It all passed before me in a blur.
It all hurt.
I didn’t know if it was because he was squeezing too hard or because I was indeed seeing flames. The sweater he’d wrapped around my arm had already started to soak through and I realized that the material was just all wrong for a wound like this.
And maybe he had seen it too because he was squeezing me even tighter.
Somehow, I was seated in a cubicle on an examination table, with him in the seat before me, his large, capable fingers curled around my wounded arm. He would look up at me every few seconds but I found that I couldn’t take my eyes off of him even when he caught me looking at him.
But then, who could blame me, really?
He was just about as dark as I was, if not a shade lighter – and his eyes were hazel.
I could see almost nothing else.
I knew that brown was pretty much the standard shade for eyes in anyone born black, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t people born with eyes that were another colour.
Clearly, he was one such person.
And I wondered if I had some kind of underlying contagious disease that I didn’t know about when I saw that he had my blood on his hands.
He looked up at me again and I just stared right back, which prompted him to look away again.
The door slid open then and the doctor ran in, followed by two Nurses.
I had grown up around healthcare professionals so it was almost easy for me to identify these people.
The doctor, a young man with a practiced smile, introduced himself – I don’t know if I replied in kind. He put on a pair of gloves, as did the Nurses and then finally, the stranger let me go. As the doctor peeled back the layers of the sweater, he asked me what had happened.
It took me a moment to find my voice as I stared at the extent of the damage.
“Someone ran past me, bumped into me, I hit the shelf, it broke, I fell, landed badly on a bookend…”
The doctor nodded his head as he examined the long, wide gash on the back of my right forearm.
He asked me a few more questions and went through some mild and gentle range-of-motion exercises. Nothing appeared to be broken, he said, but he ordered an X-ray just to be sure. He said that I’d have to get it done immediately at the nearest hospital.
“But I can’t.”
The doctor looked at me.
It all seemed to hurt even more.
I closed my eyes for what felt like a second, startled out of my own pain by a dull thud somewhere in the cubicle. The stranger looked back at me from the basin where he was washing the blood off of his hands.
I held my breath and released it, slowly.
“I’m here on a class trip,” I told him. “From the North West.”
He was startled.
“That is far.”
How was I supposed to explain this?
But it became clear that he wasn’t going to just let me go without his relevant tests.
He thought for a second.
“It doesn’t take all that long, really,” he said then. “I can fast track it and with the new systems in place, I can receive the results within minutes of the imagery.”
He looked down at my arm again. “You will need stitches, but I cannot act until I’m sure that there’s no break.”
I had never been to this place before.
How could I possibly get to a hospital?
I closed my eyes, dragging my hand over my face.
This was not good!
“Let me just call my teacher.”
“You can give her the number and she can make the call while I get you cleaned up.”
I gave one of the Nurses the number we had all been given for the purposes of this trip and she disappeared from the room.
She came back less than five minutes later to tell me that the woman was on her way.
The doctor irrigated my wound and I found myself almost nauseous from seeing just how deep the cut was.
And then Miss Patel was there, fussing over me as I explained what had happened.
The doctor gave her the same story that he had given me and she sprang into action – the car was already out front.
Once again, it was a blur.
The doctor, whose name was Johnson had called ahead to The Gen as it was known and indeed, it took under half an hour for me to be seen.
I was moved from the X-ray room to a medical bay and left there with Miss Patel, who was on the phone now with my father.
“Only you, kid,” he said. “Only you can be injured by a book!”
“It was a bookend, dad,” I told him.
“But are you feeling alright?”
“It’s sore, but I’m good.”
“Yes,” he said. “I’m looking at the images now –”
“What?” I exclaimed. “But how did you –”
“I’m a doctor, Dilia.”
I almost wanted to scream in my frustration.
“There’s nothing broken so they can stitch you up.”
I almost wasn’t listening at this point.
I gave Miss Patel back her phone and waited for this new set of doctors to return with their verdict.
Even with the Lignocaine, it still hurt.
Seventeen stitches later, I was following Miss Patel out of the Trauma Unit toward the parking lot. The sun did not feel like anything on my skin and my clothes felt somehow tighter. I could see things and register them but their implications meant nothing to me.
The school bus was at the top of the hill, idling, but I wasn’t going there, apparently.
Somehow, I was seated in the back of Miss Patel’s car, my injured arm resting in my lap.
“You can sleep if you want, poor thing!” she was saying. “The medication they gave you was really strong!”
And there was no doubt about it.
The car rumbled to life and she put it in reverse.
My phone vibrated in my pocket and I saw that it was Imogen. I dropped the call and stuffed the little device back in my pocket.
At some point, I felt like my lap was on fire and I looked down at it in some kind of daze.
It was here that I took note of the black plastic bag that I was clutching.
I had no idea what was inside of it and I was just too tired to be that curious so I pushed it aside and slouched in my seat, instantly falling into a deep slumber.