I spent election night drinking a lot, marching a little, sharing some tears with strangers, and sinking my sorrows in slices of melted mozzarella. I slept away the angry confusion, and awoke three hours later to a queasy stomach and hyperactive nerves. My election-night buddy slept at our bakery of employment so as not to miss his 5am shift; I stuffed a solidarity toothbrush and some facewash in my backpack for him. I slammed some Kendrick in my ears, and held on to the notion that I would visit my friends at the ACLU after my cafe gig. I found the bus stop through the visible and emotive fog that hugged the city’s concrete. The next bus was due in two minutes. My Birkenstock combat boots smacked along the pavement as they paced under the bus cover.
Kendrick Lamar wailed into my eardrums.
“This dick ain’t freeeeeeeee”
“And lately I’ve been getting these occasional jerking movements in my hands”, I told the kind dude sitting next to me. “I lost control of my legs in a dance class last Friday. I had one full grand mal the morning after my junior year prom, but nothing since then, so we just chalked it up to lack of sleep and electrolyte imbalance.”
I’m not sure if I’m sludging back from a post-shift-bottle-swing, or if this murky bus stop is a vague future memory. I don’t know why this guy is so interested in my seizures, or why I feel inclined to tell him about ‘em. But now it feels prying. He’s nice though and he has caring eyes.
What bus did this topic slink in on.
“Holly I think you had a seizure. I’m a paramedic, and so is Todd.”
||The aspect ratio plugged into my brain slinks to a wider frame of view.
Todd smiles gently and waves.
Woah Todd. Where the fuck did you come from.
“We received a call that you were found unconscious. It looks like you’ve had a fall, and it sounds like you’ve had another seizure.”
||||Aspect Ratio crawls wider.
||||||||||||||And more colorful?
Was that ambulance hiding behind Todd this whole time?
Wait, unconscious? Fuck.
I’ve got to call my boss.
I was supposed to bring SunRay a toothbrush. That poor little guy is going to have to risk some clogged pores and plaque today.
The nice paramedic helps me walk to the ambulance. I’ve got a limp and my knee hurts like a bitch. My back’s hurting. I was just discharged from Physical Therapy for that torn L4.
I end up in the ambulance and get cozy on a gurney that’s as unwelcoming to human bodies as it is to germs.
“Holly, is there someone you can call?”
“Well my boss didn’t answer, I’ll text him. I’ll call my roommate.”
∴Calling∴ Gracie Pooh Heise
“So I’m in an ambulance. Oh, you see it? Cool- wanna hop in?”
Grace’s face appears, terrified.
“Hey heeeey!” I try to smile. My forehead hurts. I’ve got a gash. My memory recalls a Harry Potter reference that may or may not have escaped my lips.
Grace tells me how she saw the ambulance at our now convoluted and bus-hindered stop, and had begun her re-route to the block-back spot for her school commute.
If I believed in a god, this would be a moment.
I watched with intrigue and horror as the nice paramedic put the laughably long IV in my elbow-pit. I placed some poorly timed jokes, or can at least I hope I did.
I called poor Grace out on yelling at me the night before. I was angrily loud on the phone at 3am and she is a sleep-deprived dental student.
“Grace what if I had died and the last thing you snarled at me was that you need more than two hours of sleep?”
Grace did not.
I called my mom.
I didn’t have the part of the headphone with the microphone at the ready; she couldn’t hear me right; I was getting fed up with repeating myself.
She had panic in her voice.
I held on to frustration.
Then I saw the sad little microphone earbud resting innocently in my lap.
I plugged in;
Tensions eased enough.
We cruised along the route up to the hospital on the hill. I recalled the Halloween party we went to there. Half sure I said it out loud.
Then it started to hit me.
These ambulance rides are wild stupid expensive. I’ve been in one before, it’s at least a grand. I don’t have that kind of money. Hopefully my insurance covers it. Even at that, I am a twenty-two year old barista with a dust-gaining degree in public policy, and am stupidly lucky to be under the coverage of my parents’ insurance for the next few years. What the fuck am I doing.
I let my lungs do their job.
I let my diaphragm push the hot air out of my head.
I’m lucky for NOW.
Who knows what the hell our healthcare coverage system will be in the coming years. Next to nothing if Donald Trump sticks to any of his words, which of course is any one’s guess. I just had a goddamn seizure and was found unconscious under a bus stop in the dark in a city that I’m still fresh in. And I’m wiggin out over our dumbass president elect and getting stressed about factors of my hospital visit that should have no place in my worry-sphere, however large a capacity that morphous blob may grow to house.
I was fuming that day, but it didn’t take long for the desolate dejection to creep in.
I got down with my diagnosis.
I got down with the cost of hospital care,
voicemails made and callbacks missed,
the healthcare chilling effects of our lawsuit culture,
down with myself.
Happy Barista Holly made a hurried comeback, and angry political Holly busied herself in legal intake at the ACLU.
My shift behind the bar was filled with wisecracks with my bakery buds, and my 15-minute breaks broke me down in tears at the park.
I processed the protest videos streaming in to the kickass civil liberties firm I’m lucky to be a part of, and hated that I didn’t have the energy or desire to be a part of the pepper-laden atmosphere.
Cognitive dissonance and denial held steady for a week before I finally sat down one night to watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.
A Korean thriller that I have yet to finish (Sorry, film-pusher-Scott)
A deaf and mute man’s sweet sister is in need of a kidney transplant.
She’s extremely sick.
She coughs and gasps a lot in one scene.
My roommate runs out of her room with sheer terror on her poor, sweet face.
It trickles down on my thick, cloudy mind that she thought it was me.
This newfound reality is more than just me.
I hugged Grace a big bear hug and she went back to study her crazy tooth shit.
I put on a Tom Waits album and stretched out my fucked up rotator cuff.
“Romeo is bleeEEEEeeeeding”
And I felt like fucking shit.
And I hated the fucking country
And the fucking healthcare system
And my fucking brain and fucking body that aren’t cooperating with me.
I thought we were pals, man.
“You know it’s alright to be depressed.
–My kickass person that brings me tea and activates my mind spindles
“Dirty Bastards. What number do I call?
—My something friend who lives far away and I’ll always love
“We can take time to grieve and process. We’ve got 4 years.”
–The killer with kindness of the Oregon ACLU
“I’m really terrible at saying the right things…”
Time is the shit I’ve gotta give myself, and it’s the hardest concept to get a grasp on. Understanding and compassion tag in at some point, but you’ve gotta let time do it’s little shtick for at least the length of a Meatloaf song. And it’s hard. It’s all hard. It’s fucking hard to be a human. But if we don’t give ourselves that touch of time and sit back with our thought thinking parts of that squishy matter behind our eyeballs, we’ll never have any ideas on how to move forward, and we’ll be stuck crying on park benches in Portland, or screaming at Corinthian columns at the White House.
People have epilepsy.
And they do just fine.
We’ve had terrible, idiotic, lying, graft-seeking, personal-gaining presidents before.
And only three-quarters of the nation’s population had their basic human rights and quality of lifestyle trampled and infringed upon.
I never said this was a motivational speech. I’m going through the same shit as you are.