birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Line of Fear

When I was 5, I fell into the neighbor’s rabbit’s cage. The door was open and my hand forcefully struck some exposed wires. Blood streamed down my palm, wrist, and arm, and I ran, horrified, across the street and found my mother. I don’t remember telling her what happened, just screaming and screaming. This, I thought, would be my undoing.

She looked at the wound on my palm just under the left pinky. I could tell she was having a hard time looking at it. As a mother of 9 and a grandmother to 3, she had made dozens of emergency room trips, but I don’t think she ever got used to seeing blood.

She brought me into the bathroom and turned on the sink.
“You’re going to have to go to the doctor,” she said. “You might need stitches.”

I heard “You’re going to have to...” and especially focused on the “you” part. Like I’d have to go alone. Drive myself or take a cab. And—stitches? That was like the worst of the worst thing that could ever happen. I lost my freaking mind. I screamed like the world was coming to an end. “Nooooooooooo not a doctor! Not stitches! Not that place!”

I’d never had stitches before, but I knew “that place.” The place with the bright overhead lights and the white paper sheets and that, that...table. And the man with the loud voice. I’d had to go a few other times when I was hurt—on one occasion, my niece had stuck a wire hanger in my ear and scratched the canal. I wouldn’t hold still, so the doctor had my mom wrap me up in a sheet and hold me down for the examination.

I’ve never, ever been comfortable going to a doctor since. I never stop shaking from the time I arrive until I’m in my car driving home.

As my mother tried to wash the blood off my arm and rinse the rabbit germs away, she let me know that there was no choice to be made—we were going to the doctor. It wouldn’t take long and we’d be home soon, she said, wrapping my hand in a paper towel.

I don’t remember much about the ER, except for the sense relief when I heard there would be no stitches, just an elaborate bandage. And a tetanus shot. Not great, but somehow that kind of needle didn’t seem as terrible.

Over four decades later, the scar between my pinky and palm is still visible. It blends with the head, heart, life, and fate lines to remind me of a moment of utter consumption by fear and unbearable uncertainty.

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