El Alacrán

I accidentally poisoned myself a few months ago. I know that sounds strange and suspicious but let me explain. I had a dermatologist appointment on May 3rd and before going in I decided to take a shower (as one should). While showering I accidentally swallowed and inhaled shampoo and spume through my mouth and nose, and some of it even got into my eyes. The experience was awful—I had horrible symptoms (pain in my nose and throat, chills, nausea, fatigue) for three days—but while “recovering” I was reminded of the time I was bitten by a scorpion and almost died. Here is that story.

[Interlude I: I don’t really remember the events that led up to me standing barefoot in the middle of the night near some railroad tracks, so I will skip that bit. The only person who could have explained what I was doing there is dead and to be honest it is not relevant to the story. All I remember is that she was meeting some dude (he used to rob banks for a living and was an old friend of hers—but that will be a story for another time) and I was forced to go along with her. With that out of the way I will get right to it!]

(As you have just read in my interlude) I was standing barefoot on a patch of grass near some railroad tracks in the middle of the night (around 11PM or so) when I felt a HARD PINCH on my left big toe (just imagine pricking your finger on a rose thorn or needle except the sensation is much deeper and painful). Yelping like a wounded dog, I pulled my foot out of the grass and hopped to a nearby rock that was the size of a futon. My grandmother approached me and asked what was wrong. Not seeing any blood or creepy crawly lurking around my foot I told her an ant had bit me (and at the time I HONESTLY thought that was what had happened) and she left me alone again to continue talking with her “friend.”

About two cold and uneventful minutes passed when, out of the blue, I had four arms instead of two, there were two giant boulders nearby instead of one and little fibers of hair began to get stuck in my nose and throat. My vision blurred, my chest began to hurt, and with each passing moment I found it more and more difficult to breathe. I don’t remember very much what happened next, so I will do a quick recap and then skip to the more gory and “shocking” parts that I DO happen to remember….

I collapsed, hitting my knee on the large rock, and my grandmother’s friend yelled something. My grandmother rushed over and picked me up from the ground; shaking me violently as she asked what was wrong. With tears in my eyes, I sort of whispered yet screamed (all while sobbing and gasping) that an ant had bit me and that I had hair and spider legs crawling inside my nose, chest, and throat. Realizing what was going on my grandmother picked me up and we ran as fast as we could back to the house.

When we entered our building our landlady, who was 75 at the time and should have been asleep at 11PM, approached us and asked what was wrong. My grandmother told her that a scorpion had stung me, and our landlady immediately rushed inside her house to call a cab. A few minutes passed (I am saying a few minutes because I honestly don’t know how long it took for the taxi to get there—it could have been 3 minutes or 30) and after my grandmother wrapped me in a blanket we got inside the cab and off we went…

I don’t remember much about what went on inside the cab, but I do remember my grandmother swearing and pointing aggressively at the driver. I think she was asking him to drive faster, but again, I’m just guessing here. At the time I wanted nothing more than to cut my throat and nose open to remove all of the hair and spider legs, to close my eyes so the tears would stop, and to puncture my chest so I could breathe. The numbness in my body was spreading all over and even holding on to the blanket I was wrapped in felt like an impossible and herculean task.

Anyways…when we got to the clinic, I remember the taxi man helping my grandmother and I inside. The moment we stepped through the door my blurry and swollen eyes were bombarded with an explosion of bright lights and people crying and groaning and moving about. A nurse approached us and asked what was going on. My grandmother explained that a scorpion had bit me, and I pulled away from her, terrified. While we’d been in the car my grandmother had somehow found the time and energy to get mad at ME for being “stupid and careless (for not wearing shoes and walking around; completely forgetting that I was 4 and that I was there because of HER)” AND to point out that I was most likely going to die.

Believing (in my dumb little head) that if I stuck to my story nothing would happen, I shook my head NO and whispered ANT into her ear. The nurse sighed and after a “brief” check-in process—in which I was placed on a chair all alone for a few minutes (AND threw up and almost passed out)—we were brought into what I assume was the area reserved for people who’d been victims of animal bites, poisonings, venom incidents, and accidents, etc. Perhaps it was the emergency area of the clinic, but who knows…

[Interlude II: I feel the need to stress (VERY CLEARLY) once again that up to this point the time scale may be a little iffy. I keep saying “a few minutes, a couple of minutes, etc.” in order to help with the flow of the story, but keep in mind that all of this (up to this point in the story) could have easily occurred in a span of either a few short minutes (think 15 mins. or less) OR a span of 45 mins. to an hour, perhaps even longer; again, I don’t exactly know. I was in a lot of pain/distress and things occurred in a simultaneous whirlwind of agonizing slowness and unbelievable speed.]

We passed through a couple of doors and eventually I was brought into a small room the size of a standard classroom. There were five beds—two on each side of the door and three facing the opposite wall. I was placed on the left-side bed next to the door and immediately a female nurse with a pristine white uniform walked over and grabbed hold of my arm. I tried to scream, but my throat was too stuffed to utter a single sound and before I could pull my arm away PLOP! She stuck a needle into my arm and began distributing what I think was either an IV fluid thingamabob or an anti-venom.

A wee bit later (again, I’m so sorry about the time scale!) I began sweating and feeling nauseous. I threw up for what was most likely the 3rd or 4th time and as the nurse cleaned me up my grandmother sat on a chair next to the foot of my bed, trying but failing miserably to remain civil and calm. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her face and she did not look good—at all. Beads of sweat trickled down her temples and she looked pale and clammy. Her hands shook uncontrollably, and I remember that at this point she got up all of a sudden to cuss who was standing on the other side of the room. I found out later that a man had complained about me being there (according to him I was taking up space, i.e., a bed) and my grandmother—who was already on edge—had punched him a couple of times to shut him up. He was most likely drunk and delusional, but geez, what a fucking asshole, eh? I DO remember that a couple of nurses rushed into the room to separate them, and the man was asked to leave. I think he had either wandered inside our room by accident or the person he was accompanying had enough people looking out for them to justify him getting kicked out. Again, I don’t remember why he was there, but I do remember that he was there…

Around the time my grandmother and this man were duking it out a boy came into the room on a stretcher; with blood all over his leg and arms. He was definitely a few years older than I (about eleven or twelve) and like me, he was barely conscious when he came in. A long curtain was immediately pulled in order to give him privacy and I remember overhearing that he’d been bitten by a venomous snake twice on the leg and once on his finger. The family didn’t know what type of snake it was, and because they lived far away it had been pretty difficult for them to reach the hospital. Because of how severe the boy’s condition was, every other patient in the room was temporarily “ignored” in order to take care of this poor boy. For the next couple of “minutes” nurses and doctors rushed in and out of his little area, trying their best to stabilize him.

As the nurses rushed in and out of the boy’s area, one of them pulled the curtain back accidentally and YIKES!…that poor boy did not look good. AT ALL. There was a huge gash on the side of his leg (I have no idea how that could have occurred) and a little lower down, right by his ankle, there was a big snake bite that was STILL gushing blood. My grandmother and I—along with everyone else in the room—stared stupidly at the poor boy. He was barely, just barely conscious and the only thing he could do was move his head from side to side and moan. He looked so pale and blue in the face; poor guy…I sincerely hope he made it out okay.

I suppose seeing this poor buy in such an awful state was the last straw for my grandmother because I heard a loud THUD! and down she went, crashing right into white plastic chair at the foot of my bed. The poor thing broke right in the center and my grandmother came crashing down, slamming her face against the floor. I screamed hysterically and immediately began crying, trying—in my weakened state—to get up. I actually managed to tear the IV thingy off my arm and put my legs over the bed before a nurse rushed over to hold me down (quite forcibly might I add) while two other nurses helped my grandmother.

The boy’s mother—bless her heart—seeing what had happened to my grandmother, actually WALKED OVER TO MY BED and began comforting ME! She wiped tears off my face and held my hand while the nurse holding me down readjusted the IV. A man sitting nearby was kind enough to bring a chair over to my grandmother and one of the nurses lifted her off the ground and sat her on it while the other woke her up.

My grandmother woke up and she rushed over to where I was, barking insults at the nurse for holding me down. Honestly, I—never mind…in the depths of my stupid little heart I wanna believe she was acting that way because she genuinely loved and cared about me, but I know that was not the case. She was afraid of losing the lifestyle and income that I—through my mother’s weekly check’s—provided for her.

Anyways…

We spent the entire night at the clinic and as daylight broke, I (slowly) began to feel better. My nose, chest, and throat opened up and little by little, the cramps, chills, nausea, sweat, and fear went away. I was going to be OK, and my small body, despite everything it had been through, had chosen not to give up. I was alive, I was going to remain alive, and I was there to stay.

After the “electrifying” events of the night I was in/out of consciousness for the rest of the evening, but I do remember waking up at least once asking for my mother. My grandmother, in an almost dismissive manner, told me at that time that she had called my mother and told her that I was in the hospital. My mother had told her that I needed to get better soon and that she loved me. She missed me a lot and was happy that I was on my way to feeling a lot better.

BUT Surprise, surprise! That was all a lie. My grandmother never called my mother, and while writing this story I found out (from my mother) that she didn’t find out about my near-death experience until AFTER we’d arrived at the U.S. Apparently my grandmother had mentioned it in passing during one of their conversations and, after my mother had confronted her for her lack of disclosure, had become upset with my mother for “making a big deal out of things”. For the longest time I had been under the impression that my mother had known I was dying and finding out that she had no idea that something so serious was happening (to me) felt awful. I probably sound like a broken disk saying this in almost every single story I write, but my grandmother was a horrible and cruel person. I hate that she is part of so many of these horrible stories, but alas; it is what it is.

After I was discharged from the clinic my grandmother forced me to wait outside for over an hour while she spoke with someone (who at the time I assumed was my mother) on the phone. I remember asking her if I could speak with my mother and her swatting my hand away; upset about the fact I’d interrupted her. After her conversation came to an end, we took a taxi home and halfway through the ride she forced us out of the car and made me walk all the way home. She had become upset with me because I had asked for breakfast and, because we “had no money” (we did have money, by the way…) and I’d asked in “public”, she had felt angry and humiliated at having to tell me we had no food at home.

If I’m being perfectly honest my memory of this event stops there. After walking home, the only thing I remember is lying down on the couch the rest of the day, going in and out of sleep while my grandmother did God-knows-what. I think she made something for us to eat, but I don’t really remember. I was still (incredibly) exhausted and weak from the scorpion bite and walking almost a mile home had made me feel worse. I don’t remember if I was prescribed anything to manage the symptoms or pain; and I don’t even know if I experienced any pain or discomfort in the days following my “ant bite”. I most likely did, but I honestly don’t remember…

What I do remember though, is feeling devastatingly alone and isolated during this time; and to be brutally honest this was one of the many times in which the bitterness and anger I felt against my mother got the best of me. Why had she abandoned me? Why had she refused to speak with me while I was sick? Did she love me? Was I a burden to her and if so, is that why she had left?

Ugh…

I had meant for this story to be on the lighter and sillier side, so I apologize for the somber tone it is currently taking. Without deleting anything I’ve just written can you be kind enough to keep reading? We’re almost done, (I promise) and if you’re willing and able can you give me a chance to try and turn it around?

Let’s see…

The thing I probably remember most about my “ant bite incident” was that woman’s kindness. I will be forever in her debt, and I will NEVER forget her. She didn’t have to comfort me (she had a dying son to worry about), but she did it anyways, and in that brief moment of genuine warmth and comfort I felt a little less scared and a little less alone. I sincerely wish it had been my grandmother wiping away my tears and holding my hand, but as many of you who have read my poems and stories have come to know that was never going to be the case. My grandmother was too preoccupied with other stuff to care about me; so much so that she left the clinic for a while to go meet someone else. I hope meeting that person was worth it, and that she got something in return for the time she spent away from her convalescent granddaughter. I have never told anyone this last bit, but I feel that it is important to share it here. In many ways having someone else know (even if I think letting someone else know is insignificant) feels good; it feels comforting. And right now, I really need that.

I never found out what happened to that woman’s son, but I sincerely hope he made it out okay. The kindness of strangers—the kindness that woman showed me when I needed it the most—is unmatched (in many ways) and without it I can confidently say I would not be here today.

Happy September!

Godspeed.

C. W.

*P.S: I said I would try to end this on a “lighter” note, but I’ve got nothing. My brain is completely fried (this is the LONGEST story I’ve written for SNAB) and I can’t think of anything “light” or “airy” to write (about). If I think of something I'll add it here, but don't expect me to deliver on this NOT A PROMISE anytime soon. Ha ha ha. G'bye!