It started innocently enough.
I was working late on Wednesday, and decided to take a jog to break the monotony of a twelve hour day. I threw on my jogging rags and headed out, crossing Wilshire and then running east on 8th, my shadow preceding me on the sidewalk, it's elongated form haloed by the fading orange light of dusk.
I made my loop, and headed back down 8th, Ramones
in my ears, working myself into a nice, even sweat. I was contemplating a run all the way down to Fairfax, and my eyes were focused on the towers of Century City, which were beautifully bathed in the smoggy chiaroscuro of an L.A. sunset. Ah, what a zen moment it was.
And then I hit the tree branch. I never saw the damn thing: curving over the sidewalk, one jagged stump of a long gone limb pointing down, it's sharp splintery edge hanging just low enough to rake the left side of my scalp and peel it roughly from the bone.
I came to a stop and put my hand to my head. I could feel a groove there, and my fingers played over a landscape of torn, wet meat. A great gout of blood poured into my eyes, and I sat down on the sidewalk, pulling my iPod out of my pocket and placing it safely away from the gathering puddle of gore that was rapidly spreading across the cracked concrete.
I sat there on the corner
, and took stock of the situation. Here I was, in full view of passing traffic, bleeding. A sense of melancholy, the ineffable sadness of self pity, washed over me. My hull had been breeched, my wrapper torn, my bumper crushed. The sad truth of existence had revealed itself, emerging from behind the obscuring veil of everyday life: at anytime, something bad can happen to you. And me, all alone.
Those philosphical considerations, however, were getting me nowhere, and were soon crowded out by the more germane question of what to do next. I decided, therefore, to go back to the office, clean up, and drive myself to the hospital
. To that end, I lurched unsteadily to my feet, and headed back. As I made my way down Wilshire I passed a number of pedestrians who, seemingly, took no notice of me or the fact that I was covered in blood.
As I entered my building's lobby I passed the security desk. The security guard looked up and nodded at me in greeting, then went back to his paper. I began to wonder what a guy had to do to get some attention from a seemingly unconcerned public: apparently a bloody head wound does not cut it, so to speak. Maybe, I thought, it's not as bad as it seems.
One look at myself in the 7th floor men's room mirror dispelled that fantasy. I was a great, bloody mess, caked from head to toe in plasma, and crowned with an oozing wound that I was afraid to examine too closely. Better not to know, I thought. Better not to see.
The ER triage nurse confirmed that my instincts had been correct. I was sporting a gash that was two centimeters wide and about 2 inches long. My scalp was split to the bone. Thank God I didn't part my hair to get a good look at the thing. I'm not squeamish, but the thought of catching a glimpse of the exposed grey dome of my skull, the Holy of Holies, as it were, was something that I found profoundly unsettling.
I took a seat in the emergency room and waited my turn with the other unfortunate denizens of the waiting room. Crying children, ancient people in wheelchairs, worried family members - how I felt sorry for them, and how I wanted to be as far away from them, and this place as possible. I just wanted to go home.
5 hours later, I got my wish. The surgeon on call sent me home with a headful of staples, and a couple of well-worn tales of his days as an Army medic. I drove home under the pallid yellow glow the city takes on when the Pacific sends a heavy blanket of moisture to hang low under the stars, bouncing the street lights rudely back upon themselves, and suffusing the thick air with agitated photons unable to escape into the cool, peaceful night above the clouds.