(Again, not fiction, but also doesn’t fit any of the other Et Cetera criteria, so this is the closest choice to non-fictin.)
I arrived home after my surgery two weeks ago with the bulges of the thick gauze pads over my incisions visible beneath my shirt. I was curious to remove the coverings to see what damage had been done, but due both to my very, very tiredness that day and an unwillingness to rip my skin apart from the excruciatingly sticky adhesive tape used to hold the gauze in place. The next day, a strangely manic day especially juxtaposed to the previous, a hazy day spent mostly sleeping, I got a call from a nurse at the hospital who seemed a little miffed, a little put-out, to have to answer my two apparently very bothersome questions about showering and eating (please excuse me, I don’t quite remember yesterday, kind madam,) and she informed me that today would be a good day to shower.
I stood before the mirror and pulled up my shirt. Most of my abdomen remained covered with the overzealously applied gauze pads. I shrugged groggily, then began gingerly pulling at the pads. The two smaller ones relented easily and with only a few snags on the hair of my very white belly while the other, large pad, easily six inches square, refused my tender coaxing. Still, fearful that blood had clotted it together with my skin or the tape holding it together, I tugged it half-inch by half-inch, ripping hairs here and there, until my entire, nearly bare belly gleamed brightly back at me from the mirror.
Shaved clean, the evidence of my surgery was shockingly . . . minimal. Six pieces of semi-translucent tape adorned a roughly circular area of my abdomen. The two small incisions both had two pieces of tape each, overlapped as sloppy Xes. Small clots of blood dotted each one, with inch-long lines of reddish-black trailing the two larger incisions. I poked at the tender areas carefully, feeling the crusty hardness beneath, satisfied that at least some amount of healing had begun. Regardless of how swollen and sore the areas were, I was happy to see some progress.
I avoided direct contact with the water in the shower, afraid the power of the spray might dislodge the tape or destroy whatever progress the crusty scabs had made. I had little to fear, of course – that tape was not coming off easily. I patted dry my body, taking special care with the wounds, of course, especially the significantly tender bellybutton. Upon inspection, I realized what had happened – the surgeon had cut right into my bellybutton, starting about a half-inch below the depression and continuing deep down into it – so deep I couldn’t see the end.
Over the next couple of weeks I would grow very familiar with the incision, exploring it carefully as my inflamed skin gradually grew less so. By the time my two-week follow-up appointment rolled around, the tape on most of the incisions had begun peeling back, so much so that I’d resorted to trimming back the loose edges as their sticky backing would occasionally snag on clothing. I didn’t dare peel any of the ones directly attached to my incisions – all I could imagine was the scab refusing to dislodge from the tape and peeling off with it, my skin slurping open beneath like a zipper to reveal innards eager to become outards. I felt a little silly – I knew the surgeon would look at the tattered remains of my tape, blackened with two weeks of old skin and dirt, and, with a bit of a smirk, would tear the tape away with little more effort than a secretary removes a Post-It from a pile of forms. Sure enough, when meeting me that day, my surgeon lifted my shirt and immediately pulled the tape off – no snagged scabs, no blood, and just a little oozing puss from the still-tender bellybutton, which he proclaimed “perfectly normal.” He slapped a band-aid on to contain any excessive . . . pussing . . . and sent me on my way.
And thus ended my ordeal, or what I’d turned into an ordeal by way of my overactive imagination – not with a bang but with a whimper, as the saying goes. The power of fear is such that it renders all the sensible outcomes, the 99.9%, as the minority and eleveates that tiny .1% of weird, unlikely tragedies as not only perfectly normal, but acceptable and expected. An IV tearing from my arm, or lying entirely conscious but paralyzed during the whole surgery, or my wounds splitting open and me bleeding out, these were all perfectly logical scenarios I’d concocted over the months prior to my surgery. As each stage was completed, surgery to recovery to follow-up, I shamefully recounted my silly predictions of disasters easily averted. This, as a friend commented, was a simple, commonplace procedure. How would I react to something that was actually serious?
I thought a lot about that over the next few days and came to the conclusion that I just wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t think like that. Whatever drives me to imagine the worst that can happen was also likely responsible for me being creative in the ways I am. Without my constant worrying about worst-case scenarios I likely wouldn’t function the same way as a graphic designer, or even as a writer. Maybe it makes me a negative person, but I can’t imagine not thinking in a “worst case scenario” mindset, and it’s likely that many of you reading this think that’s entirely insane. I can agree, actually, but that’s probably part of how personality works. You know, your personality is basically just a bunch of disorders in varying degrees. So my personality, at its most basic, is paranoid, obsessive/compulsive, delusional, and a bit morbid.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
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