September 15, 2003

Semi-untoughness

Just after midnight on Thursday I received a call from my friend Lisa. At first I couldn’t make out what she was saying because she was talking so quietly, almost a whisper. But then, in pieces, I understood. She was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. She’d had a bike accident on the Williamsburg bridge, had flown over her handlebars and landed on her arm and face, didn’t know which hospital she was going to, didn’t think it necessary for me to come. I convinced her to hand the cellphone to the ambulance driver, who told me where they were taking her.

Soon after I arrived at her hospital room, she asked to be photographed like that, her face scraped and bloodied, her arm broken at the elbow, one tooth chipped. Then I took notes so she would remember things when it came time to write about it. It was, we both recognized, an EXPERIENCE, one that had to be captured, the capturing becoming, unavoidably, part of the experience.

Yesterday I sent her my photos and notes, which she used in her written account.

There’s just one thing I want to add. Friday afternoon, after fifteen straight hours of “dealing” (post-hospital I slept on Lisa’s floor and did what I could to help her handle the logistics, and shock, of a temporary one-armed existence; “my mouse hand,” she cried in a rare moment of semi-untoughness), I sat at her kitchen table and looked at the photos I’d taken in the hospital, still in my camera. As I did this I could hear her on the phone in next room telling someone, I think her father, what had happened. I knew she couldn’t see me there, so I let myself weep, weeping as quietly as I could.

Holding back the sound kept the tears in as well. Perhaps because of this I felt acutely conscious of the way my shoulders were heaving, a rapid and seemingly exaggerated flapping motion.