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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Head Case

Head Case
based on a true story

I was cleaning behind my stove the other day. I actually risked a major gas explosion by pulling it completely out. Trust me, it was an absolutely appalling sight, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. So I started cleaning up whatever it was that was living under my stove, or had lived and then died. I had to bend over to get at the mess and on two separate occasions I stood up and cracked my head on the cabinets that hang over the stove. You would have thought that one time would be enough to teach me to avoid this, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is the second time I cracked my head I hit it really hard. I stood up from a squat and planted my head quite firmly on the corner of the cabinet. I think that I heard some dishes rattling inside. I would estimate the blow to be equal to the force necessary to hit a center field home run. My neighbor pounded on the wall for me to keep down the noise.

I didn’t even come out of the squat I was in as a sort of preparation for the certain medical trauma I was about to experience. It is amazing how quickly your mind works in times of crisis. I made a mental note of the first aid for shock I would need to perform on myself. I went over the procedures for the Heimlich maneuver, reviewed the best knot options for a tourniquet, repeated the mantra “feed a cold, starve a fever,” and then I became distracted by trying to decide whether or not I could get cholera from my own rotting corpse, but I was comforted by the thought that at least my body would lie on a clean floor.

And then I became aware that it didn’t even hurt. Not even a little. I stood up and waited for the throbbing that would surely accompany a head blow of this force. Nothing. My first reaction was one of relief: I felt that I had dodged a bullet, but I hadn’t dodged a bullet. I had taken one at close range, and a head shot at that. Quickly my relief turned to despair as I considered all of the evolutionary reasons why a strong shot to the noggin should hurt like hell. Pain is a defense mechanism that warns us to potential dangers. For a man, the brain is the second most vital bodily organ and yet my brain seemed to be screaming out for a beating. My head pain warning system seems to have shut down completely. My hat rack was like a crippled antelope on the savannah, begging to be devoured by lions and cheetahs disguised as low kitchen cabinets or anvils falling from high windows.

My despair turned to panic when I thought that perhaps the lack of pain represented some grave, self-inflicted internal damage. My god, maybe I have brain damage. I gave myself a quick intelligence test. I tried to think of the date for Washington’s Delaware crossing. Think. Even in my trauma-induced, mentally-impaired state I remembered that American history was never my strong suit, and you can forget about math and the sciences. Who cares about state capitals is what I’ve always said. I’m never going to south Dakota. I’m certainly not about to learn the names of all of those African countries until they stop changing every other year. What am I on fucking Jeopardy? I don’t need to prove myself to anyone and certainly not to someone (me) who has just cracked their head twice in the course of five minutes.

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