The anesthesia was supposed to last for 24 hours but it wore off after six. My boss, A, brought me back to work and everyone looked alarmed at the new cast and my lack of coordination over my arm, which hung, hot and rubbery in a jerry-rigged sling I made from a scarf, since it was apparently a BYOSling kind of operation. While I was grinning like an idiot and assuring everyone that I was just fine while banging my alien arm against every solid surface available, A made arrangements for me to spend the night in a nearby hotel so my friends and the staff could keep a better eye on me.
I was out of it, but not too out of it to be uncomfortable with the situation. Who was going to pay for it? Would it come out of my paycheck? What about my clothes? But in the end, all I wanted to do was lay down, so I allowed myself to be led across the alley behind work to the Riva Hotel. A checked me in, told me not to worry about anything, and to call if I needed anything. I wound up staying for a stressful week and a half, during which I worried constantly about the propriety of it all. I knew for a fact that everyone thought that my staying there was a sure sign that I was sleeping with the boss, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that that would be the ultimate price of it. But every time I made motions to go home A instisted that I had to stay there, that he simply would not allow me to go home and be far from help should anything happen to me, like slipping in the shower or getting an infection.
‘It’s better this way,” he said. “Fatma can make sure you take your medicine. You don’t have to cook. How would you cook with that thing?”
It was a good point, and in certain lights I’m a bit of a doormat, especially when people are forcing gifts on me. So I took the advice of my friends and relations and gave in to the luxury of staying in a hotel room whose actual cost I did not yet know.
As soon as I lay down that first night, my hand began to come to life again. First I became aware of the contours of my arm for the first time in hours. Then feeling began to return, starting with my elbow and moving inexorably down my forearm to my fingertips. I dozed for an hour and woke up, sweating, from a dream that my hand had been caught in a sandwich press. The feeling persisted. I turned on the television, (mercifully replete with several English language channels) and moaned. I took a triple dose of advil, which didn’t help at all. I chugged a mini-fridge beer, which at least took the edge off my anxiety, but did nothing to alleviate the pain. I lay awake the rest of the night, lonely and in pain, while my hand screamed “GET. THESE. PINS. OUT.” I had fantasies of ripping off the cast and yanking the pins out myself. It seemed to me that that would be the most right, most satisfying feeling in the world.
The next day A took a cranky, sleepy, in-pain me home to get more clothes. When we returned I sprawled across my new-made bed and hunkered down for a day and night of teevee and moaning. Fatma brought food but I couldn’t eat. Friends came to visit but I was not good company.
At my follow-up appointment the next day the doctor seemed surprised that I was in so much pain, but prescribed a stronger, injectable pain-reliever. A arranged for a pharmacy tech to visit me three times a day- Fatma came and chaperoned every injection, which was administered into my ass, and within a day I was much more comfortable and could enjoy, finally, the pleasure of staying in a hotel. Of never havingto make my bed. Of leaving my towels on the bathroom floor and calling room service for ice and extra blankets.
I really love staying in hotels, even as a kind of prisoner. The hotel staff called A everytime I stirred from my room, which was creepy, and I was faintly worried that he’d hacked into the security camera system to watch the hall outside my room. He’d already hacked into the police camera system to find the tapes of me being attacked. Watching me leave to sneak an expressly forbidden cigarette or even get an orange juice would be cake for a man like him.
Days passed slowly, like summer days when you’re a child. The Riva is in a warren of cobbled, (theoretically) closed to traffic streets that twist around behind Dilko. Istanbul is a big destination for Arab families to vacation because it’s affordable, a nice blend of Western sensibilities and porklessness and regular calls to prayer, and the streets around The Riva are full of moderately priced hotels, so they were full of middle class Arab families from all over the Middle East. I amused myself through the long, drug-hazed days, by looking at Arab papas and mamas trudging by, the mamas in an astounding array of coverings from barely there whisps of scarfs anchored by designer sunglasses to full on, bedazzled chador, trailing children like so many ducklings. Fatma broke up my days by arriving with tosts and the pharmacy technician. I surfed the net and watched BBC. I read a little. I took naps.
I learned a lot about Turk’s treat with illness. On my third day in the hotel, I came down with a cold. A and Fatma immediately blamed the air conditioning system in my room, and after that whenever Fatma came over and found the air conditioning on, (late June in Istanbul, may I remind you, on the fifth floor in a room whose windows don’t fully open) she screamed at me.
“Don’t you think it could be because my defenses are low, and I spent 12 hours in a dirty hospital surrounded by sick people?” I asked A, once, drily. He got defensive. He knows what I think of the Turkish Fear of the Draught, and doesn’t appreciate the condescension.
“The air conditioning systems are really dirty in this country,” he said, stiffly.
Another day he instructed Fatma to take me to get a soup that would make my bones grow together, insisting that without it I would never heal properly. We went to an Iskembe shop. At three blocks of walking it was one of the longer stretches of exercise I’d had in a week or so and I was exhausted and queasy from the heat and the antibiotics when we sat down. The smell was appalling, and reminded me of Hamden on nights when the local scrapple factory was in full swing, or of passing the butcher shop in Oella on still nights. When the soup came I almost wretched looking at it. It was gray and greasy, with lumps of unidentifiable something lurking in it.
I like offal, don’t get me wrong. I love sweet-meats and liver and tongue. I have eaten trotters and hearts and brains. I like tripe soup, and the irony, animal-ey barnyard taste of most spare meats. But Turks, damnit- they just eat that stuff straight up, without herbs and spices to soften the strong flavor. The soup was nothing but lamb knuckles and water, over-boiled, with garlic water on the side as a condiment. Fatma made me eat the whole thing, picking up the spoon and forcing bites into my mouth when I went too slowly. A few times I threw up a little in my mouth.
“Never again,” I said when we got back. “Thank you for everything, but NEVER AGAIN.”
A tsked at me and told me, sadly, that he wouldn’t be responsible for my hand healing badly.
I took the chance.
After a week or so later I went home. I learned to shampoo my hair one-handed. I heated up soup and fastened zippers with my left hand. I went back to work.
Five weeks later the pins came out.
Here’s a link to the video I made A take. At the end the dotor says, “Anatolian women don’t have anything on Americans. Enjoy.