Redux: Notes from an Emergency Room

I remembered something! And now my notes make more sense.

Yi Shun Lai

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Yesterday I wrote about a scrap of paper I scribbled all over while I was in the ER for a bike accident two and a half years ago. There was a huge chunk of it that didn’t make much sense. You can read that here:

Memory is a funny thing, because as I noodled over some of the missing parts, I suddenly remembered in sharp detail, as if the scene were playing out on a scene in front of me, a crucial display of human tenderness.

Here was the scene that had escaped me:

“An older couple — way older than my parents — she walking him in the wheely him into the waiting room A walker of some sort, in with his [illegible], who is bleeding from the eye holding a rag to his eye. He goes [illegible] in the wheelchair to throw up; his [illegible] holds his shoulder + then, maybe due to [illegible] instinct touches the back of his hand to his colleague’s head. It is a token gesture, one I feel we should make more of to each other.”

Some of the words looked like “colleague,” but that didn’t make sense, because I thought I was still observing the older couple. But I had misread “worker” for “walker,” and now “colleague” makes more sense.

Now I can see it reads, “A worker of some sort, in with his colleague, who is bleeding from the eye + holding a rag to his eye. He goes [illegible] in the wheelchair to throw up; his colleague holds his shoulder + then, maybe due to a parental instinct touches the back of his hand to his colleague’s head. It is a tender gesture, one I feel we should make more of to each other.”

piece of notepad paper with scribbles all over it, held down by two rocks and a fragment of shell.

The worker and his colleague were construction workers, I think, and the accident was likely a workplace injury, throwing into even sharper relief the tenderness with which I perceived the gesture I witnessed. But if I’m trying to describe the scene most accurately to you, so you can see what I remember seeing, I’m reminded of Amy E. Hermann, who has taught everyone from FBI agents to ER nurses how to be better at their jobs just by increasing their sense of visual acuity. She says that, although the way we describe something may be right, it may not always be accurate, and that includes our natural tendency to include things like mood, like our impressions, like the way a scene impresses us.

I should just be telling you that the two men were dusty, dressed in jeans and T-shirts. I think I remember one of them wearing kneepads, the kind you wear for a roofing job. I don’t know for a fact that the one acted with tenderness or that he’s even a parent.

But I know how it made me feel at the time, and perhaps that’s the most important bit.

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Yi Shun Lai

Author: A SUFFRAGISTS’S GUIDE TO THE ANTARCTIC (2024), Pin Ups (2020). Columnist, The Writer. theGooddirt.org; @gooddirt. Psst: Say “yeeshun.” You can do it!