I did so and there laying beside me on my hospital bed was one of the big five foot tall bananas!

For that moment, everything disappeared – even the buttons. My heart filled with a flood of joy and I felt like my heart would explode. It’s one thing to get something you’ve always wanted, but another thing to get something that you thought you would never get. My dad had gone and personally talked to the owner of ValleyFair and told him about me. My dad offered an exorbitant amount of money to buy one of the bananas from him. In the end, the owner gave one to him as a gift.

I remember being alone in hospital at night, turning over and seeing Papa (since he was the dad for all my other littler bananas) looking at me with the biggest smile and bright, laughing eyes. It might seem childish to have felt so loved by such an inatimate object, but for me, it was the only thing in my life that always looked me directly in my face and didn’t turn away, didn’t ask probing personal questions, and always kept smiling.

If only such kindness had been waiting for me on my first day of school…



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