the sum of my woe

A bit after midnight on Wednesday, Chaucer and I repaired to the kitchen to see whether any snacks had miraculously materialized in the refrigerator since the last time we'd checked, an hour before. There weren't a lot of lamps lit in the apartment, because I'm determined to destroy what's left of my vision before I hit forty. However, there was enough light that when I rounded the kitchen island, I could clearly see what looked like an anorexic rodent scurrying across the floor and under my dishwasher.

I may or may not have shrieked.

Chaucer may or may not have bolted for the relative safety of the far side of my bed.

I may or may not have joined him immediately.

I considered the situation. No Raid. No bug killing spray of any kind. Windex and other household cleaners under the to the dishwasher. The main thing that was bothering me, besides the fact that Chaucer and I suddenly had a new roommate who I doubted was going to cough up very much for rent, was the puzzle of where the hell it had come from. I live on the 7th floor of a fairly clean building. I occasionally open my windows, but there are no trees anywhere near them. And anyway, it's the seventh floor. What kind of crazy-ass overachieving roach starts climbing the outside of a building and finds it such an enjoyable stroll that he keeps going for seven storeys??

Then I remembered that earlier that night I'd taken Chaucer to the park, and while there, I'd left the small bag I keep his ball and brushes in on the bench inside the dog play area for a little while, while supervising his interaction with some other dogs. Could the roach have stowed away in my bag??

Deciding that this was a distinct possibility, I became concerned that there were possibly additional hitchhikers still in the bag. Because hello, I love me a doomsday scenario. So this is a thing that I, Elizabeth Baker, age 38, did: I climbed onto my kitchen island, reached into the top drawer, and pulled out a pair of large salad tongs. Next, leaning far over the counter, I used these same tongs to open the bottom drawer where I store Chaucer's walk bag. Then, using the tongs like one of those claws in a toy machine, I gently lifted the bag out onto the floor. I used the salad tongs to shake it empty of its contents: three plastic grocery sacks, one rubber ball, one Furminator, and one Zoom Groom.

Zero roaches.

I pulled myself back up on the island, temporarily consoled. That's when I saw it again, this time directly in front of me, climbing the cabinet opposite from where I sat. I don't want to use the word "taunting", I really don't. But this fucker was moving so slowly, and with such confidence, as if assured by the fact of its massive bulk that I'd be too scared to even attempt to deter it from its destination - that yes, I think it was taunting me. Bitch, please. Look at me. I'm the largest mothafuckin' roach you ever seen. Whatchu gonna do about it? Nothin'. You ain't gon' do nothin'.

And it was right you guys. It was absolutely right.

It was at this point that I briefly considered getting a room at the Biltmore down the street for the night, until an exterminator could come. I am 100% serious about this. Then I realized how ridiculous that would be, and so I did something that was not at all ridiculous, in any way: I texted my ex-boyfriend to see if he'd come kill the roach for me.

Hey, are you around? was all I said to start, because I am shrewd, and figured that if I opened with You have to come kill a roach for me that I might not get any the desired response from he, the other adult starring in this comedy. But you can be sure that the second I saw the little iMessage indicator ellipse pop up, I scrolled up and hit "Call." I hadn't taken my eyes off Frankenroach the whole time.

"Hey, what's up?"


"Whoa, whoa. Calm down. I can't understand you. There's a squirrel in your apartment??"

"Yes! I mean no, there's a roach--hang on, it's getting away!"

At this point my crusty brown Amazonian houseguest had made its way over to the paneling that encloses my refrigerator, and was lazily ambling upwards to the shelf above. I realized that if I didn't stop it now, it was going to be impossible to find again, because there are storage boxes and suitcases and folders and posters and spare paper towels and all sorts of crap I stuff up there to keep it out of view.

I grabbed a small spiral notebook off my sideboard, knowing full well that this wasn't going to do the job. If I was going to bookslam the roach to death, it needed to be a tome at least the size of a college dictionary, though honestly, I suspect the OED would be the only thing that could adequately flatten it. I think my plan was to just dislodge it from the wall, hopefully stunning it into immobility long enough that I could then drop my favorite and largest coffee table book onto its back.

Foresight and planning like this are why I'd never make it past the first tribal council on Survivor.

Anyway, I jumped onto the couch with my projectile in one hand and the phone in the other. And I guess now would be a good time to explain that about a week ago, I decided to drape a couple of throw blankets over the couch, because they are easier to clean than Chaucer's drool, which doesn't come off very easily from my new(ish) sofa. These blankets make the sofa very cozy...but they also camouflage the division between the two main cushions. And it was into this division that, as I launched my missile fridge-wards at la cucaracha, my right foot slid, throwing me off balance.

In a matter of .07 seconds, two things happened: 1. the notebook came THIS CLOSE to hitting its target, which - and I'm not sure about this, because I was in the middle of spraining my foot - I believe paused momentarily in its journey, fractionally less confident about the wisdom of so brazenly traveling in broad apartment light, and 2. I fell backwards off the couch, landing in a twisted position on my left foot, which exploded into excruciating pain and gave out from under me.

I collapsed on the floor, howling in pain.

My ex-boyfriend, meanwhile, was listening to this whole scene on his phone, standing in his work studio, can of spray paint assuredly in hand, as he worked diligently through the night to prepare for his next show, wondering what the fuck was the matter with his crazy ex-girlfriend now, in her apartment some five blocks away from where he stood.

Over the din of my yelling/crying, I heard him say something about putting Chaucer in the hall. He'd tell me later he thought there was an actual squirrel loose in my apartment, and that all the mayhem he was hearing was Chaucer running around, tearing up my apartment in his efforts to catch and kill it.


I finally calmed myself enough to very clearly annunciate the following message: "A. I just fell and broke my foot. I need help. Can you come take me to the hospital?"

And he did. And rather than drag that poor soul back into my blog when he so recently escaped it, I'll end his role in the story there. But I will say he was a lifesaver and awesomely patient and good-humored about the whole ordeal, which ended up being waaaaay longer and more awful because of my choice to go to LA County. It was, I will say, a long night.

Bottom line: I have a "severe" sprain off of which I need to stay for a minimum of six weeks, which dramatically changes (read: smashes to bits) my plans for the rest of the summer. And while that's a bummer, honestly? Seeing the things I did while waiting in the County ER for nine hours, I'm not going to complain. I'm going to take my knock and be grateful it's not worse.

I spoke with a woman - probably my age - who was there tending to both a husband (broken arm) and her baby girl (fever, rash, diarrhea), all while watching over a very miserable and sleepy ten year old boy. She told me that the last time she'd come to the ER was two years ago, for a miscarriage. She'd had to wait seven hours to be seen, while in the middle of having that miscarriage. She was alone at the time. This woman had hemorrhaged in the LA County Hospital waiting room and its adjoining restroom, with no one there to help, no friends or family to be with her, while she waited all night for a doctor. As she talked with me, her baby fussed and cried, and she gently rocked and cooed her, arranging and rearranging the folds of her blanket around her.

I saw a grey-haired elderly man in tattered clothing, hunched over in an ancient hospital wheelchair, mumbling to himself as he slowly wheeled loops around the room. When he struggled with his shoe, attempting to put it on the wrong foot, A. jumped up to help him. Later, the man wheeled himself over to me, to ask in a barely audible whisper whether I was in pain. After I lied and said not much and thanked him for his concern, he moved off a polite distance from us before spending five minutes putting disposable blue latex gloves on his shaking hands. He saw me watching and explained that they were to protect his palms from getting calloused by the wheelchair wheels. He did this with a few mumbled words and gestures, rather than full sentences.

The gloves were the same ones that A. had earlier blown into balloons to make me laugh, while we waited in the radiology wing for the x-ray technician.

Later, that same old man and I came face to face alone in a hallway, me hobbling along on my crutches, coming from the bathroom, him still inching along with only his hands to propel him. He pointed at my foot and asked what happened. I couldn't understand his words but the tone and his face made it clear what he was trying to say.

"I fell on it," I said. "I'm waiting to find out whether it's broken." He nodded a nod that said Yeah, the wait here is a bitch. Something about his expression reminded me of my dad. He gave off an air of being an intelligent, thoughtful man trapped in the broken down body - and the broken down circumstance - of someone much worse off than he should have been.

"Neither of us are doing so good, huh?" I asked, and grinned sympathetically at him. The smile and slight laugh he gave back broke my heart. "Wanna race?" I challenged, pointing one of my crutches down the hall behind me. He chuckled again, his head still hanging low, and my heart broke all over again.

I have a sprained fucking foot. Getting around is going to be a bitch for a while. I'm going to have to teeter around town on a ridiculous-looking knee scooter, and it will take me three times as long to run simple errands. I can get Chaucer downstairs and to the curb for quick potty trips, but I'm going to have to hire a dog walker so he can in a good walk every day, plus exercise and socialization so he doesn't get depressed. I'm going to miss some festivals (Burning Man and HardFest), some parties, some nights out with friends. I can't run for a couple of months. I'll probably gain ten pounds. I'm going to be bored and go stir crazy, and I'll have to find ways to divert my energy and stay positive, so I don't get too low and lonely, which I know I will. But that's about the sum of my woe.

It could be much worse.