Monday I got stung by a wasp. I was picking up my sweater, folding up some clothes in it, and all of a sudden my hand was stinging and I looked down to discover a startlingly large Hymenoptera just below the pinky on my right hand. I was more surprised than in pain at that moment, and a bit scared, and with a little effort I brushed the insect off my hand and marched out of my room to announce the injury to the rest of my family.
My Mother immediately sprang to my aid and dumped half a container of meat tenderizer into my left hand while instructing me to add water and make a paste to spread onto my pinkish and ever so slightly swollen right hand. I stood in amazement. One cannot simply turn on a sink and make a paste while one hand is full of meat tenderizer, and the other is full of the venom of an Arthropod. Indignant at such a suggestion, I stood helpless in front of the sink expecting my Mother to notice my helplessness. Finally I had to speak up, and I managed to let out a few whiny tones and vocalize enough to let my Mom know that in this situation, despite my age and apparent independence, I was not, indeed, capable of taking care of my own wasp sting while my Mom was present. So she smothered what I assumed to be a pointless glob of sandy paste on my hand and I winced in expectation of greater pain.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to contemplate the aching sting in my right hand, or the fact that wasps were infiltrating my home, because the day they decided to sting me was the day of my doctor’s appointment, 5 minutes before I had to leave. So my Mother drove me to the doctor, and I awkwardly held my puffy hand, wondering if the paste was doing its job of destroying the venom proteins, or if it was simply “tenderizing” my wound.
The doctor was unconcerned about my wasp sting, and the appointment proceeded, with me counting the minutes to its end by listening to the space gun sounds coming from the MRI machine. I didn’t actually have any idea how long I was in the machine for, and the doctor decided that this would be the one MRI patient she would not give one of those panic buttons to, so I spent the last 15 minutes of what was supposed to be a 30 minute MRI scan wondering if the increasing pain in my head was due to the pressure of lying perfectly still for 45 minutes, or if I was dying. I figured if I was dying then the little scanner she attached to my finger would start telling her about it, and then I would be able to get out of the tube and at least move my head so that the back of it would stop burning. Apparently I was not dying, because as soon as the MRI scan ended, she quietly pressed buttons and rolled me out of the tube, and told me I could get up and go whenever I wanted. I immediately sat up, pondering what time frame she expected one would want to leave in which wasn’t that exactly following being released from the jaws of the machine of the future, ignored the slight dizziness as I stood, and calmly attempted to make an exit.
I succeeded in finding the waiting room, and my Mother, and was on my way out the building when my Mom’s phone rang. It was my Father. He called to ask me how I was, he was napping and had missed The Big Sting and also understood the nervousness that attending yet another doctor’s appointment could cause. I thanked him for his kindness and then remembered the magic show he was performing at tonight, the one for which he had been practicing all weekend in his room, and figured that it would be something positive to end my day with.
So we went to the magic show, with enough people that we had to take two cars, and saw some interesting tricks and I admired my Dad’s talent and creativity, and to celebrate all my Dad’s hard work, afterward we decided to go for ice cream. My car had to go home first, to drop one of my sisters off, and so my parents and my other sister and my 2 year old niece went ahead of us to the ice cream shop, while my brother and the first sister and I headed home.
Home was fun, I rushed into the house after my sister, to quickly change so I wouldn’t freeze in the ice cream shop, and tried not to panic as I heard buzzing and ran away from a wasp in the bathroom, and then barely missed stepping on a black widow spider guarding the step of our front door. Once safely in the car, I notified the sister in the house of the dangerous predator on the front step, and thus, feeling my familial duty to defend her life fulfilled, left home with a clear conscience and looking forward to ice cream.
I don’t know what it was that made me burst into tears on the highway, while my brother was discussing the wasps and other life problems with me, but suddenly I was desperately foraging his car for tissue of any sort, and wishing he hadn’t just cleaned out his car for my benefit. Suddenly, a miracle happened and I found a perfect box of tissue sitting behind my seat, and could sob less messily, all because the Catherine of the past had been thoughtful enough to forget a box of tissue she had grabbed for the drive in movies days ago, saving me from having to dry my tears on my shirt.
I managed to stop crying for a moment to grab a dozen tissues and enter the ice cream shop, joining my family an hour after they had arrived, and sit down at their table. I finished five of my sister’s french fries, listened to some pleasant conversation, avoided eye contact, and nodded politely to questions regarding how I was. Then the waitress came and I picked the first thing with caramel and chocolate that I found on the menu, waited for her to leave, tried looking normal for a minute, and then felt the tears coming to my eyes and put my head and hand on the table and broke out into muffled sobs in the middle of a half full ice cream parlor on a Monday night.
There is something a bit unreal about doing something that you only see done in the movies. Something strange about being a person who can’t control their feelings in a public place and lets them out without regard or care for the waiters or family or other 70 customers present. Something painfully funny about your sister asking if you want them to ignore you, and you nodding yes, and your Mother, when rebuked for hurrying across the table to put her arms around you and do something comforting for her youngest daughter, saying that she is ignoring it, while she rubs your back and tries not to fall off the edge of the booth next to you. The best part, I think, was after my Mom had returned to her seat, and my head was still on the table, and I heard a voice right next to me asking “Would anyone like more water?” and I sat up as straight and pretended as well as I could that I was not just crying on the table in front of the male server 10 seconds ago, and thanked him after he refilled my barely emptied cup.
After the ice cream parlor, we went home and my sister told us that she had killed the black widow, and I sat on the couch with my, now aching, stung hand and my family ran about to make a valiant effort to prevent any wasp from ever getting into my room again – which involved lots of Spackle, and duct taping broken window screens, and poisoning the wasp nest outside my window, and moving every piece of my furniture around and making it impossible, if I had wanted to, to sleep on my bed.
After that I crawled into my sister’s bed, kindly offered as it was big enough to fit us both, and yet again began crying and making vain attempts to hide my head and sobs with a blanket. My two year old niece and her mother quickly noticed this, and eventually decided to stop ignoring it, and pretty soon an adorable toddler was crawling on the bed next to me and pulling at the blanket telling me to “Wake up!” while her mother was peacefully saying “She’s not asleep, she’s crying, she’s sad.”
This, of course, made me cry even more. Why shouldn’t I cry? Wasps were infesting my house and my bedroom, attacking me, and I couldn’t sleep in my room anymore, and it was hot, and the MRI wasn’t any fun, and there were black widows blatantly placing themselves in my path, and then all of my friends were far away, and I couldn’t get my license this summer, and my hand really did sting a bit from that attack earlier, and I was tired and hungry from my determined stubbornness to be tired and hungry, and then there was that other annoying fact looming over my head, that I chose to ignore day after day, that I avoided in dreams by avoiding in sleep, that I would have to take 5 months away from school for, that I really couldn’t believe was a big deal because it didn’t seem like one to me; the simple and very scary fact that at any time during these next two or three months, a young neurosurgeon who’s name I couldn’t pronounce, or his secretary perhaps, would be calling to ask for me and to say they had an opening and to tell me on what day I would be coming in to be placed on a bed and anaesthetized and have needles and scalpels and drills and devices to “shave” down the bone used, to cut into my skull, underneath my brain, to reach my first two vertabrae, and take parts of them away, to “make more room” so that my brain wouldn’t fall through my skull.
So I cried. Three times. In the car, in the ice cream shop, in my sister’s room. And for the first time I decided I was allowed, entitled to cry. I wasn’t able to cry at the first appointments, nothing was very certain. I wasn’t able to cry at the later appointments, my Mom was taking that upon herself. I wasn’t able to cry at home, everyone was very certain that this wasn’t a very big deal and many people were worse off than me, and I’d be able to handle it. Or maybe that was just me. Then I was stung by a wasp in my room and the chinks in my long worn out armor let it clatter to the ground, and tears came that I never wanted to have.
I tried to sleep Monday night. I woke up at 3 in the morning after a 2 hour nap and lumbered out of the stifling heat of my sister’s room and out to the couch. I flicked on the lights and read a couple hundred pages of War and Peace, which I got during my first week back home and still had six hundred pages left of three months later. I laid on the couch and stared out the curtains and noticed the slight glow on the horizon, the slightly brighter dimness that comes around 6 in the morning in Summer. I glanced at the side of my house through our glass windows, and noticed the peculiar way in which the light of the morning seems to match the light of the evening that will come many hours later, and how I had seen that type of light, caused by the sun’s position now in some evening past, when the sun was dropping at the end of a day, instead of beginning a new one.