(To get the full story you have to read the previous post: Roll ‘Em)
Okay so where was I? Oh right. I was bleeding all over the nurse and just handed her my bowl and bag. As expected, the ambulance came and I was whisked off to the Valley Hopsital in Ridgewood New Jersey where one if not both of my parents arrived. I really don’t remember much. The gash in my head was as long as a caterpillar and they had to sort of cut or shave some hair on the left side of my scalp and I took a good number of stitches. Like a lot. It looked like I had had a lobotomy. I just realized that word actually means the removal of a lobe. Yikes. And my face was messed up. My nose was broken and my hole face was just a swolen mess. But somewhere in my mother’s mind this was adding up to an opportunity.
To say that I had a face that only a mother could love would be opposite of the truth. I’m not sure if anybody other than my mother loved my face but I don’t think people generally didn’t. But what became apparent is that, given her drothers, my mother would make a few changes. Now, I had already been diagnosed by my ear, nose and throat specialist whose office I believe I visited weekly with some kind of ailment regarding that triumverate of chronic sickness, with: a deviated septum. There had been talk about fixing it at some point. And why not. I had inherited the hook shape of my mother’s button nose only I inherited the size of my father’s prominent Roman one. Taken together, in drag and green pancake, I would make a very good wicked witch of the west. I was rail thin in my teens to boot.
So plans were being made. I was home ailing. And Spring break was imminent. We went to see Dr. Bagli who would be operating on my nose. Why was he a plastic surgeon. He was not unknown to me as he had twelve children and every grade, practically, had a red haired Bagli kid in it. My sister was close friends with one of the daughters. There was a son two years older than me and a girl in the grade behind me. They also lived next door to a close friend of mine with whom I casually walked over into the Bagli yard to play tennis as they had their own courts. I did mention Dr. Bagli was a plastic surgeon and though people didn’t flaunt their times under his knife we lived in an area of New Jersey where the ladies lunched and did little else. Anyway, I remember it went like this: “The doctor is going to reset your nose, fix the deviated septum and, ‘while his in there’, just remove the little bump.” The little bump? You mean the top of my hook which in minature looks so cute on your face, Mom. That’s right. Okay sounds like a plan. To be honest I was getting a bit psyched to have my nose reset in such a way. Did I think I was getting a nose job? Maybe, but it all sounded dandy and very Goodbye Columbus to me. I really didn’t like my looks so maybe this would help my confidence in that regard.
So Spring break was spent letting my black eyes heal which they said would take weeks but really mine healed in a matter of days. And they gave me what I believe were Percocets which neither parent monitored and I found went really great with a few puffs of weed. On top of that, my recovery was spent pretty much alone. My parents had had plans to go to Hawaii and my evil sister was in a manic upswing that saw her out every night partying with a fast paced coked up crowd (I can now say in retrospect) that was centered around a notorious bar, called Espositos, also in Ridgewood. I had been given a new set of crepey pale blue pajamas so I’d look together in my mother’s mind in hospital. So I lounged around the house in a state of narcotic bliss checking my profile in the mirror from time to time as the swelling went down. But I have to back up.
When I came out of the anesthesia post operation Bagli camed to check on me to explain what had happened and what to expect in the healing process in regard to my bandaged face and at what intervals I could begin the slow unveiling over the coming weeks. My mother hovered comic-ominiously, with a canary eating grin on her face, as if she were bursting to brag about something she knew she should keep concealed. In the movie version of this, the scene is shot from a behind-the-bandage p.o.v., looking up at Mom and Dr. Bagli looming. The doctor made some comment about my chin. How’s that. You made a little incision where? And what was that about silicon? What’s happening? Well, my mother said in her most faux dulcet tone, the doctor needed to add a little bit to your chin to balance things all out. At the time that sounded benign, but now, thirty some odd years later, I wonder if said silicon hasn’t slowly oozed into my bloodstream and rifling my body with cancer. I never thought I would have to consider my face to be a source of faulty infrastructure.
The irony is that the “work” I had done was so subtle nobody noticed except for Dan Leuwen who sat next to me for four years in home room and had a photographic memory of my profile. He was a rather fat kid who wore the brightest possible preppy colors, colors turned up, no socks in winter, feet stuffed into Topsiders or Bean Blutchers. He read the New York Times at his desk every morning with coffee, a precursor of the young conservative characters we would soon see in John Huges films or in Michael J. Fox’s Alex Keaton character on Family Ties. “Did you get a nose job?” Dan asked. They fixed my broken nose which was messed up after the bus accident so no, yeah, I would have replied.
Meanwhile, what bus accident? Nobody had known about that. We were late to school that morning and most kids were already in the building by the time Jeff swung his Jeep between busses. I’m now guessing that we must have been hit by a departing bus and if there were kids on an arriving one, they would have been quickly ushered into the school, nothing to see here. There had been no announcement of the accident over the loud speaker. Friends I spoke to in the aftermath of the accident while in bed at home waiting for Spring break to arrive had no clue until I told them what happened. The school seemed to what to keep it all very hush hush.
Knowing my father, who would never miss the opportunity to somehow profit on my misfortune, must have made some kind of deal. And, now that I think about it, he must have made some kind of deal with the Siegels next door whose son was obviously to blame for my injuries. I will never know what the terms of that might have been.
It was probably May, now, weeks after returning from Spring break, some with tans, some with new faces that nobody seemed to notice. (In truth my nose ended up somehow reverting back to its hook shape over the years, just as my teeth moved back out into a more buck position after the years spent in braces. The corrective medical measures of the seventies and eighties, apparently, weren’t meant to stand the test of time.) Anyway I was sitting in homeroom one morning when the vice principal knocked-and-entered the room and just said two words, my first and last name. My homeroom teacher, Mr. Caruso, who looked like an opera singer, actually, and spoke in a booming voice, delivering jokes and sermons, a wise wise-cracker, every morning, motioned at me then the door in a sort of combo point-snap-go combination, no words, and I was out the door, shut, in the hall way with the very tall vice principal.
“Under the circumstances,” he said, as he reached into his pocket, “I’m giving this back to you.” And that was all he said as he handed me my small black wooden bowl and nearly empty, cloudy, sticky baggie of not very good pot. Thanks? What else could I have said.
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