Time passed. Six or seven minutes. My arm was numb and I was able to stop crying. I was not able to take my hand from the ice. I was spooked, that’s why. I was afraid of the pain and waiting for a coherent thought. I wished for a chair to sit in because the ice machine was mounted low and I had to bend and twist to keep my hand in it. It was as if I was pinned and increased my chaotic feelings of vulnerability.
Some other vendors showed up at the store. People I knew. This was a small community so I knew everybody. Other vendors I mean. It was Wednesday and many of us worked this store that day of the week. Wherever you start from on your route, it was common to be at this store, at the crossroads in the middle of everything at the middle of the day.
I am not sure who showed, it’s all a blur. Various vendors kept sticking their heads around the corner to scope the situation. Apparently someone came in and the owner told them I was in the back with my arm in the ice. He was looking for help, I’m sure. He was looking for someone who could deal with me and get me the hell out of his back room. I could overhear them talking like this:
“Elsa’s in the back, she’s burned her hand.”
“I don’t know. She’s back there with her hand in the ice, and she’s crying…”
They just had to look, you know? Like a freak show. They were all men and I was highly askew. They’d never seen me compromised and I imagine they were shocked. Kind of like finding out your pal is a real girl, and no one knew what to say.
Heads peeked back to verify, “Hey Elsa, need anything?” They said stuff like that and I didn’t even answer other than to shake my head. If they couldn’t see that I needed a Kleenex, what with the snot and tears all over my face, well then you were not someone I wanted to talk to at the moment.
Arm in that machine, I felt like a deer with a limb stuck in a trap. Various forest friends and foes passing by or standing by to scope the event, but no one knew what if anything they should do. They peeked in and then went back out to powwow in the store. I could hear parts of the conversation on the wind.
“What should we do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Should we call, Will XXXXX?”
That was one of the guys I worked with. I shook my head. What’s he? My dad?
I got my first chuckle since the accident at the sheer stupidity of this. Her hand is burned! We need another Frito truck here right away! I rolled my eyes and thought, “Fuck me, I don’t believe this”.
“Where is he?” I overheard.
“He’s somewhere on post. I could try to find him…”
Oh brother. There’s a plan. Why don’t they just call Underdog.
“She’s not married. I think her family is in…”
Someone else excused themselves, saying, “I gotta get to work.”
“Well we better do something. She’s obviously hurt. We can’t just leave her…”
Finally they select a “representative” to do the talking, and they head back to me and my ice machine. There was one person talking and two or three heads nodding alongside. Pepsi salesman, Coke salesman, Hostess salesman? I don’t remember who was there but it was the bread guy who started talking. A Gemini.
“Elsa, what happened to your arm?” he asked.
“It’s a welding burn.”
“Welding? What were you doing welding?”
“My hand truck got welded,” I said.
I still didn’t want to talk, but I thought I’d better. I didn’t yet comprehend I was wholly screwed but I did think that I was in a spot of trouble. I needed an outside opinion and here were of four of them, as long as they stay back.
“You got burned with the torch?”
“I touched the weld.”
“When it was hot.”
“When it was red hot.”
He shivered. “Oh Elsa, you need to go to a doctor.”
“You think?” I still didn’t know this. I still thought if I stood there awhile I could probably just go back to work. “Will it be okay if I leave it in the ice?” I asked.
“A welding burn? I don’t think so. Someone needs to look at it. You should go to the hospital, I can take you in my truck.”
I didn’t want to go with him. He was friendly and chatted me up all the time but he called me “sweet pussy” and “nice piece of ass” behind my back. That was just the beginning, it was much, much worse. I loathed the guy. He was married too and repulsive. I didn’t respect him, and most of all I didn’t trust him. I didn’t want to go anywhere in a truck with him, never mind have myself indebted to him in any way. Plain and simple, the guy was a pig, he just didn’t know that I knew it.
“Oh, thanks. That’s okay, I can drive. I drove here,” I said with my Libra voice and my poker face.
“With your hand burned? From where?” He named a couple of little outlying desert towns.
“No.” I said, cocking my head, east. “From the 2nd Circle K, on the highway,” I said.
“What? Elsa, you have a welding burn and instead of going to a doctor, you drove in the other direction? You drove away from town?”
Oh shut up, you bastard. That’s what I thought but what I said was, “I don’t know. Do you think I should have gone back to town?”
“Yes. If you don’t go to the hospital, at least go to your doctor and have him look at it.”
“I don’t have a doctor.” I said. This was true. I had a gynecologist and a dentist but had never been sick in this town.
“Well you need one.”
“I guess I do.”
One of the other vendors offered to call his doctor. “He’s a great doc, he’ll take care of you,” he explained.
I agreed to this and he left to use the phone in front. He looked relieved to be out of there and able to help. This is just how it was. I had everyone feeling uncomfortable.
There was some more talk. I don’t remember what it was. One or more of the people who were there left to go back to their route. This suited me as I felt like a sideshow.
The one vendor found a doctor and said he was standing by. I was to pack my hand in ice and come to the office immediately. They’d be ready for me when I got there. It was about a 15 minute drive, mostly highway with two stop lights that I knew how to hit on the green.
I can’t remember who, or how, but someone wrapped my hand in industrial towels full of ice and I drove myself. Anyone of them would have taken me, but then I would be stranded, or they would be stuck waiting. I was concerned about the imposition. I knew everyone there needed to get going and I told them that my hand was okay.
Once in my truck, I lay my arm across the steering wheel. My hand was not painless, but it was tolerable. The trip to the was a challenge, but nothing like the one in the other direction right up until I got a few blocks away from the office.
By then most the ice had melted or spilled and sure enough, the pain started to climb again, just as sharp as before. Son of a bitch. This is when it really dawned on me I really did need a doctor and I was glad of it because I worried I might be making a problem for nothing.
Hand pounding like a drum, I sprinted from the truck through the parking lot of the office complex. I had express directions where to park, and where the office was, so made my way quickly through the maze of buildings and ran in through the front door.
Skip to Part 6 – The Nurse