This day, this hour, this minute last year, I was on fire. Everyone says to me, I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. The truth is that neither can I. Protection by disassociation.
As I slumped to the floor, someone ran at me with a jacket. Then I felt hands, many of them, hit out the fire. I lay there, limp, with my eyes closed, until I felt those hands help me up and lead me to the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the tub looking at my melted arms, the black skin hanging off my hands. I laughed. I said, What the fuck? And then I stopped laughing and I said, I can’t believe this happened to me. How could this happen to me? And then I laughed and said everything all over again and again. My friend responded by ripping off my leotard with her bare hands. They smeared toothpaste onto my wounds. Later I would wish that they hadn’t. They threw a blanket over me and ushered me to the car. The emergency services had advised them that it would be faster to drive me than wait for an ambulance. Welcome to Greece.
The drive to the hospital was excruciating. I was crumpled into the front seat (no seatbelt, no way) with my twisted black arms hanging out the window. I was shaking violently, partly due to pain, partly due to cold. It was a freezing February night but keeping warm made it worse.
Today someone asked me if I remembered every detail. I don’t. I can’t. I wish I could more dramatic and describe everything so that you would know exactly how I felt but to do that means I have to go there. And I can’t. I do remember grinding my teeth and trying not to moan because -get this- I didn’t want to act like one of those hysterical Greek women. Are we almost there? Please. I’m sorry for asking again and again. Are we almost there? I also remember looking down at my bare (burnt) stomach and trying to sit up straighter because -get this- I look fat. Women.
At the first hospital, we found out it wasn’t the hospital on call. It was just a clinic.they turned me around, stabbed a pain killer into my ass and told us there was nothing more they could do. Back to the car. The second ride was much shorter. It was also more painful. My friend held me between her legs and murmured in my ear, I know, baby, it hurts, we’re almost there. I know, I know.
At the second hospital we screeched to a halt in front of the entrance that is reserved for ambulances. Just like the movies! We all tumbled out and hobbled/ ran towards the emergency room. We must have looked ridiculous. One charred half-naked girl covered in a brown flowery tablecloth, one parrot, one Bob Marley and a Minnie Mouse. I think. The driver/ Dalmation joined us later. They knocked on doors immediately. Within minutes I was called in. This surprised me. It took me a while to understand the severity of my accident.
I think I’m going to stop for tonight.