Not too long ago, a jar of gefilte fish, a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine, and a slab of sidewalk met my forehead at the same time. Goodness, I thought, hitting the ground, what is all that glass and blood, and why are all these jellied potatoes rolling around?
Drivers passed with averted eyes (one could write a whole essay on those five words), but one kind stranger and several hours later, I waited in a hall on a gurney for a CT scan. Care and stitching would be coming. In the meantime, I felt like a poster for hazardous biofluid. Someone should have marked a large X through me.
An aide wearing a modified hijab passed by. She disappeared around a corner (another one of those drivers, I thought), then reappeared a minute later with a handful of warm wash towels. “Let me,” she said, and gently started cleansing all that needed cleansing. The battle was uphill, since there were few parts not in need, but she persisted. “I don’t like to see people covered with blood while they’re waiting,” she explained, which struck me as both sensible and oddly specific to the setting.
As she worked, she talked a bit about herself. Blood was nothing new, and not only here. She had been leaving Kabul with her elderly mother when, on their way to catch the plane, her mother tripped on an escalator and rammed into its metal sides; a variant of gefilte fish and pavement. In the nearest emergency room, it looked like the wait was going to be endless.
But they had an imperative plane to catch. She told the staff that if they would give her steri-strips, supplies, and a medical letter, she would cleanse and treat her mother’s wound on her own. That’s how the two of them made the flight out of that country and into this one.
It was just the tip of a life story, but the CT techs were ready. As they cheerfully released the gurney’s brakes, the aide gathered the crimson towels. She had made quite a bit of progress; I was viewable now.
“I’m supposed to be on my break,” she said, waving goodbye, “but I always feel better when I feel kind.”
One could write a whole essay on those nine words.
Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.