i walked out of the hospital today feeling almost – though not quite – as surreal as i had when i stumbled in two days ago.

almost as surreal, because no matter how flattering, 38 year old women do not normally stay in the pediatrics ward, in rooms festooned with Cinderella stickers and Mickey mouse. the pediatric nurses all waved a kind goodbye as i tried not to wobble on my way to the door. i rubbed my head. four or five days of serious fever and two hospital visits all kind of blurred together, and i counted the days as we wandered through the corridors: Thursday. September 2nd. i nodded internally, steady now. i love September: the crisp air, the boots, the socks, the sweaters, the new pens. okay.

we walked out of the hospital into the hottest day we’ve seen here all summer.

and then, oh right, there’s a hurricane coming? funny, nobody talks about that on pediatrics. it was all just how much did you pee? and here’s your tray of chicken fingers and fries dear…uh…ma’am. you know. small talk. of course, i was in isolation. maybe all the kiddies in the playroom were chattin’ it up about the weather non-stop.

i rubbed my head again, Rumplestiltskin who seemed to have slumbered in the wireless-free confinement of my little quarantine room for long seasons. or simply woken up in another latitude entirely, one where hurricanes are actually expected to make landfall. see, i live in Canada. we have cold. that’s OUR extreme weather. the rest of you get all the scary shit.

can a spinal tap make latitudes shift?

for a moment, that thought spiraled out like a kite on a breeze, and i wondered if that golden liquid treasure that runs down all our backbones is actually what centres us in the time and place we happen to belong to; if spinal taps are not the portal to time travel, to instant tropical vacations.

then my brain clamped down on itself like an iron door.

you are to make sense, it said sternly. not making sense has been absolutely NO FUN.
***

when i was fourteen, you know, i missed my first week of high school. so none of this should really have been a surprise.

i had been shopping with my best friend Jill with money earned at a little summer babysitting job and i had these strange hiccups that wouldn’t go away and i kept embarrassing her, hiccuping my way around the fancy store until she finally turned around like a little pouf-banged martinet and said, STOP! exactly the way i speak to Posey now when she insists on hitter her elder brother and i remember raising my eyebrow at her like WTF? it’s the HICCUPS, i CAN’T stop, that’s the POINT and then turning a cold shoulder so she would not know i felt betrayed.

but when i got into the dressing room with those awful 1986 high-waisted monstrosities of jeans i was dying to spend hard-earned money on, i noticed my belly was sore and bloated and tender, and i couldn’t button anything where i thought i ought to button anything. and so that was when i left Jill there and walked home carrying new pants i hoped would fit better in the morning, thrilling to the terror and uncertainty of the brave new world of high school waiting right there on the other side of this awkward, not-quite-as-i’d-hoped-for day.

i hadn’t seen nothing.

by six pm my belly was sore enough that i mentioned it to my mom. by seven she was worried. by eight we were at the hospital. by ten pm i was in an ER room with a nice young doctor explaining that my appendix needed to come out.

i remember nodding at him, most obligingly, and suggesting that anytime after about the second week of October would be good for me. we’d be getting into midterms by then. i wouldn’t mind the rest.

no, he’d said, most soothingly, in chorus with my mother. tonight, dear. it needs to come out tonight.

i had stared at the two of them, blinking, twice betrayed in the course of a single day. then, indignant. were they stupid? i had HIGH SCHOOL tomorrow, i reminded them. i start grade ten at Colonel Gray, i chirped, patiently, as if to children.

not tomorrow, sweetheart, i remember my mother saying, with extraordinary gentleness. and then the student nurse who couldn’t start an IV to save her life came in to torture me for awhile and that was that; out like a light.

in the end, it was okay. i limped back into school the following week and saw old friends and met new friends and my life took a new shape not so different from the old and until a couple of days ago i had long since forgotten that i’d even spent those first few days in the hospital and not at school.

this week, i remembered, all too vividly. i started high school a week late. and i will do the same with my Ph.D.

and in the process of being late for school this go ’round, i may have learned – or remembered? – one of the most important things the world has to teach me, Ph.D or no Ph.D. now, i need desperately to rest. but i will tell you the rest of the story.

tomorrow. or as soon as the headache is gone?