Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Summer I Stopped Drinking Grape Juice
I was laid up that summer. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t sleep without pain. The visiting nurse people had dropped off a single bed that rolled up and down with a mechanical crank on the right side. I learned to type that summer. God, I was bored. I got my vicadin prescription refilled over the phone on the bed. My life was lived on the single visiting nurse bed in my mother’s living room. It was the summer I learned how to sleep on my back. I got a lot of phone calls that summer. On a particularly hot day the assistant district attorney called as I typed the brown fox jumps over the big moon. My boyfriend, if you could call him that, broke up with me that same day. I popped vicadin. The second time I called in my prescription they wouldn’t fill it. I think I whined and cried all day over the phone. I couldn’t toss and turn that night; I had to fall asleep on my back.
I wasn’t supposed to walk without crutches for two months; I was stumbling around without them in four weeks. Friends came over and we hung out in the backyard on the bench. We argued politics, film; they kept me in the loop. One of them was a republican. One of them was Goth-industrial. The Goth’s girlfriend had a jeep. She was blonde and plump and boring, but she had a jeep. Sometimes at night, I would spend hours on the phone with the Goth. Bill was his name. He had been in a car accident a year before that summer. We bonded.
I drank a lot of grape juice that summer, I thought it would make me live forever. I really did. I read that somewhere. On the night I threw up all the grape juice I was delirious. I threw up in the shower about ten times that night, and after each violent purple spew, hot water rolling off my head, I went back to the visiting nurse bed with the metal crank on the right side. In the morning I awoke with an anvil on my chest, a fucking hammer driving into my lungs. I tried to smoke a Marlboro light in the taxi on the way to the hospital. It was the first car I’d been in since…dawn.
Dawn on Trexel Road, two bottles of red wine in the back. My best friend is driving and her boyfriend in the passenger seat is trying to change the radio station. I sit in the back with the other guy, a funny guy from South Carolina. Trexal Road is a windy road, and we are on our way to the ledges at Virginia Kendle. There is laughter and commotion and then there is the car pulling to the left. I look calmly at incoming trees and I think for what seems like a flying spark in the face of eternity, ‘Oh. A car accident’. After that there are no thoughts, just tumbling, like the inside of a stuffed washing machine. Tumbling and darkness. I awake in a river, and the stereo is still on. It’s "She Says" by Jane’s Addiction. No one else is awake. I climb out the back, through the garbled hatchback, and when I land in the cold water that is up to my waist, I feel my legs hurt. It doesn’t matter, I am trying to pull open the driver’s side door, then the passenger’s side door. The radio is still playing. A bottle of red wine, completely intact, slowly floats down the steel blue river beside me. I stop moving and watch it bob and float. My legs hurt.
My chest hurts, and trying to inhale the Marlboro light in the taxi makes me laugh, and that hurts too. I am in the back of a cab and the world is floating by and I am scared to be in this car. My bp drops in the waiting room and this causes massive excitement, I feel like I am in a movie, very exciting. It is my second time here over the summer, and this time I stay even longer. One doctor doesn’t believe I fractured my hip, I tell him to fuck off and check the x-rays. He never comes back. The hypothermia caused the pneumonia, but that doesn’t stop the barrage of smoking lectures that week. I drag my iv out on the patio to smoke. I cry the full seven days I am there. My friends visit and give me music to listen to, but I am horribly lonely at night here.
The next week I am back in my living room, on the couch. The visiting nurse people take back the bed with the metal crank on the right. I no longer believe I will live forever; I find grape juice disgusting. I talk to the guy from South Carolina on the phone. I remember him most from the accident. He kept telling me to stop shivering as we watched our friends get cut out of the car. I can’t, I tell him. And really I can’t, it’s dawn in July and the temperature is below fifty and to this day I have no idea how long I was in the water. He tells me over the phone that his best friend will never walk again. I tell him that my best friend is going to prison.
My new friends resume their visits and we sit on the bench outside as the leaves begin to tumble down. We talk about film and politics and the republican rants about how awful Leaving LasVegas was. The pain on my left side is constant for awhile, I am conscious of walking for awhile, I am conscious of sleeping on my side. I no longer believe I will live forever. I walk now wherever I go.
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- I write short stories and essays. I have published over one hundred stories, essays, and flash fictions or nonfictions in magazines or anthologies, as well as a novel, Jack's Universe, and a collection of stories, Private Acts. I grew up in a military family, so I'm not from anywhere in particular except probably Akron, where I've lived for forty years. Before I came here, I never lived anywhere longer than three years.