Look at me. Four days later. The black and blue marks only get denser and that arm of mine. “Go to the doctor,” everyone tells me. “You might have a torn rotator cuff.” It’s the arm that’s the worse. When I got home from the competitive swim, with Band-Aids on my feet, I couldn’t move my right arm. Although I could peel off my bathing suit, I could barely get into my lacy green nightgown.
Everyone was there at the Upper Moreland Swim Club. I had practiced for weeks and even had my stylist Nicole trim my hair so I looked rather like a boy.
Artie shouted: “Ready! One-two-three,” and then shot a toy pistol into the air.
Ten men and women jumped into the Olympic-sized swimming pool. The same swimming pool that David Berkoff, an Olympic Gold Medal backstroke champion, had practiced in, right here in our town. Not in California or Florida, but tiny Upper Moreland, Pennsylvania.
I’m a breast-stroke champion in the forty to fifty age bracket. Like David Berkoff, when I hit the water, I stay submerged as long as possible. I’ve developed the lungs of a bagpipe player. But Berkoff was surprised one year at the Seoul, Korean Olympics, when a black-haired Japanese swimmer, who swam without a bathing cap, beat him by 13th of a second.
After the swim meet, we ordered food from the snack bar and sat over in the picnic grove. I fluffed up my hair so it would dry nicely, as I munched on a hot dog with spicy mustard and drank down a chilled bottle of Coke.
“This is the life,” I said holding up my Coke for a toast.
“Hear! Hear!” said Michael.
These were my friends. Funny, I was a shy little girl who could barely mumble out loud when I got to kindergarten. But in first grade, our family joined The Upper Moreland Swim Club and life began to open up for me.
I still haven’t met the man of my dreams. My childbearing years are just about over. There’s a reason for this. And it’s a damn shame. It’s also a secret that I almost had to reveal when I excused myself at the picnic grove.
“Sorry to be a party pooper,” I said, “but I have some work to finish tonight. An online article I’m working on about people who work from home. Like me,” I laughed.
With my towel around my one-piece blue and white bathing suit, I limped toward the women’s locker room. If only I could redo what happened, just the way Berkoff wishes he could redo his swim.
Hours earlier, when I opened the locker room door, it banged shut on me. I caught my right leg in the door and fell hard, on my face and right arm. I saw the blood right away, spurting from the bottom of my right toe. My blood. Blood that could kill you. Not right away but later on.
I screamed and people came running.
“I’m going to lie here a moment,” I said, cradling my head in my arms.
“We’ll get some bandages,” said Patsy.
Soon I realized there was a terrible metallic taste in my mouth. More blood. An upper tooth was loose. Now I’d smashed my teeth as if I were in a bar room brawl.
I forced myself to sit up and felt so faint I thought I’d pass out. But there was no way Patsy was going to bandage up my foot and learn about the hepatitis C I’d contracted from unprotected sex with a former drug addict.
“Thank you so much, Patsy,” I said, when she returned with a box of bandages.
“Oh, let me do it,” she said. “After all, I am a nurse.”
“You’re too nice,” I said. “But I want to play Nurse Jackie,” I said, forcing a laugh.
My secret was protected.
With relief, I began to open the door of my white Honda Accord with my right arm.
“Ye-ow!” I screamed and quickly covered my mouth. How could anything be so painful! Definitely I would take some five-year-old Percosets I kept in my top drawer.
Green Valley Condos were bathed in the soft light of dusk when I pulled into the parking lot. Now I was limping into my condo. Switching on the lights, I thought for a moment I’d pass out from the stress of the bright lights. I flung my towel and bathing suit and pocket book onto the floor and shuffled into the bedroom.
Figures I’d forget and try to open my antique white dresser with my bad arm.
“Ouch!” I screamed, as I searched for my pills with my left arm. Picking up the bottle, I shook it gently. There were plenty inside. My family doctor had last prescribed them for agonizing back pain.
I stood the bottle up on the dining room table and downed them with a glass of water. In twenty minutes, I knew, the pain would be gone.
Was it all right to show up at the dentist’s office stoned on Percoset? My Aunt Freda picked me up and I leaned against her as we walked into his office. Dr. Epstein was a new member of the practice.
Wiggling my upper front tooth with my tongue, I explained what had happened.
“I’m glad you’re wearing gloves. I’ve got hepatitis C. Sure don’t want to infect anyone.”
“Ever think of getting treatment?” he asked me.
“My liver doc said I’m not bad enough.”
“Same with me,” said Dr. Epstein. “It’s why I never got married.”
I looked at this white masked man with kind blue eyes and a full head of black wavy hair.
“Do you like to swim?” I asked him.
“I do,” he said.
And that’s how Jeremy Epstein, Doctor of Dental Surgery became a guest at my swim club, at my condo, and a permanent resident of my heart.