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Trials and Torments


What, me worry?

I love visiting my friend at her hair salon, Dazzlers, in Pine Bush, New York. That’s when I get to shoot the bull with a whole new array of people, a captive audience to my never-ending sagas. That’s because they’re trapped with their hair in the process of being dyed, or soaking wet or mid-styling.

This time around, my friend, Michelle and I swapped disaster hair stories to her clientele. Sadly, most centered around my hair. I'm blessed with a full head of kinky, coarse and curly hair that attracts all sorts of insects, twigs and assorted things that fly, crawl and walk hunched over.

“Last night, I heard a noise,” I started as a preamble. “I thought it came from outside. I got up and went on my deck, but saw nothing so I came back into the house. Then, I sat down at the kitchen table and that’s when a humongous grasshopper jumped off my head onto my kitchen table.”

“Gross!” shrieked Michelle. “That’s the noise you heard!”

The other women at the salon laughed uncomfortably. Having someone in the crowd who admits to being a portal for grasshoppers doesn’t necessarily qualify as potential friend material. Lord knows what else I harbor in my hair.

To assuage them, I recounted one of my San Francisco stories from 1999. I can’t believe how fast time flew by! Back then, I was an executive making great money, living the life in my duplex loft apartment in South of Market. One day, I left my office at 1 Market Street to walk across the street to my dentist. I wore my high-maintenance power suit, pumps and my hair swept up in a bun on top of my head.

It was a glorious sunny day. I watched a bus full of Japanese tourists disembark and line up to take the Rice-a-Roni tram, a huge tourist trap, when suddenly I felt a giant weight land on my head.

“What the hell?” I muttered.

Seconds later, I felt claws digging into my skull.

“Holy shit!” I yelped.

By the way the Japanese tourists picked up their cameras and focused their lens on me, I knew something ungodly perched on my head. While continuing to walk, I slapped with one hand what I now realized was a pigeon. As a response, it flapped its wings and dug its talons even deeper into my skull. I kept slapping it harder and harder without ever losing a step. Meanwhile, the tourists snapped picture after picture, no doubt believing I was a performance artist. Finally, the pigeon pushed hard with all its weight and flew off right before I entered the dentist’s building.

I recounted this story yet again, this time to my friend, Jane. Right at that moment a massive beetle flew into my hair and got tangled. Since Jane is well acquainted with the grasshopper story, she didn’t even blink as she witnessed me shrieking and beating my hair to free me of the buzzing insect.

“You do realize this is an isolated incident, right?” I said afterwards, panting from the exertion of extracting yet another insect. Sometimes I need to reassure my close friends that I’m not a maniac on the loose. Similar to the actions of Dennis Rodman and the local sociopath, M Butterfly, I deny, deny, deny those humiliating incidents. Otherwise, I’ll never have a social life or the vestiges of one I currently have.

Which leads me to the topic at hand. I got into canning two years ago due to my concord grapes. I’ve a vine growing on my utility shed and it only bears fruit when it intertwines with my overhead electric wires. It had some bounty this year.

I managed to cut almost all bunches with ease. Except one, just out of reach. It was right near the electrical wires and the most robust bunch of all. I carried over my trusty broken wooden ladder, the only one left. And then my vertigo attacked.

I’ve this weird kind of vertigo that comes and goes. It’s directly related to my vision. Even with balance therapy, I still have it. Actually, the balance therapy worsened it. For now I know when I look up, move my head up, have anything move up and down in front of me, I get a vertigo attack. And when I moved my head up, I stumbled, the last bunch of grapes still out of reach.

And I fell.

Of course, I landed on my bad leg.

Years ago, I shattered my ankle. To condense a very long story which entailed numerous surgeons, surgeries, botched surgeries, cancerous tumor, three years in abject pain and misery and unable to use one leg walking with crutches and cane, I was left with a slight limp, unable to wear stiletto heels ever more and worse, a scar.

With something akin to abject fear that I broke the ankle again, I let out a high C howl.

Times like these I realize the milk of human kindness grew dry. Moments prior to my accident, I was serenaded by the background sound of neighbors talking, laughing and shouting. After my cry of terror, you could hear a pin drop. In fact, even the birds, squirrels and neighborhood dogs that bark all day long quieted down.

I rolled onto my belly and crawled across the lawn to the path. “Perhaps if I manage to crawl up the path to the road, maybe someone will stop and help me,” ran through my mind. Upon considerable reflection while dragging my body, I thought, “No, they’ll probably run over me.”

I staggered to my feet and limped to the house. Let’s say my night was ruined.

The next day, I saw Jane.

“Why are you dragging your leg?” she asked, nonchalantly. Over the years, Jane has become increasingly immune to my accidents. The phrases, “Only a flesh wound,” and “It didn’t happen” has joined a parade of quotidian greetings as commonplace as “How you doing?”

It took a week for me to feel better and then I got that last bunch of grapes, a grisly affair, something not to repeat in front of children. Borrowing a pot and canning rack from the owners of the local garage, a wonderful couple, I made a dozen jars of delicious grape jam which I gave away to friends.

And then I espied the crabapple trees surrounding my friend’s cafe. They’re on public property and people do come by and take the apples.

“Uhm, Jane, can you help me get those apples down? I want to make jelly out of them.”

She peered at me with suspicion.

“All I need is for you to hold a ladder. In case I fall, you can dial 9-1-1.”

“No way,” she said, dismissively.

For a week, I plagued her. “A real friend would hold a ladder.”

She shrugged me off.

Never accepting defeat, I borrowed her broom and bucket and left the cafe and walked to the first crabapple tree in sight. Looking up, I swung the broom at a branch and in seconds felt a wave of vertigo. Three times I whacked the crap out of the tree and nothing came down. Disgusted, I returned to her cafe, walking like a drunken soldier.

“Nothing,” I muttered. “A real friend would help...”

Finally, the other day, she had a smug self-satisfied grin. “You better leave those crabapples alone,” she advised.

“Why?”

“Turns out wild turkeys are in them. They eat the apples, especially the fermented ones and get drunk from them. And we both know you tend to attract things that fly...”

I love a challenge.

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PS: I failed to mention that I now have poison sumac from falling and dragging my body through it.

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