Glaucoma & Guacamole

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Cactus

Stories of things that hurt.

                                                                                                                   
I have a winking affection for belongings that were a pain in the ass to acquire, de-package, assemble or were in some way unyielding. It just seems fitting that a monstrously stubborn item fighting to make its presence known should end up with me.

It’s also fortunate I don’t have the same patience for people that I do for abusive objects.

There was this rug — huge, brilliant red — hanging in a store. I decided to pull it down for a horizontal view. Relentless yanking released the heavy rug — right on my head. A hard corner of it landed brutally on my eyeball. I saw the same lightning flash as when you’re struck in the face with a ball, except this kept going like a strobe.

Throughout the day, even as I wiped away my nonstop tearing, I’d chuckle to myself, “A rug fell in my eye!”

Some months later, at a routine eye exam in an eyeglass shop, I was told to go to an ophthalmologist because my eye pressure test read too high. That’s the test where they force an awful puff of air into your eye with an apparatus while the onus is on you not to blink. It sucks. A high reading can mean glaucoma. That really sucks.

After freaking out that I was going blind and realizing how nothing would matter if I lost my sight — career options, a great view, renewing my driver’s license or even choosing a sofa color — I looked online for causes of glaucoma. Since I didn’t fit any of the specified demographics, the only category left was “severe trauma to the eyes.” Like a giant rug colliding with your cornea.

It took me weeks to get myself to a real eye doctor, but before that, a semi-conscious bit of me woke up every day believing blindness could be part of my future. When I finally did get around to an ophthalmologist, he found nothing wrong with my eyes.

But that’s neither here nor there. This is about my warped notion that objects that hurt me, belong with me.

The store people had rolled up and jammed the rug into my car. The rug didn’t manage to blind me, but when I carried it into the house, it put out my back. Inside, it unrolled too quickly and my shin caught another hard edge. The cut bled and left a permanent scar.

Still, it somehow seemed right for the rug to be proudly centering the room. Or maybe I was the proud one for having tamed it in spite of all its struggle.

There are many such objects in my life, and many scars, nicks and fond struggles.

A predictable mishap involved a series of cacti. They had fascinating thorn patterns — some curling, some thick and others fuzzy. I just had to purchase a few. Once I did, I gingerly placed them in a deep carton that fit around them perfectly. My foursome were safe and unshifting for the drive back.

But me, I was not so safe, because naturally, once arrived at their new home, the thorny troublemakers would have their way with me.

You know the monkey with a fistful of nuts in a jar, neither letting go nor freeing his hand? I was determined not to be that monkey while I battled the depth of the carton against its snugness around the sharp weaponry of my new plants. So twenty minutes ensued of me trying to outsmart the situation with various long implements in hopes of prying up the planters. But the planters would not budge.

It finally came to me going in with my bare arms. Gloves, in my impatience, didn’t occur to me.

Monkey would neither let go nor free her hands, all the while pulling and yanking. You can imagine the scratched-up, thorn-picking aftermath. This is why in cartoons, a cactus on the screen invariably means laughs to come before the hapless coyote even lands on the plant to don a thorn-covered ass.

The difference is, cartoony victims don’t bleed.

I settled my foursome on the kitchen counter close to where I often prepared food. Sucking the blood off my knuckles, I looked admiringly at the spiky bunch, considering them conquered.

It so happens that my favorite foods have resulted in scars on my body too. One Sunday, with six ripe avocados fresh from the farmer’s market, lime, cilantro and the rest, I set out to make a spicy guacamole. My glee for heavy flavoring with lime outmatched my disdain for food preparation. My mouth watered even before I cut the fruit.

No need to make this long: Weeks later, I still had four little holes in my wrist. I’d gotten stabbed with the fork I used to squeeze out the lime.

Did you think it was going to be cactus again, sitting so close to my food-preparation area? No, they remained quite immobile, which was good since I’m a bleeder. Alas I’m no cartoon, despite evidence to the contrary.

Incidentally, the guacamole was gloriously tart.

There’s no segue from food that hurt me to music that hurt me. There’s just my on-again, off-again affair with my guitar. If only relationships with people were like relationships with guitars. A guitar doesn’t smother or give you the cold shoulder. It’s always there but doesn’t weigh you down. It lets you wrap around it, and when you strum it, it comes to life. How do I keep what brings me such joy hidden in the closet for long periods? Whenever my guitar and I become re-acquainted, it’s like learning to talk again.

Except my fingers bleed.

At least for the first few days before callouses develop. But during the honeymoon period, I grab my guitar first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to sleep. And the fingers, well, there’s no love without a little bloodshed.

Anything can leave a mark, even happy occasions.

A faint scar on my pinky is marker for the day I spent with my little brother ice-skating in Central Park. He was eight then, and time with this child meant the purest moments of happiness I knew as an adult. The day was magical for many reasons — New York, Central Park, the ice — but relevant to this story is afterwards, when I pulled off one of his skates. The blade went straight for my finger. The vein on my knuckle didn’t quite stop bleeding for two days.

It didn’t bother me that the wound took a long time to heal, because while it remained fresh, so did the day in Central Park. My brother is sixteen now, and every time I notice my pinky, I smile. I don’t see a scar, I see my little brother’s shiny, eight-year-old eyes looking up at me as he held my hand skating around the rink.

Many out-of-ordinary days — mostly on vacation or out in nature — have marked me up. One might argue that I’m clumsy. But I look at a mark on my arm and think, “That’s the day I tried body boarding in Costa Rica.”

When my skin’s marred and not so girlie-pretty with some red nick, I could probably use a bit of zinc to heal faster.

But zinc’s just not as romantic as scar stories.
 

Cathartic Monkeyism

  • Sometimes, there is no moral.
  • Always wear gardening gloves when dealing with cactus plants.

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21 comments

  1. Oh, Oh, I so know the perfect job for you, Gunmetal Geisha: unloading tractor-trailer loads of potted roses! One spring day, many moons ago, when I owned/operated my own temperature controlled tractor-trailer, dispatch sent me to a farm in Florida to load potted roses just before Mother’s Day. A crew of about 15 young lads loaded the roses by cross-stacking the pots about 6 high from the front to the rear of the trailer- 4,500 plants in all. Each pot was about 8 inches in diameter and held a single rose plant, complete with blossoming rose, about 18 inches high. It turned out that I was dropping them at 8 different supermarkets spread from North Carolina to Boston. Every store was building a huge display of roses in front of the store for Mother’s Day and expected me to “tailgate” (move everything to the rear so it could be reached from the ground) their portion of the load. And the only way to tailgate the roses was to pick up one pot in each hand and walk them to the rear – 2,250 trips up and down the trailer with long, thorn covered stems brushing against each arm. Try as I might, there was no way to keep the thorns from my arms. A coat was out of the question as it was very hot that week and the constant exercise precluded any type of heavy arm covering. Even with a long sleeved shirt, the thorns still got to my skin. It took 3 days of driving and unloading to empty the trailer and when I was done it looked like I had gone 10 rounds with a bobcat – and lost.

    Reading about your cacti adventure brought that memory back in full color – and pain. I figured that given all the myriad ways you have conceived to scar yourself, that I could add one more, just in case you have a sudden desire to damage yourself and are searching for a new method.

    Thanks for the funny / painful post, it brought back many memories.

    1. I’ll take you up on it if I lose my own ability to attract objects that put up a fight…

      Great story, by the way. And funny.

  2. Sounds like we have the same kind of issues. This is why I treasure the day I decided NOT to buy that machete.

  3. It’s funny how the human mind works. You could take those scars/nicks/bruises and totally hate them. But it connects you to the memory. Though I can’t remember every single scar memory, there are some. And many make me smile. Even my knees, after 15-20 years of catching dating back to my Little League days … I love knowing what they once were.

    It’s good you don’t have glaucoma. I imagine it would be tough to deal with, especially if it was brought on by a rug. I mean, that would be a tough pill to swallow. I can only imagine those conversations and explaining to people you were blind in one eye because you got taken out by a red rug.

    Life will throw you some crazy punches though, eh?

    Many of the nicks and such that have become scars on me come from some outdoor adventures. It kind of makes me smile as I remember some of those days. At the time, I won’t lie, it sucked though. I always hate bleeding when I don’t have the remedy to fix. Then I feel like I was being whipped all day.

    I just have to wonder, though — do you ever walk on that rug and flinch? Maybe, just maybe, in the wonderment that it might look to finish the job?

    1. The rug has been pacified – we’re friends now. Think of it as breaking a horse.

  4. bgbowers · · Reply

    “If only relationships with people were like relationships with guitars. A guitar doesn’t smother or give the cold shoulder, it’s always there but doesn’t weigh you down. It lets you wrap around it, and when you strum it, it comes to life.”

    My sentiments exactly.

  5. Ah, but a guitar doesn’t sit beside you on the couch, take your hand in his, stroke it while looking lovingly into your eyes and ask “Can you grab me a beer?”, now does it?

    I didn’t think so.

    Sigh. I need to buy a guitar.

    1. That’s only because my guitar’s into whiskey…

  6. There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, genius and madness. I am thinking you’re closer to the genius side. I also like that you can remember the good times even though some of it was painful at the time.

    1. Some people like pain, I’m not one of them. Pleasure’s fine though. So is genius. So is a bit of madness. But only a tiny bit.

  7. ‘ A rug fell in my eye’ lol….Geisha, i have to tell you i giggled through this brilliantly written post, you really do bleed for your belongings.

    1. You were meant to giggle, I’m glad you did.

      It’s okay to bleed for some things as long as you win in the end…

  8. I really enjoyed this, it made me smile, a rare occurrence indeed (smiling, that is, not enjoying your work haha!). I love the concept of people wearing their history through the physical scars as you describe them. I once dated a girl with a tiny scar on her lip that was just mesmerising to me, so I definitely got the anti-zinc sentiment 🙂

    A fine piece, thanks for posting.

    Oh, and “while the wound remained fresh, so did the day in Central Park” is exquisite. 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for your words, they mean a lot to me.

  9. Great concept for a blog topic. I don’t think I have enough scars to make a post myself, (unless I include emotional scaring from all the girls who dumped me…) but I like what you did with yours.

    And the paragraph about the guitar? I wholeheartedly agree. Mine are hanging on the wall, and yet I go weeks, sometimes months without touching them. I was really good once upon a time…now I’m only average…and if I pull the 12 string off the wall, my fingers scream at me.

    Also love the title. It probably won’t get you google hits, but it should get you creative points.

    1. Ha, I’m glad you said that about the title, I was seriously considering changing it – not for the Google hits, but I thought maybe it was too weird or misleading.

  10. Every scar is it’s own treasure and story. And oh, this, no, these stories are fantastic.

    1. Thanks, Martin! I had fun revisiting this story, because frankly, the actual scars have faded, two years later.

  11. As a former wood worker, I advise you not to get to friendly with power tools. Table saws. Band saws. Belt sanders. And even drill presses can and do bite. We’re not even counting splinters. But, unlike several folks I met in that line of work, I do still have all my fingers their original length and count myself lucky. Wonderful story, also the comments. must follow

    1. Welcome and thank you. This is advice I will be taking to heart. Not kidding. I do know people with irreversible finger mishaps and don’t want to have that in common with them.

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