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Saturday, December 20, 2014

I'm Going to Fall

When I was a first grader, I fell out of my bunk bed and broke my collarbone. I didn't wake up but dreamt about falling and feeling burning pain in my shoulder. Dad woke me from my screaming sleep.  The thin carpet layered onto the concrete floor of our ground level apartment had done almost nothing to cushion my fall.

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Afterward, Dad fashioned a safety rail out of a two by six pine board. I had to wear a brace to school for a few weeks. It was a neutral, creamy colored, hospital terry cloth-covered foam contraption that made me think of a parachute without the pack: just the straps...

As I regarded the gray steel bunk frame and the thin bare, stained ticking mattress laying on it, this is what I thought about. The bunk was at my adult eye level; the floor, tile covered reinforced concrete. No guard rail. At 43, a fall from such a bunk would probably do a lot more than fracture my collarbone. My two new roommates, Chris and Gary, watched me from the safety of their bottom bunk perches. - Take either one, Gary said. Both upper bunks were vacant. I was numb, wishing my nine-years-dead father would shake me out of this bunk bed nightmare.

This was the first specific fear I tripped over after arriving at prison camp: falling out of the bunk and hurting myself. To that point, everything had been a fog of robotic unreality from noon, when John (my brother) dropped me off, all the greened inmates standing along and in the street, watching; to R & D, where crazy Eddie Reed took my paperwork by mistake, and I was parked in a holding room with Martin, late of the Bahamas via Chicago; to being told by Nurse Lind that I had high blood pressure, that she was putting me on medication so I don't "stroke out" and, oh by the way, since I admitted to having drunk the night before (really? who wouldn't?) here's a breathalyzer and if you blow anything above 0.0, you'll spend the night in The Hole; to being walked across the compound to Dorm 210 by the Chris O'Donnell looking guard; to Whiskers hollering at him as we walked by a disarrayed array of feathers, seagull, dead -- eaten... raccoon? -- and saying he suspected "fowl" play, get it, "fowl"? Into the dorm and up the stairs and turning right into the hall and then right (even though it was a left-and-a-left; I turned right at the top of the stairs the whole time I lived in 210) again into the room where the fog lifted and the background blurred and the 1080 dpi hi-def vision of the bunk slammed across the flatscreen of my sight and I thought, I'm going to fall.