Chapter One (2012)
“Do you want to use the same emergency contact?” the nurse asked. “Huh,” I replied, in a daze. “Do you want me to use the same emergency contact?” she repeated. “What? Let me see.” I looked at the paper and saw the name of my ex-boyfriend. I almost laughed at myself for using him as a contact. “Umm, well, can you leave it blank?”
I was trying to convince myself it didn’t bother me – that I could not give a person’s name with any confidence. I shifted focus. The situation seemed almost unreal because I had wished this on someone, the same someone listed as my emergency contact. No, I am not into voodoo or witchcraft.
This once, someone yelled to me on a crowded prison bus, asking me how my ‘man’ was, knowing he was going from one facility to another. Since I liked playing to the crowd, I had specifically said, “Oh, fuck that scrub. I hope he’s got every STD we ain’t already got.” As we laughed, I also blurted out, “I hope that bitch gets scabies and rabies.” At the time, I didn’t even know what scabies meant. I was simply trying to be a wise ass.
Then, there I was, approximately two years later, although I still felt like the ‘good guy’. Words from my previous relationship had came back to haunt me. I had caught scabies in prison, after which I was treated like a leper. On that fateful day, a dog bit me, and I was getting rabies shots in my head, due to it being the wound area.
“Hey! I’m hungry. Can I go back to the waiting area and get some food from the vending machine?” I asked. The nurse didn’t answer, which I considered a yes. I wasn’t even hungry. For some reason, I felt compelled to show people the dried up blood all over my head and body. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want anybody’s sympathy. Fuck that.
I hoped to become relevant to somebody, even if it was just out of shock value or being nosey. I was sure the emergency room had seen more graphic emergencies, a lot worse. That notwithstanding, I continued to parade myself back and forth to the waiting area, just to see people’s heads turn. I had my poker face because I did not want anyone to think I was the weak victim sort. I wore my battle scars proudly.
A dog at the shelter where I volunteered had attacked me. I still love the dogs, though. As crazy as it might sound, I relate to a stray dog in a cage that is turned vicious by people, because only then does it becomes an ‘outcast’. If one dog decided he wanted to hurt me, it didn’t take away from the hundreds that made me smile and taught me how to ‘feel’ again.
On that day, I had been practicing my tough guy role. Despite warning, I took a large 127 pound dog into the backyard at the shelter. I had already been told some people were scared to deal with him. I figured he would know I was on his side. Once exhausted, I let him of the leash and sat on the ground, Indian style, listening to music on my iPod. I was watching him run around, thinking I was giving him a break from the confinement that animals have to endure at shelters.
He came up and was not even growling. He mounted my folded legs and looked over my head. I thought he was sniffing my ear so I went to hug him. Like lightning, I felt the force, and then the teeth sunk into my head. I rolled on my stomach so he couldn’t get my face. I played dead because I knew didn’t have a chance otherwise.
It worked. When he did not get a reaction, I guess he felt that he had shown dominance. He walked away. There was one more volunteer assigned in the caged area. Without hesitation, she came out to help. I jumped up and tried to push her into a safe zone, in case the dog was still aggressive.
She loved dogs as much as me and started making excuses for his behavior, saying he was scared. I found out later that the dog had taken half a woman’s face off. I also met the person who brought the dog to the shelter.
My head was bleeding profusely. I walked back into the main building and had the veterinarians call an ambulance. We couldn’t figure out which part of my head was bleeding because there was too much blood. At one point, I yelled at them, “don’t touch the blood, get bleach,” because I knew I had HIV and Hepatitis C. I was at a point in my life where I was not ashamed to warn people and educate them on the subject. It had been over 20 years since I was diagnosed positive.
The ambulance driver asked if I had any health issues. As usual, I resorted to humor to answer a difficult question. I laughingly said, “You got a lot of time. Yeah. I got HIV and Hepatitis C, but don’t worry.” I told him to be careful, given the possibility of coming in contact with HIV.
“Actually I am more concerned about Hep C,” he responded. “Why?” I asked. “It is more dangerous due to the fact that it can survive in oxygen a lot longer than HIV,” he answered. “I thought you can only get Hep C from needles.” I said. “No, you can get it from sex and contact with contaminated blood,” he added.
I felt a little embarrassed because I was an HIV/AIDS speaker and peer educator in prison. When women told me they had Hep C but never used a needle, I thought they were full of shit. I sat in the ambulance, looking back at when I was a speaker, and how I dealt with the responsibility. I had to confess to myself that I was not doing it only to help others. I was also using it as a venting tool and a way to be the center of attention.
I kept talking about diseases and my past with the ambulance workers. When I got to the emergency room, I was left alone with a towel wrapped around my head. It was time to take a stroll to the vending machine.
Suddenly, a doctor came in and examined my head, while I was busy chatting away. He told me to “be quiet,” because I got bit in a main artery. Me not shutting up kept blood squirting out of the wound, requiring the doctor to use staples. I tried very hard to shut up and stop cracking jokes and breathe, which was not one of my strong points.
He went to get the rabies shots for my head due to my immunodeficiency disorder. He was going directly in the wound area. I had endured the staples and was waiting for the injections. Only, I didn’t know what was coming.
While waiting, for what seemed like a very long time, I caught sight of a social worker I dealt with from ‘The Coming Home Program.” It was a support group for felons in Saint Luke’s Hospital. “Hey Brenda, what are you doing here?” I asked. She came over and looked at me kind of puzzled, asking what happened. After exchanging reasons, she asked, “Who is coming to pick you up?”
Again, someone asked me a question that kicked up feelings. “Oh, I am okay, and I am used to emergency rooms,” I joked. She asked why nobody was there with me. I told her I didn’t want to bother people with something I could handle by myself. In reality, I felt very alone, as I had my entire life.
The icing on the cake was her asking, “Glenna, do you have any friends?” I did not answer for a moment. While I knew a whole lot of people, I didn’t even remember half of them. Where I was that night, after quickly evaluating my social circle, my answer was a straightforward “No.”