In Case of Emergency, Contact


Down, down, down in Gainesville

No stranger to shame, Coltrane, and pain pills

When a person drifts across the room and their scent remains for days like a memory attaching itself to your olfactory system. It’s a perfume present in the past but passed by the present. How do you ask memories to repeat themselves?

What do you say when your students ask, “Why aren’t you doing anything for Thanksgiving?”

Who do you call when you haven’t eaten in five days? Your stomach acid is eating away your stomach lining, you’re being unjustly sued for twenty thousand dollars, there is a stack of papers to grade, PhD applications to complete, presentations to organize, rent to pay, utilities to pay, novels to read and meaningfully digest, and all you want is…

A hello, a hug, a hand, a home, a home-cooked meal, a home-cooked heal

All I really wanted you is to remember my name

The day I first moved to Tallahassee I filled out a rental agreement alongside my new roommate. I had to complete the following sentence:

“In case of emergency, contact_________”

I sat baffled, confused, reflective. I filled out the remainder of the lease agreement and promised to return the form that would indicate who the authorities should contact in case I pushed a nail through my hand hanging up a painting, inhaled too much bleach cleaning the bathroom tub, or simply failed to wake up one morning.

The form sat on my kitchen counter for days. I frequently approached it like a friend in need of an answer, but for days I approached her and left her let down.

“I’m sorry. I don’t always have the answers.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t who you can call if I nail bleach through my hand, or bleach my hand on a painting.”

Whose name should I put down? To whom do I assign responsibility for the mere task of picking up the phone after I drink too much gin only to wake up, body swollen by wasp stings, and no explanation as to explain why?

My aging mother who lives six hours away and refuses to drive more than a thirty minutes distance? My siblings busy with their spouses and children who live 1200 miles away? If not them, then who?

I knew no one. I know no one.

I wear my scars like the rings on a pimp

I live life like the captain of a sinking ship

Sitting in a Gainesville hotel room, memorizing lines from The Two Noble Kinsmen so I can recite them in two days, I wonder, what if I drove a nail through my hand stealing the unoriginal painting hanging on the wall? What if I drank too much of the cheap coffee laying lazily in a thing, plastic bag in the bathroom? What if I simply failed to wake up?

Checked out before I check out.

I’m staying here because it was the only hotel in which I could find a vacancy, which is more opportune than I can say about myself.

All of these rooms are taken.

Too taken and too empty.

Lazy inhabitants.

Visitors with no hellos to hi, no hugs to hold, no hands to hold, no homes to have, no halves to whole.

Can’t let her dance up on the top floor

Been there, done that

What do you think it’s locked for?

A hotel in Gainesville, an apartment in Tallahassee, a couch in your-city-here. I’ve seen people die when it was least expected. I’ve been in the room. I’ve slept beside them.

Who would the cleaning person contact?

Who would I contact?

Who would you contact?

I’ve always expected to be in that hospital room alone, surrounded by white walls and nurses performing their utilitarian positions. I waited years for it to happen and it finally did in my second year of grad school.

Stressed and suffocating under the pressure of work, teaching, PhD applications, and so on, I was unable to eat for five days. I could drink water and gin, and the gin is the only thing that quelled my stress just enough to consume roughly 400 calories in those five days.

On the fifth day, I woke up and called a friend to bring me to the hospital.

Sitting on the hospital bed, I was curling over in pain, squeezing some plastic barfbag the nurse had given me, which I didn’t need because I hadn’t consumed anything and had nothing to vomit. Eventually the nurse came in and administered an IV.

“I’ll inject you with something to end your stomach pain and nausea,” she said, then, “and now I’m going to give you Dilaudid.”

“What’s Dilaudid,” I asked.

“It’s a painkiller eight times stronger than morphine,” she replied.

I thought morphine was the pinnacle of painkillers. I didn’t know there was a medication that could more quickly dull, quell, and kill.

I made a joke about how I, “…applauded the Dilaudid.” The nurse didn’t laugh. Then she went to inject it.

“No,” I refused, “You can’t give that to me.”

“No,” she rebutted, “I’m giving it to you. You’ll feel it right away.”

And I did. As soon as she injected this painkiller into my vein, it felt like lead coursing through my body, then my body felt like a cloud, floating in an emergency room.

When I finally arrived home I was coming off the Dilaudid. I violently threw up off my back porch. A woman in a parking lot across the back yard area watched me intently, pretending like she wasn’t watching, but obviously was as I threw up whatever was in my stomach.

For all I care, I was back in a Gainesville hotel room. I was back in my Tallahassee apartment. I was in your town. I felt like I almost died. Some say I did, but that doesn’t matter.

I’ll move from this apartment just like I’ve moved from every previous one. Always in search of a home, always in search of a name to write down when that rental agreement comes.

“In case of emergency, contact _________”

When I have no food to eat, no one to contact, I have memories to sift through and a name to find.

*All italics are from Atmosphere lyrics. Google it.

One thought on “In Case of Emergency, Contact

  1. first of all, flawless use of atmosphere lyrics. i was hoping you quoted “the waitress” somewhere but i’ll let it slide.

    secondly, i can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t mind being your emergency contact. if all else fails i’ll share mine with you. her name is mary, her skills include problem solving, quoting NPR and occasionally being empathetic. she’s currently undergoing empty nest syndrome and would love to buy you lunch on occasion. i can’t speak on behalf of her cooking, she’s typically too busy saving the world to give a shit. she also has an english degree from FSU and when she’s not in Gainesville she’s in Tallahassee for work.

    before starting grad school i was warned of how lonely it can make you feel. i haven’t experienced that yet, (probably because i just started and Oxford takes dramatic measures to ensure that you have friends,) but the best advice i was given was that it’s okay to feel lonely, but you’re wrong in thinking that you’re alone. you have way too magnetic of a personality for me to imagine a world in which people aren’t lining up to be your emergency contact. but if i’m wrong, my mom is still available.

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