I hate emergency rooms
Probably for all the same reasons everyone else does.
Someone’s always coughing, spitting into something. Children are always crying, mothers are panicky. Hordes and hordes of people are standing around talking excitedly in foreign languages. There’s mass confusion everywhere, and those charged with the task of triaging things are generally insensitive to anyone’s individual set of circumstances. It’s Turn of the Century Ellis Island all over again—only decidedly less hopeful.
Frankly, I’d rather die alone in my house.
Be that as it may, I’d undoubtedly live from the injuries I’d sustained.
I’d live, and, if not treated immediately, I’d scar.
Dying I could deal with.
Abject facial deformity, on the other hand, was a horse of a different color.
So, it was my vanity—married with a generous helping of copious blood loss hysteria—that motivated my visit last night.
After dealing for several tense minutes with a rather nasty bit of a scrub-clad troll, I took my seat next to a rather long-seeming white man with mussed brown hair and a blood-drenched tee shirt. He was holding a cloth ice bag near the middle of his forehead, and looked fairly relaxed considering the setting.
“Looks like someone was aimin’ for your kisser, but caught your chin instead—“ he drawled.
He indicated my chin that I was supporting with a blood-dampened hand towel. “Socked you right in the chin, looks like. You’re all busted up.”
Who the hell was this clown? I began to fill out the mass of papers before me. “No one hit me, Sir.”
I could hear his smile without even looking up. “Hey, whatever,” he said, mockingly holding up his free hand. “Sure, sure.”
I busied myself with paperwork.
“You got insurance?” he asked.
“You got insurance?” he repeated, undaunted.
“Yes,” I sighed. Surely he could pick up my disinterest.
“Good, good,” he said, nodding.
“You come by yourself?” he began, again. Nope, not picking it up at all.
“Do you see anybody else?” I asked nastily.
“Boyfriend could be parking the car,” he grinned.
“You mean the one who ‘socked’ me in the ‘kisser’?” I replied, not looking up.
“Haha! That’s funny,” he said pointing his index finger in my direction. “You’re funny.”
“Wanna know what happened to my nose?” I was beginning to think he would never shut up.
“My girlfriend broke it. At least I think it’s broken. Won’t stop bleedin’. Hurts like a sonofabitch.”
I gritted my teeth and tightened my grip on my ball point pen. “That’s unfortunate.”
“Guess she’s kinda my ex girlfriend now,” he mused, good naturedly.
Rolling my eyes, I exhaled the longest sigh ever. “Looks that way.”
My seatmate leaned in closer, just then. I could feel my back tensing. “She’s not parking the car.”
“I’ve every confidence she’s off somewhere enjoying the quiet,” I said through clenched teeth.
“Oh, am I talking too much?” He asked. “I’m a people person. Never met a stranger, that kinda thing, know what I mean?”
I didn’t respond.
“You’re not much of a people person,” he resolutely determined.
My head jerked up from my clipboard. “What?!”
My unwanted companion casually shrugged. “I can tell. Real sour type. It’s fine, it’s fine. Just makin’ an observation.”
I could feel the heat rising in my neck. “It’s 4 in the morning. We’re in a fucking emergency room and I have blood coming out of my face. I don’t know if these are the right conditions to be assessing how winsome my personality is.”
He just shrugged again. “Nothin’ wrong with my attitude. I’m here.”
Who in the fuck WAS this guy? “You’re here because your girlfriend punched you in your face and broke your nose,” I fired back, angrily.
“Nope. No, she didn’t,” he calmly replied.
“You just said—“
He casually shuffled his long legs, and turned to face me. “I said she probably broke it. I didn’t say she punched me.”
I sighed, not clear on how I’d ever been sucked into this conversation. “Whatever.”
“Wanna know how she did it?”
I looked at him for a minute before answering. “No.”
“She took a clock and smashed it into the bridge, right here, see?” He removed the icepack bag to reveal a bumpy purplish area between his eyes.
“Said I couldn’t make it home when I said I would cause I was out cheatin’ on her. She always thinks I’m cheating on her,” he supplied, more than happy to fill in blanks I didn’t give a damn about.
“You’d probably take her side if you did, though, huh? Women all stick together on shit like that.”
“It’s different for women. Y’all gotta feel somethin’,” he continued, unphased. “Like y’all attach some real meaning to it. Like ya’ll think it means something if we sleep with other women, and that’s why y’all get upset. It’s not like that for us. We’re just doing it to be doing it. Cause it’s there. ‘Sides…no matter what I do, she thinks I’m cheatin’ anyway. Eventually, I’m gonna do it, right? Guess you don’t understand any of that, huh?”
“Nope,” I was having a hard time focusing through this man’s idiocy.
“See! Like I said. Y’all all stick together. You can’t even understand what I’m saying because you’re a woman,” he clamored excitedly.
Clutching the towel to my face, I addressed him in clipped tones. “I can’t understand what you’re saying because it’s stupid. I’m smart.”
He smiled broadly before letting out a long whistle. “You are a pistol! I like that. Yes, ma’am. I like that. Don’t look like you’re gonna get seen anytime soon. Want me to look at your chin?”
What? “I do not.”
“I’m James, by the way,” he confidently offered.
I kept my eyes glued to the print before me. “Still trying to fill out paperwork.”
James released an exaggerated sigh. “Come onnnnn. I’m just being friendly. I’m all bruised up here. I’d talk to these Mexicans but you know they can’t understand no English. And those ladies over there—they look downright mean. Not nearly as cute as you holdin’ that towel to your chin all frustrated-like.”
“I’m mean,” came my tart reply. “You already said I was sour and not a people person.”
“C’mon. I was just kiddin’. Tryin to get a rise out of you on account of your not wantin’ to talk to me. You can’t tell me your name?” He had those smiling eyes. I hated smiling eyes.
This man was never going to let me have any peace. “Fooler. My name is Fooler.”
“See there. That wasn’t so hard was it?” I could tell he was tremendously satisfied with himself.
“You like pancakes, Fooler?”
I looked at him quizzically. “What?”
“Pancakes. Hot, warm, sweet. Kinda like waffles, only smoother,” he teased.
I furrowed my brow. “I know what a pancake is.”
“Good. Do.you.like.pancakes?” he repeated, slowly.
I sighed for millionth time. “Yes.”
“I make amazing pancakes. They’re just the thing after a long night out. Or a long night in, if you know what I mean,” he laughed. I got the impression the icepack bag was the only thing saving me from a creepy white man wink.
“Are you—are you making a pass at me—in an emergency room?”
“Just thought you’d like to share a plate of pancakes, Sweetheart. Not askin’ for your hand in marriage.” He again casually shuffled his feet, and shrugged.
“Oh. Well in that case, why don’t you call up your girlfriend and see if she can’t fire up that griddle so it’s good and hot for us by the time we get there.” I couldn’t tell if I was impressed or appalled by his nerve.
“IHOP, then,” he quipped.
It was everything I could do to keep my mouth from gaping open. “Really? That’s your answer? IHOP?”
“It’s the international house of pancakes,” he smiled.
This had gone on long enough. I returned to the papers before me. “I’ll pass.”
“Why?” he asked, looking genuinely perplexed.
“I don’t know you,” came my reply.
“All the more reason for the breakfast, Darlin’,” the snide saccharine sweet of his drawl was starting to irk me.
“I don’t like you.”
“Tut, tut, tut,” he said, smacking his tongue against the backs of his teeth. “You just said you don’t know me. How can you dislike a person you don’t know?”
“My friends call me Jim—“
“James, I don’t know where you’re from—“
“But around here, women don’t go accepting early morning breakfast invitations from whoring men with broken noses who just happen to share their same emergency room,” I rushed all at once.
“Oh, I know you can’t be scared, tough woman like you. I’m sure you took that blow to the chin like a champ. Hate to see what your boyfriend looks like.”
“My boyfriend didn’t fucking hit me! I don’t even have a fucking boyfriend!” I shouted.
James’ answering chuckle was the only sound to be heard in the suddenly -quiet room.
I looked around, awkwardly. “I’m sorry. Please excuse me.”
I glared at James. “You’re an asshole,” I whispered, harshly.
“You’re sexy when you’re angry,” he mockingly whispered back.
“Can you please stop talking to me?”
He disregarded my request. “It’s an improvement, you know.”
I sighed again. This was starting to appear an unwinnable battle. “What is?”
“Angry you,” he answered. “I saw you when you came in here. Looked like you’d been cryin’ the whole way. Almost broke my heart, you were lookin’ so sad. Figured some conversation, even from an ass like me, was better than none at all, sittin here waitin’ forever in a place like this. So, you know.”
I looked into my paperwork, a little embarrassed at his revelation. “Thank you,” I answered softly. “It’s probably bullshit, but thank you.”
He answered with a shrug.
Finally completing the documents, I delivered the clipboard to the still-taciturn goblin, and made my way back to the set of chairs. I eyed my seatmate who now had his head cocked back, eyes closed.
“Lemme ask you a question, Smart Girl,” he began, anew, eyes still closed.
“I guess the possibility of your being asleep was too good to be true,” I replied.
He ignored me. “What do you think the odds are of us going in to see the doctors at separate times, but coming out here again around the same time?”
I fidgeted with the towel at my face. “Slim to none.”
James sat upright, just then, and opened his eyes to face me, fully. “Me too. So why don’t we strike a deal.”
I laid back against the seat and attempted to get comfortable. “Nope.”
He looked at me sternly. “Here me out, Woman. If you come out here, and I’m gone, no harm, no foul. Two ships passing in the night, some shit like that, this whole night is very soon a distant memory.”
“Mmmm,” I answered, looking up at the ceiling.
“You come out here, and I’m still here, you let me buy you a meal at the breakfast establishment of your choosing—“
“Of my choosing, huh?” I said, glancing at him from my periphery.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered, heartily. “Provided it serves pancakes—“
“Those would be the hot, warm, sweet things that are kinda like waffles, only smooth,” I questioned.
“The very same.”
I turned to face him. “Why in the hell do you want to go to breakfast with me? You have to know I think you’re a complete ass. I’ve said so. Repeatedly. And I know you can’t possibly think I’d sleep with you.”
He smiled, slowly, then. “Yes you do. And yes you have. But I’m willing to wait til after breakfast to weigh in on that last one.”
I sighed. “James—“
“James—I’m tired. I’m sore. I’ve had a long night. I’m a straight shooter. What do you want?”
He paused for a moment, and then shifted his position in his seat before looking me directly in my eyes. “Seen what you look like after a good cry. Reckon it’d be nice to see that face after a good laugh. Also, with not so much blood at the bottom.”
“Are you –always- this difficult?” he asked, finally exasperated.
“Is that a ‘yes’ to breakfast, or a ‘yes’ to the question?”
I deliberated for a second. “It’s a ‘yes’ to the question. But if you’re here when I’m here –“ I sighed, “it can be a ‘yes’ to the pancake-serving establishment of my choosing. Please know, I will kill you, if you attempt any shenanigans.”
His grin was a mile wide with his reply. “Ma’am, I left all my shenanigans on the living room floor of the apartment I share with my now-ex girlfriend.”
I shook my head, but had to relent to my own smile; the first one all night. “Whatever.”
My name was called 10 minutes later, and I spent an eternity with my doctor discussing stitches, scarring, infection, and the fact that I was positive I wasn’t pregnant.
I could see traces of brightening sky through the windows as I made my way through the double doors, back to the room from whence I’d come.
I’d fully expected to greet an empty space, but sprawled before me, long denim-clad legs propped casually on a nearby chair, sat James/Jimmy.
“How in the hell—“ I began.
“I’d already seen the doctor when you got here. Been here for hours, in fact. Just needed to wait on the x-ray results, which, you’d have known, by the way, had you bothered to ask me even the slightest question about myself,” he smugly answered.
“Fooler, my girlfriend smashed a clock in my face. I’m a cheater. Looks like they cleaned you up pretty good. Where to?”
Shaking my head, I began to walk towards the exit. James/Jimmy knocked over a chair as he jumped upright to try and keep pace with me.
“I’m going to regret this, I just know it,” I said, increasing my stride.
“What are you talkin’ about? It’s gonna be great. And hey, look—the sun is out! You know what they’d say if this were the movies, don’t cha?”
I sighed. “What?”
“My dear Fooler, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…”
I simply shook my head. “You’re driving your own car.”