My entire weekend was not spent writing in the unmade comfort of my bed as I am now. It was in part spent taking a number in the emergency room entrance to St. Joseph’s.
My arrival had been preceded by a not insignificant amount of whining on my part, countered by the steely caring of my housemate, hell-bent on my health. Though accustomed to my insistent independence, this time she’d dug in her heels and forcibly accompanied me to the ER.
In the second waiting room there was a young couple, a man and woman, across from us; the man making jokes despite his possible hip fracture, the woman laughing earnestly. But when he was looking away, I saw her steal glances of compassion so sincere I felt guilty to have seen them.
I remembered an experience I’d had in November of last year, when I was spelunking in Kentucky. It was the first cave of the trip, and my group was made up of myself and about eight other people. About two-thirds through we were about three-thirds covered in mud, and making our way down a somewhat tall space. By tall I mean I could stand up straight, which I was doing, holding onto a ridge of limestone as I waited for the person in front of me to move forward. All of a sudden, my feet slipped in the mud (affectionately called “peanut butter mud”) and I fell onto my side.
Now I’m pretty accustomed to falling, so my legs and hips were fine, but I felt a slight twinge in my left hand’s fingers. I looked down at them, but the palm was so completely covered in mud that it was a rather useless exercise. A few steps later though, my suspected cut had revealed itself as a totally real cut by trying to bleed all over the cave wall. I asked to have the first-aid kit passed back to me, and apologized for the holdup.
Resultantly drawing the attention of two trip supervisors and a fellow student, I grudgingly realized that given the severity and location of the cut, I couldn’t clean and bandage it by myself. As they dotted cheerfully over me like a trio of older brothers, I felt a bit of my reluctance melt away.
I remembered a time a year before that, my first time getting really sick in first year. In between classes I was grabbing some food with my housemate-to-be and she brought me to her residence’s common room so we could eat in peace. I’d bought a hashbrown to cheer me up, but couldn’t eat it I was feeling so unwell. I asked if she would sing to me, “Wave Over Wave” by The Great Big Sea.
I’m not used to accepting help, whether it be forced upon me, because I simply can’t do it or because I’ve reached a point of complete exhaustion and defeat. I’ve described myself as “stubbornly independent,” but it’s probably just a euphemism for a pride that’s somehow bruised by helping hands.
I know that’s silly. I know there’s real strength in being able to reach out, ask for help, rely – even just sometimes – on someone other than yourself. And more than that, I think about how much I like helping the people I like, and am trying to really realize that maybe they like helping me too, and I should give them that chance.
In the emergency waiting room that night, I turned to my housemate and asked if she remembered singing to me, that time in first year as I’d clutched an uneaten hashbrown. She said that yes, she did. And smiled.