The ER Shimmy

Jul 18th 2011

Blood was all over the place. I squeezed my hand at the base of the thumb to staunch it where the slash was deepest. “Darn!”  I thought of all the times I had cut picture backings with this very utility knife, reminding myself to be careful and aim away from my hand.  I recollected some previous gardening tasks and wondered how clean the blade had been before it sliced into my skin.

Some suspicious spongy white stuff edging out of the cut encouraged me to call my nurse friend Ron for advice. His question about the date of my last tetanus shot sent me off to the local hospital ER. Since I was not spewing blood from any orifice, nor had I amputated any major extremity, I resigned myself to a long wait.

What I did not anticipate was a long, cold wait. The abnormally warm and sunny spring day had me driving to the hospital in my tank top and Dallas flip flops. There, uploaded into the emergency System, I was interviewed, checked, triaged, then, arrayed in my beachlike attire, stuffed away with my unimportant wound in the Room at the End of the Hall.

I waited, a very long time. I finally peeked out. Gurneys raced by, IV bottles swinging.  A tall dude in scrubs, with dreadlocks to die for, glided by with a push broom. People with clipboards padded importantly to and fro, always looking straight ahead. No one saw me. Even when I started to shiver, shrink, and slowly deflate against the door.

The place was air-conditioned to the max, maybe to keep germs down, maybe to keep patients on ice. But to a lady with bare shoulders and a little rubber daisy between her toes, it was arctic, goose-bumpy and just about unbearable. I began to segue into survival mode. 

First I paced. Up and down the hall between all the closed doors my Daisy Flippers making splat sounds on the clean, tiled floor. I needed warmth. Getting desperate, I searched the cupboards in the exam room for some kind of covering, but I could see right away that the cotton balls and basket of shiny, pokey objects weren’t going to do the job.

I got vocal, begged for a blanket as personnel raced by, but not a gurney slowed down. My teeth actually chattering, I rummaged deeper in the cabinet under the counter, found a sheet to wind around my body for warmth. It worked as well as one can probably imagine a sheet would work. My mind began to gel along with my red cells. I was on Everest without my Sherpa. I called on the Goddess for help.

My friend, the dancer and teacher La Reina, once commented during a class, “Shimmies raise a lot of power.” And suddenly, there it was.  Memories rose of sweaty duets with enthusiastic drummers, practice sessions dripping with joyful perspiration.

Shimmies, I thought, also raise a lot of heat.

So I did what I had to do. I began to shimmy. There in the Room at the End of the Hall, I planted my rubber soles together, got grounded, and started the vibrations, those moves that start from the earth up, power the femurs, the quads, the glutes, moves that make the blood shout out what’s happening, that pull the soul into joy and freedom and ultimately a body temp over 98.4-, the cosmic vibrations that were no doubt employed to create the beginning of the world.

I shimmied and kept on shimmying. And I began to get warm. I started up the basic, flatfoot shimmy, then vibrated sideways with the Turkish Twist, sidled into the syncopated clickety-click of the three-quarter shimmy, then the appropriately named, molar-shaking, vertebrae-loosening Freeze. I resurrected the one-leg shimmy, which has in the past astounded watchers and always worked well with a short fringe, but decided not to try this one on the hospital floor. Then I worked the tiptoe shimmy, which cruises one across the linoleum, but, I found, doesn’t mix well with flip flops.

Cold as I was, I was also aware that I was not in an appropriate place, or dressed correctly, to do this. Heck, I didn’t even have a spare coin belt in my purse. No hip scarf, no beads, no swish of skirt to enhance, no music, no drum, to justify my action.  I was loosely wrapped in a hospital sheet, blue from the cold, holding my damaged thumb above my head until it got properly sewn up.

But I shimmied anyway. I had an audience, although not the kind I’m used to. Gurneys slowed, hesitated, then sped up and kept going. A granny with an oxygen tube in her nose struggled to sit up, looked surprised, and got whisked away. A police detail rushed by with a small boy, who waved. The broom-pushing dreadsman came back down the hall towards me, thought better of it, and headed back around a corner. I never saw him again.

But I gained my warmth. I felt it rise in my body, my arms, my spirit, and then I smiled. I was myself again. I was okay. I was free.

The doctor finally arrived. Had something been reported back at the desk? I will never know. I sauntered out into the heat and green of late spring, my hand glued and bandaged, shoulder sore from a tetanus shot. I came away with a boring little scar but a great memory. How often does anyone get to do the ER Shimmy and get away with it?