• kaleenamadruga

Strong Women

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

short story - creative nonfiction

I woke up in a bad mood. I cleaned the house and went for a run and watched two episodes of my favorite show but still felt off. I started to do my makeup in my too-small bathroom, but then Chris called me and said his grandmother and brother wanted to meet us for lunch. I wasn’t feeling hungry or up for being social but I said fine. I finished my hair and makeup quicker than I wanted to and met the three of them by the old bookstore. Someone said something like should we get lunch now and where should we go and Chris was chain smoking and looking disinterested which made me feel even more irritable than I was before. Chris’s brother suggested a restaurant that has really good Aperol Spritzes which made me perk up a bit and we all agreed to walk the six-ish blocks to the restaurant. I can’t remember if I said are you sure you want to walk but I feel like I did.


We made it about half a block, we were right outside this bar that I used to get drunk at before I met Chris, when all of a sudden his grandmother tripped over the uneven sidewalk. If a young person had tripped over some uneven sidewalk, they’d either fall and bounce up quite quickly and laugh, or they’d catch themselves before they even hit the ground. Since Chris’s grandmother is not a young person, she tripped and continued to fall forward in a very slow way, in a way that made me feel like I could have caught her, or maybe even thrown my own body in front of her and let her land on me. Instead all of us, the young ones, stood behind her with our arms out helplessly, watching her body lean, lean, lean forward and smack her face on the pavement.


What’s strange about an elderly person falling is that their arms don’t immediately plank out in front of their body to prevent damage to their face. They also don’t get up right away after they have landed. They lay there, motionless on the ground, making you think they could be dead.


So I stood there looking stupid with my arms still out while Chris’s grandmother was face down on the pavement. Chris’s brother started to peel her up slowly, as one must do with an elderly person, and all this blood started pouring out of her face. I jumped back and looked down at the uneven sidewalk and her bright red blood was all over that too. I thought to myself that had this been some sort of incident worth investigating, I’d be able to point to the blood on the pavement and go, right there, that’s where she smacked her face!


One of us said are you okay which is such a stupid thing to say when blood is pouring out of someone’s face but she said yes I’m alright. Chris gave over his flannel shirt to soak up all the blood and he had this pained look on his face. His brother went into the bar I used to get drunk at and came back out with some ice. Chris’s grandmother’s cheek had started to swell. It was blue and purple and looked like it was going to explode all over the already bloody street. Her hands were shaking but she kept saying she was fine and that she didn’t want water or to sit down. So I stopped asking.


A cop drove by and said is everything alright out the window. Chris started smoking again and his brother was pressing the ice onto his grandmother’s swollen face and I thought, here is my opportunity to show him the blood! But instead he just pulled his car over and looked at Chris’s grandmother’s bloody face and said do you want us to call you an ambulance and she said no! very angrily but he called one anyway. I didn’t say anything.


The EMTs arrived and looked at her face up real close and said are you alright and told her she needed stitches. I don’t want to go in the ambulance she said, which made sense to me so I ordered an Uber and everyone piled in and we made our way to the hospital.


Do you think I really need stitches she said to Chris and he said I’m no doctor while looking out the window. The Uber driver said you’re going to be ok ma’am don’t you worry. Thanks I said even though he wasn’t talking to me. No one else said anything.


When we got to the hospital we were brought into a room where a nurse asked Chris’s grandmother a lot of the same questions we’d already asked her, expect he asked if she had ever thought about harming herself and she started laughing and he said he was required to ask and she said not a chance in hell which made everyone except me smile. I was starting to get very hungry.


We had to go back out into the waiting room and wait and wait and wait. Chris’s dad showed up. He is nice and funny but he couldn’t stop making jokes and taking pictures of his mother’s face even though she said don’t, please and he said I gotta send this to everyone. Chris’s grandmother kept saying that she had to make a bunch of food for the cousins’ soccer game on Thursday and Chris said what is the big deal?


Chris’s dad didn’t turn the sound notifications off on his phone and they sounded like a bike horn, honk honk, and they went off over and over and over in the waiting room. Chris and his brother and his dad were on their phones, not talking to anyone or each other, and Chris’s grandmother was holding the ice on her face, and she kept looking at me like she had ruined my day. I still have no idea how to make someone not feel that way.


If it’s true that strong women are bred and not born, then I suppose we are meant to thank the men around us: the ones in the waiting rooms, the paramedics, police officers, and the fathers. The fathers that yell at you and never hug you or call to check up on you because they say they know that you are fine. That you are strong.


Even though I didn’t want to, I kept looking at Chris’s grandmother feeling like I should have done something, that it was my job to make it better. Instead I was existing in this strange space between the caretaker I was supposed to be, and the self sufficient woman I was attempting to become, someone who was always somehow in a room full of men never fully listening.


Where is your flannel shirt I said to Chris. He looked around the waiting room. Oh shit he said angrily.

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