Continued from part 1 Bitten
Part 2 Confusion
I woke, laying on the ground. A police woman was tucking a mylar emergency blanket around me. Her partner standing a few feet away talking into a radio, saying something about a bus.
Was I hit by a bus?
I realized I was naked.
“What happened to me?” I asked as I looked around, blinking my eyes against the bright morning light that filtered through the branches overhead.
“What do you remember?”
“I was walking home through the park. I stopped to enjoy the sunset by Sheep’s Meadow. Then everything went fuzzy. I kind of remember pain.”
“Where do you live?”
“That’s a really long way to walk.”
“I like to walk.”
“You’re in the Bramble now, do you think you would have walked here, or do you think you were brought here from Sheep’s Meadow?”
“I don’t know…” I raised my head up and looked around, it did indeed look like the Bramble.
“Shh. Just lay still, the paramedics will be here soon.” The police woman gently held me down, then asked, “Do you remember a dog? There are some really huge dog prints just over there.”
Something strange flashed through my memory.
“I remember a squirrel and wanting to chase it.”
“OK…Just keep laying still till the paramedics get here.”
Once I was at the ER I became low priority once it was determined that I wasn’t bleeding or anything else obvious. Jenny eventually was contacted and showed up.
“I was so worried when you didn’t come home last night.” Jenny said as she hugged me close and I felt an occasional tear land on me. The smell of her stale fear was overwhelming. “I called and called. Then Nancy from your office called me looking for you. She just said she was concerned when she couldn’t get a hold of you to discuss a confidential matter. Then the police called. They wouldn’t tell me what happened, just that you were found in the park and that you were at Lenox Hill’s ER. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” I said, wishing I could pull away without hurting Jenny’s feelings. “I don’t remember last night.”
Jenny raised her hand from my back to the side of my face. I thought she was going to brush my hair back from my face the way she normally does, but when her finger tips reached my hairline, they paused. She frowned at what I knew was an extremely tangled mess, wrinkling her nose.
“You got something in your hair.” I could tell she was deliberately trying to sound less disgusted than she was.
When every test and every exam came back negative, they sent us home with morning after pills just in case, information about concussion, and instructions to follow up with my regular doctor. It’s was good, that they released me pretty quickly, because between the scents and feeling trapped inside, I was having a very hard time staying rational.
That night was bad. I wanted to go to the park and run. I wanted to so so badly, it was impossible to just ignore. Jenny wouldn’t let me. Jenny threatened to take me back to the hospital and have them put me on a 72 hour psychiatric hold.
Jenny sat up all night, as I paced around the small apartment whimpering. When I kept complaining that I was hungry, but rejecting everything she offered me from our little kitchen filled with vegetarian food, she offered to order food in. I had to confess that I’d been having uncontrollable urges and was eating meat. She ordered me 5 hamburgers like I wanted, then watched with a combination of confusion and disgust as I ate them leaving behind a rejected pile of buns and fixings.
Jenny requested a personal day on Wednesday, and spent most of it on the phone back and forth between my doctor, Nancy in HR, the insurance company, and the hospital’s billing department. She left only briefly, making me promise I wouldn’t leave the apartment, while she ran to the pharmacy.
That night, there was valium to help me resist the urge to go to the park to run in the moonlight. It wasn’t as intense as it had been the night before anyway.
Thursday, Jenny took another personal day. She spent much of the morning trying to convince the insurance company that I really did need actual therapy, not just a prescription for valium. Once she finally had them approve 35 weekly sessions, she started working through the short list of therapists who took insurance till she found one with an appointment available next week.
When that was finally settled, she sat next to me and cautiously brought up the topic of hygiene.
“Diana, you really need to shower, and if we don’t get those tangles out soon, your hair is going to get so matted it will have to be cut off. Can you take a shower, and then we’ll really soak your hair with conditioner.”
“I don’t like the shower.”
“How about a bath then?”
I shook my head.
“You need to bathe Diana. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but frankly you stink, and we can’t untangle your hair till we get everything sticky out of it. Come on, it’s going to be ok.”
“You smell worse than me,” I spat back at her. “You smell like fear and soap.”
“First off, smelling like soap isn’t a bad thing,” Jenny said with frustration. “Secondly, you’re not a dog, you can’t smell fear. Now let’s head to the bathroom so you can bathe. We’ll make it a bath, and I’ll stay and help.”
As Jenny filled the tub with hot water, and I stripped out of the dirty t-shirt that was all the clothing I’d been able to stand wearing when we got home from the hospital, I thought about what Jenny had said. I wasn’t a dog, how was it that I could smell fear? I sniffed at Jenny, and realized that part of what had been bothering me about her was that she smelled human.
But wasn’t I human?
I climbed into the warm water, and simply sat with my arms wrapped around my knees. Jenny began by pouring water over my head and working shampoo into my hair. The smell was bothering me, but not like it had the day before. She rinsed it out, and decided my hair still wasn’t really clean, so lathered it up again. After the second rinse, Jenny saturated my hair with conditioner and just left it soaking while she scrubbed the rest of me with a washcloth.
After getting clean, I was feeling a lot more human.
Jenny began the slow task of trying to comb through the tangles. We sat on the couch, Jenny had worked a leave-in conditioner into my hair after she rinsed out the regular conditioner, hoping it would make things slippery enough to comb.
“Can I cut it just a little bit?” Jenny finally asked after 20 minutes. “I mean like just a little trim, just a couple of inches. And cutting up through a few of the worst mats. I promise you’ll barely notice, and I’ll even it up when I’m done.”
“No!” I whimpered. “I love my hair.”
“I know, I love your hair too.” She said carefully. “But, I think it’s a choice between a few inches today or getting it all cut short next week when the mats become solid. The more layered look is coming back into style, so I can hide most of what I cut with some layers.”
“I guess, do what you have to.”
I sighed, as I felt Jenny stand behind me. Then I watched as she went towards the bathroom and opened the linen closet. She returned with the scissors she used when she trimmed her own bangs, and a couple of towels.
I gave her a nervous smile as I looked more closely at her shoulder length brown hair with bangs that landed right at eyebrow level. She’d never done an awful job of it when she trimmed her bangs, so I figured she’d do ok. She smelled confident enough.
Sitting sideways on the couch was a really weird way to get a haircut. Jenny placed one of the towels behind me, pushed up close to my butt, and the other around my bare shoulders.
I felt Jenny grab a handful of hair and hold it stretched down against my back. She was holding it a few inches above where I usually got it trimmed to around waist length. It felt like it was a bit above the bottom of my ribs.
Schrunch, scrunch, scrunch…
As I heard the sound of the blades bite through the hair Jenny held, I knew it was going to be more than just a little trim. I sat enduring the sound of crunching and snipping as Jenny pulled bits here and there back and cut at them. Aside from that initial cut off the length, I really didn’t know how much she was cutting. I suspected that she couldn’t even be positive about how much she was cutting because of the way it was tangled.
“I think I’ll have a much easier time untangling it now.” Jenny announced as she put down the scissors and picked up the comb. “Don’t worry about it being a little uneven, I will even it out once it’s smooth.”
I sat as Jenny carefully combed through the tangles. Every now and then when she hit a really tough knot, she discreetly picked up the scissors and snipped a little bit. I worried more and more with each click.
After what felt like forever, Jenny finally ran the comb through the length of my hair without it getting stuck. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to look and see how much she’d cut off. I turned around and looked down at the towel behind me as I pulled a thick lock of the chestnut tresses to the front to run my fingers through.
I mostly saw what I had expected to see, the approximately 3 or 4 inch clump of hair from the bottom, a couple of small mats, and several longer strands. What I hadn’t expected to see were several bits of dried grass, a few twigs, and a gray feather probably from a pigeon. One of the twigs had a fair amount of hair still tightly twisted around it that Jenny had just cut.
I petted down the lock that rested over my shoulder to the slightly slanted end that didn’t reach the bottom of my rib cage. I started walking to the bathroom so I could look in the mirror.
“It will look better once I even it out.” Jenny promised as she got up to follow me, grabbing the comb and scissors.
I stood, running my hands through the finally tangle free length. It was choppy at the bottom, but still long by most standards. The shorter bits I could find were kind of noticeable, but I had no trouble believing that enough layering would camouflage them well enough. I gave Jenny a half hearted tight smile as she stepped behind me.
“If you don’t mind standing,” Jenny said as she petted down my head, “I can even it out right here where you can see in the mirror.”
I nodded to Jenny and stood up as straight as I could for her and watched her smooth the hair down my back. I felt her position the comb just a little above where most of the ends reached, and as she started to snip along the bottom. She worked slowly and methodically. I could feel that the sharp points of the scissors were angled upward as they poked against the bare skin. I felt soft splinters of hair land on my bare tuchus.
After she’d worked her way across my back twice, she began to layer it. She combed the locks away from my head and started snipping off a few more inches. I watched as the hair drifted down, landing on the floor and in the sink. The layers were definitely more dramatic than the very subtle layers my regular stylist cut when I got my hair trimmed.
“Do you mind turning to face me so I can do layers in the front?” Jenny asked, still a little cautiously.
“Ok” I said. I knew I could trust Jenny even if she smelled a bit nervous and too human.
She combed a lot of my hair forward, and began to snip at it. I watched as rather long locks fell to the floor between us, tickling the tips of our toes. It was an intimate moment. I looked up into her eyes, seeing love, seeing compassion.
Jenny brushed the hair back from my face with her hand, and smiled at me. She rustled my hair a little this way and that, and took just a couple of more very small snips. Then she put the comb and scissors down on the edge of the sink.
“There you go.” She said, gently nudging me to turn and look into the mirror. “Not too bad, huh?”
I ran my hand through my hair. It was definitely shorter than I would have gone by choice, but not super short. The ends were about 2 inches above the bottom of my rib cage. There were a lot of shorter layers though. In the front, a lot of the hair landed right about at jaw length. Some of the layers brushing against my face were even a little bit shorter, not quite curtain bangs short, but close to it.
I knew the important thing though was that it no longer looked like someone had simply been chopping random pieces out of it. It looked like a style a person might go to a salon and ask for and leave happy having gotten it.
“Not too bad.” I said, trying to smile. “I look like a sane person again. If only I felt like a sane person.”
“It’s going to be ok,” Jenny reassured, hugging me. “You’re going to be ok.”
“Thanks honey.” I said, hugging Jenny back, trying to ignore that she smelled too human. “It really does look nice. You did a great job. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, babe.” Jenny said, stroking the hair she’d just cut. “And don’t worry. It will grow back soon. You’ll start feeling like yourself again soon.”
“Maybe I should let you cut it this length again when it starts growing out.” I said, knowing my voice sounded a little sad. “Nancy, from HR, said that if I was having a hard time managing the long hair I should cut it shorter. Maybe this will help convince her I’m doing everything I can to be ready to go back to work as soon as possible.”
“Babe, you don’t have to rush back to work, just take your time.” Then she added, “and I’m hoping that we can get past the reason you’ve been having a hard time managing your hair.”
“How long can we manage with just one paycheck?” I said, feeling tears on my cheeks. “I don’t even know if my insurance coverage will continue while I’m on medical leave or if we are going to have to pay for Cobra. I don’t think we can afford that.”
“We’ll figure it out.” Jenny held me against her, being an anchor. “It will be ok.”
I took a deep breath. I regretted it slightly as the human scent of Jenny hit my nostrils. Then I searched for something positive to say.
“I guess I can at least save some money on salon visits, and let you trim my hair from now on.” I said then let out a nervous chuckle as I fluffed up the layers.
“If that’s what you want babe.”
“Do you want to watch that movie?” Jenny asked after dinner as I started taking the dirty dishes to the sink.
I want to go run around the park in the moonlight and chase squirrels, and catch one and have some real meat!
I shoved down the thought that had been beginning to nag at me since sunset. It was an annoyance now, not the uncontrollable urge it had been a few nights ago. I still wasn’t sure I could sit through a movie though and be the sane girlfriend Jenny deserved, one who would cuddle with her then go to bed with her, unless…
“I’m going to need another valium tonight.”
To be continued…