“What’s going on?” the store owner asked.
I thought I was lucky to get this out because what I really wanted to do was vomit. I could see he was intensely uncomfortable and I was not surprised. He was not the type who was easy with emotion in general and on top of that, ours was a shaky relationship. The burden was on me, the salesperson to make it better for him but at the moment I couldn’t.
“Is there something I can do?” he asked.
“I just need some ice,” I said. ‘My hand is burned.”
It was very hard to talk. I couldn’t talk yet and I thought it should be obvious I was in a crisis but apparently not.
“How did you burn your hand?” he asked, casually. He didn’t seem to comprehend I couldn’t converse. I was usually so chatty.
I shook my head and cried a new wave of tears, deliberately. I thought that would get rid of him and it did. He was visibly repulsed.
“Well there’s plenty of ice,” he said. “And if you need anything else… do you want me to call someone?”
I wanted him to shut up. Really, that is what I wanted. I didn’t have any answers. I wanted my hand to stop throbbing and I wanted him to shut up so I could focus up and get a grip.
I heard the bell on the front door go off and exhaled in relief. He’d have to go out front to take care of a customer, so I’d get a reprieve. Good thing because I was hysterical on the inside. I needed to catch my breath, ground and regroup and you know what else? I needed to pee. Yes.
Nodding to indicate he’d return, he walked out to front of the store to take care of the customer and I quickly tried to take stock. I had the presence of mind not to pee on the floor, the pain in my hand backed down. It was kind of numb. It was getting there. It hurt but I could tolerate it. I really did have to pee. Um… I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want this guy offering to help me, you know? Can you imagine that? Oh man.
I pulled my hand from the ice and I looked at it but I couldn’t compute. I planned to look at it better; I planned to study it but later when I could function but at the moment I was highly busy.
I went to the restroom in the back, convenient to the ice machine. By the time I was struggling to get my pants on with my left hand, my bad hand started to pulse again. Pain. Bad pain. Already. Whew. That was fast. Uh oh. It just didn’t seem good.
I splashed water on my hands and left the restroom, made a beeline for the ice machine and shoved my hand back into the ice which triggered a fresh round of tears. I felt defeated. I thought I’d lost ground or back tracked or something because I was right back where I was and as a result I was even more overwhelmed and disoriented. The reality of the situation did not match my expectation which was that I was fine. I’m fine, aren’t I?
The owner of the store came back to check on me. He was not happy. It was like I was a car who had crashed into his living room while he was watching TV. Big game coming on and now look what he has to deal with. Why me? Why did she have to crash here?
I’d known him a long time and he didn’t exactly crave me. I knew this and it was okay because I felt similar about him. I had many supporters in the area but plenty of people were ambivalent towards me for a variety of reasons, many of them bizarre. For example, I would eventually learn this guy felt I’d taken a legitimate job from a man and this was his problem with me. “A woman’s place is in the home.” I’d have never guessed that in a million years which just goes to show you.
We had a professional relationship though. I had won his respect over time but I had definitely abused a boundary when I came into his space completely unhinged the way I was. I should have been teaching Sunday school, and then none of this would have happened, you know? Now look at me! I was completely disheveled, my fat tears going splat on the concrete floor of his back room.
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t order my thoughts. I was thinking irrational things like I’d be stuck next to this ice machine for the rest of my life, probably because the store owner seemed to be wondering this himself. He was really splintered.
Seems he was half thinking, “How am I going to get her out of here / when is she going to leave?” and the other half thinking, “She is in a world of hurt and I am such a putz, I should do something but I don’t know what.”
I felt sorry for him and that’s no kidding. It sucks to feel incompetent, I know. But I couldn’t think how to help the circumstance at the moment.
I was not very articulate but I did try to communicate. I basically plead for a few minutes to get my hand numb so that I could get a hold of myself and try to think and he respected this. He wanted to know what to do and was glad to have the instruction. He definitely would appreciate it if I regained some of my usual composure, because damn. I was sobbing everywhere and my heaving was a pretty major thing to have to watch.
He told me he’d leave me to calm down and I should yell if I needed anything, “I’ll hear you out there,” he added.
I was most regretful but his comment started another flood of tears for reason non-specific, and if you don’t feel for this guy by now, you should because this was not in his contract. In fact, I think he should get his agent on the phone, you know? If I could have done anything but stand next to his ice machine, I’d have helped him out. I’d have put him at ease but at the moment I was out of ideas. I was also jokeless which frankly panicked me some. I can usually think of a joke but I only had fragments of thoughts as my brain scanned for information.
I remembered a burn from 10 years prior. Steam. Someone told me that burns keep burning deeper layers of skins. Hmm. I wondered what that meant now but could not spare the brain cells to contemplate. I decided to use all energy I had to try to calm down so I could think clearly and know what to do. My eyes were darting around looking for an answer but I just didn’t see how the mop and the bucket in the corner could save me.
Skip to Part 5 – Freak Show