Last week I got cold-cocked by my freezer door. We were having a conversation about the things in life I should be worrying about. In my mind, I was worried about having offended a friend by not returning her phone call. The freezer was worrying that I was going to melt the black-eyed peas. So in a stand of solidarity for the rest of the frozen legumes, Mr. Freezer served up his best-left hook, knocking me clear across my kitchen floor.
In that moment of blinding pain and disorientation, clutching my head, I remembered thinking, how mad I was at both my inability to duck oncoming vegetables, and how grateful I was for the sold ground beneath me, which soon came to be my best friend for the better part of half an hour. Other thoughts that ran slowly and then lightning fast through my head included, “I need to sweep under my cupboards”, “I wonder how soft this frying pan is to sleep on”, and “why is there a fire alarm going off in my right ear?
But in true boxing fashion, I knew I needed to get up as quickly as possible. No one likes a quitter. And I didn’t want my freezer or my thoughts to think they’d won, so I crawled up to meet my counter top and grabbed the closest pack of frozen veggies I could find, ironically, those damn black-eyed peas.
For the next four hours, I iced my head like a cryogenically frozen Flinstone, only taking breaks to switch out peas for broccoli. Although everything in my freezer had the odd scent of fish. Which I can only attribute to a rogue salmon patty hibernating in the ice drawer. Also, the other thing that happened, was lots of crying. Lots of crying. And then more crying. Apparently, when you get hit in the head you cry. A lot. I wanted to see the faces of people who gave me comfort as I felt alarmingly disoriented and scared. Plus my whole world smelled like southern dinner leftovers and chiming in the background of my brain on replay was the goddamned “come and get it” dinner bell .
At this point, I felt I desperately needed human connection. So I casually texted a friend. “Hey um, I think I’ve got a concussion. Any tips on what I might do?” My eyes were blurry and reading words was becoming a real drag.
No response. Using my fingers became more laborious, but I was desperate to talk to someone as the pain increased, so I decided to Face Time (video chat) with a friend nearby. When he answered, I began to weep like a broken water spigot. I don’t even think I said actual words for the first few minutes. But he knew what I needed was a calm voice and presence. His little digital face tapped the screen and said, “It’s ok you’re scared. What just happened was scary. And if you haven’t thrown up on yourself yet, you’re doing great!” (Actually I had thrown up on myself, but that was the day before, so I don’t think it technically counted. I’d had a wicked case of food poisoning not 48 hours earlier and was still re-establishing my relationship with the toilet.) However, now my relationship was focused squarely on the kitchen floor and how dusty it looked upon closer inspection.
So there on the floor with my head gently resting on a frying pan, my friend remained calm and loving and told me I’d be ok. He offered to come over and just sit with me and be a shoulder for my fishy peas to cry on.
By the time he arrived, my vision was blurry and all I could think about was why rabbits always get the short end of the stick in magic tricks. He gently peeled me off the floor and propped me upright on the couch like a drunk Kewpie doll. Laying there next to another human I knew at least if I passed out, he’d have the decency to wipe the peas off my face before anything incriminating happened.
And that’s when I got knocked out again. (But by an idea this time.) I came to realize why we cry when we get hit in the head. It shakes loose all the secret thoughts that are stuffed in between the cracks of our little skull pockets. These remarkable mushy electrical entities function on the same dynamic, complex and delicate level as the universe that surrounds us all. One bump to that divine balance in the system and our whole universe is temporarily shaken to its core.
And in that moment, I found myself wondering, “Is this it? Does my consciousness end here on the floor next to the dirty underbelly of an oven I rarely use, and a loose Tic-Tac flavored, Wint-O-Green? Wint-O-Green?
My worry then went up to level 2. Will I only be found seven days from now, because the neighbor dog barks at the smell of rotting beef jerky and my front door is eventually busted down by the Amazon delivery guy who gets bonuses for discovering bodies? Then they assume the cause of death was loneliness or that I simply slipped and fell on that rogue Tic-Tac?
And that the only thing the neighbors would have to say is, “Well, at least she knew how to throw one hell of a BBQ”.
And this, of course, is also the concussion talking, getting chatty as I rock back and forth like a praying Rabbi. Those drunk, concussed voices are talking in Gibberish and with speed, but underwater and they are flooding my head with worry and confusion.
Eventually my peas grow warm, my friend’s shoulder goes numb and I fall into a fuzzy stupor. But I was told I needed to stay awake as long as possible, so after he leaves, I alternate between drinking glasses of Diet Coke and chewing wads of Hubba Bubba bubblegum. It’s a calculated risk, falling asleep with a new bubble gum hair do, but one I’m willing to take, as I know I need to stay awake another few hours. So armed with a liter of carbonation and lock jaw, I stay up watching episodes of the show, “The New Girl”, reciting every character’s line like an OCD script supervisor, until I can’t stay awake any longer.
When I finally pass out around 5:30 am, I find myself dreaming I am locked in a small box of a kitchen. I am sitting on the shiny and clean, tiled floor wearing a little nightgown, circa 1970’s Carrie style. My eye socket where I was hit is not black, but instead, dark blue. I am repeatedly hammering on something that at first, I can’t see. But then upon closer inspection, I am pounding away at my kneecaps like an archeologist breaking ground on a new dinosaur find. I appear quite happy (But in a-Stephen-King kind-of-happy-way) that I am discovering new things with every smash of my knees. Hooray for nightmares!
After waking up with my proper black eye intact and my knee caps still in one tectonic piece, I realize I’ve made it through the night. While days of headaches and tests follow, I have come to realize something through all of this. The best part of friendship is when someone just shows up to say, “Man, I’m sorry you’re scared, but you can hold on to me. I’ll steady you. Your smelly vegetable fish face is my smelly vegetable fish shoulder.”
“And also, if you happen to have nightmares, bring knee pads.”
And that’s it. Because we all have some unknown path that lies both inside of us and ahead of us. Who knows when the next inanimate object may take us down. But to know there’s a hand to hold when you are weary, can make all the difference to a bludgeoned person ruminating on a shiny kitchen tile.