It could’ve been my fault, I suppose. I was, after all, wearing terribly fashionable but not at all snow-ready boots. You know, those leather kind artfully created in Spain, with a cut just-so at the ankle. Trendy, some would tsk. Trendy. Yes, I could say that it was partly my fault, falling that day, but that wouldn’t be the whole story.
You see, I needed to get to the building. I had been called - nay summoned - that morning: there’s been a water leak. There’s been a water leak! And so my time that day - my time that day was already thinned. So I hustled. And there I was, moving foolish and quick over one of those still ice-crusted Wolseley walkways when I fell.
Well, dropped, really. To say it was anything other than a rather uncoordinated flop onto a snow-crusted sidewalk would be glamorizing it. (It was not glamorous). No, I dropped.
I dropped flat and round and soon found myself spread out on that pavement, at which for all to gawk. And oh! It happened all so sudden. Here now, me - and now, down here! On the ground - But only moments before, upright! Moving with a purpose! A reason. Intention!
But the back of my head now, on this cement; I hear cars and then people passing by on the other side. But further down here it is quiet. My eyes? I think my eyes - they are watery. And I blink. And I blink and know that there are trees lined up against this boulevard. Around me, giants. Giants! Ha ha! I laugh, by myself. And then also further up: I see right there, caught in between them? A blue. Indeed, this sky, painted way up over my head. It is beautiful. It is beautiful.
But my head also hurts. The back of my head now stings and I hear a car honking close by. And then, predictably, another. And another. Their bleating reminds me of sheep; a conversation about who is right and who (incorrectly) ran that four-way stop. The one near the church. The one so many slide through. And then, as it happens, a dog joins in too, his bark at half-howl; perhaps a protest to be let out of its penned-in yard. (Be it safe or not). And I understand. This I understand.
And if I did not think it before, now I do: the sense of injustice. Indignancy, even. And so I too - I join in. How dare this sidewalk trip me? Me! And yes, misplaced wrongness or not I do not find such a detail important at this time. No, not now. These things, such unfairness! - added onto the flop of falling itself. Well. Well! This all seems enough! I say, nay declare! Up towards those same sickenly sweet blue son-of-god heavens that moments ago seemed so beautiful: enough! Enough I say!
You are not beautiful! I declare. You are not beautiful!
But even it - this dog - has given up and stopped it’s barking; it knows that it is not getting out of that yard. Not today. And of course, more traffic passes. A few more honks. There always is. There always is. So I too, stop. Of course. Of course.
And there, then, my ears pick up the distinctive thud thud thudding of my son’s too-big winter boots running back this way. He (probably) wants to check on me. I think. Thud thud thud. And when does he arrive, he folds down to my level and I see his face. His face: cheeks red and a winter-breath fog hanging around his mouth. AreyouokayMommy? One breath and this hand, his everyday gentle on my arm. More concern but slower paced this time: Are you okay Mommy? A face, worryfull. It is time to get up. I will be okay. It is time to get up.
That was a big fall heh kiddo? Yeah, he smiles and agrees but also: I thought you were dead. It is real, for him. But we laugh at this. No, not yet, my son. Not yet. I ruffle the hair on the top of his head. As I always do, and soon we are okay. This time, hand-in-hand, we slide - skate - our way over to where we belong.
And it is here, at the front of the building, as I reach for the master key that I first see it: blood. Blood. It is confusing at first. A surprise. And soon I know: it is coming red and deep from my left finger. I realize: I must have cut it, there on the sidewalk. When I fell. It’s an expanding mark now and wet. Some of it - me - has dripped onto my pant leg; a stain, now. A stain. Dang, I will have to do more laundry once home. I lament this and cautiously, with my other hand, reach over into my coat pocket and fish for a tissue. It will have to do. But yes, I understand the circumstances. I my finger. Tightly.
Thankfully, the kiddo does not notice. Oh, perhaps he sees but is distracted. Here,
at the front door to the building, even just in the entranceway, it is swimming with residents, both the curious and bored. And a few of the lonely, I suppose. Amongst them there is also a (thank the heavens above) the usual young and amiable plumber eager to fix the problem. And, of course, the two less young and remarkably less amiable FireTech personnel, here also to deal with the fire alarm.The water leak has activated the building’s hardwired fire alarm system. Nine-one-one! Call nine-one-one! Again. It’s for their safely but - But I am here now.
I am here now and I see: the crowd before me is eager for both answers and reassurance. So with my finger wrapped I dole out what I can but - but I am half- aware that the Kleenex on my finger is slipping, growing blood and I wonder despite these fire alarms and plumbing breaks if these folks know the real danger they are in?
What is going on? they push towards - what is happening? They want to know. They want to know. And still hear the fire alarm reminder ping ping pinging calling out from the upstairs hallway. I can’t answer them. Are we safe?
Are we safe? I sort out another tissue from my coat pocket because it is needed and there before them, feeling like Moses as I stand on this top stair, I re-wrap my finger. I re-wrap my finger and place the soiled one into my other coat pocket, which I will not use anymore today. Because it is not safe. It never is, silly people. But I only think it myself. And likewise in my head, I add coat to the list of things that must later be laundered. I sigh.
And I position this newly-wrapped finger into the air, above my heart. I point upwards. If anyone thinks it odd, they do not mention it. And then, and then, I take action: I call down both those reassurances and instructions that everyone seems to need.
And soon - placated and informed - they leave. And once everyone is dispersed, (and the kiddo off to find the Lego toy that someone promised him), that I am able to put down this arm, fold in my legs and sit down for a bit. For a bit, at least. And there, on these one-hundred and twenty year old entrance way steps, the ones worn down in the middle from each foot that has climbed them, I unwrap. I unwrap this little finger, the one protected with one yellow Kleenex and then the next. As I get further down to the wound, I am relieved that it is unmarked. Dry. I have finished. I am (no longer) bleeding. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.
Things are different when you know that you are Hep C+.
You see, I am dangerous to you. If I am bleeding, I am dangerous to you. If I have dried blood on me, I am still dangerous to you. Slightly lesser, but still. But still. For three weeks past this date (the virus can be active up to three weeks past it’s wet stage) my blood - me - be it dried or not - I will be dangerous to you.
Likewise, If I accidently use your razor or toothbrush or have an open sore in my mouth and use your drinking straw, or maybe if we even have sex (we are not going to, sorry) then - then I am dangerous to you.
I am dangerous to you. And it’s an awful way to live.
But the good news: I received a phone call earlier this week informing me that I have qualified on compassionate grounds to be treated for Hep C using MAVYRET, a drug not yet readily available in Manitoba. A drug treatment that usually skims the forty-thousand dollar mark. And by this news, I have to say that I am shocked, elated and scared. I think if I must make a top-three list of emotions, those would be them.
I start June 11.