While I beheld the traffic on the Duarte Expressway, my head ached and I could feel my pulse in the bump that was forming on my scalp four inches above my right eyebrow. I watched from my seat in the pickup while all around us, cars honked and drifted lazily from one lane to another or straddled two lanes at a time and motorcycles wove in-between. I was about to become the first member of my training group to get a sneak-peek of Peace Corps' central offices about half an hour from where we go each day for training. According to Doctor Ariel, it was borderline as to whether stitches were needed but it was best to err on the side of caution.
It had been one of those perfectly inglorious incidents you always hear about from someone explaining the cast on his arm or the bandage on his knee. "I tripped and fell," he says, or, "I ran into a doorjamb." Suddenly you discover the exact amount of force you've been putting into each step you've been taking. It happens in that rude instant when the fifty or so paces you have just taken with incredible ease are not followed by the handful you have left to go. In this the force was enough to put a centimeter tear in my scalp.
I just wanted to shrug it off and return to Spanish class. I didn't know how troublesome it was until I saw the alarm written on everyone's face in the aula whose eves I had just collided with. "It's okay," I assured them in Spanish, "it has some kind of rubber coating on it." Indeed, the eve had been coated with some black material for the purpose of absorbing impacts like the one I had just made. But the next thing I knew I was staring at five or so portraits of concern and it was obvious I wasn't going to have my way when Ryan said, "You're going to want to put some pressure on that!" That was when I felt the blood and saw it run off my nose onto the floor.
Inside the medical facility at the Peace Corps building downtown, Doctor Borianna cradled my head and parted my hair while Doctor Lisette stitched shut the lesion with a length of silk thread. I was never fond of anesthetics and I opted not to have one. The needle was very small and I could barely distinguish its prick from the sensation of the thread as it went through the holes. Afterward they gave some Cipro to take for the next five days and a solution to daub on the wound to protect it from infection.
In some ways, that blow to my head is a perfect metaphor for my transition from my familiar world of temperate weather and comfortable routine. Before the beginning of March I trotted along in an environment where I knew exactly what was around every corner and how my every action would be received. And in practically an instant I found myself with boca arriba, my every sense overwhelmed an my state of alert heightened. The only aspect of the metaphor for which I can't account is that of my recovery. While it may seem fair to refer to shock as being the result of the change, it seems somehow crass to imagine that it is a "recovery" that is to follow. It is clear to me that it will be so much more.