Monday, February 29, 2016

When Hollywood Pales....

I haven’t seen the film Spotlight, which last night won a surprising victory as Best Picture at the Oscars, but I can’t help thinking that there is a better, more amazing story yet to be presented.

The story of Jozef Wesolowski has been told endlessly in this blog, and I had vowed never, never to tell it again. Why? Because it was threatening my mental health, as well as driving any possible readers on to the next screen. For it seemed at the time that nobody had grasped the full story.  Even The New York Times, which covered the story, forgot to mention that Wesolowski was Papal Nuncio to the Dominican Republic, yes, but also to Puerto Rico. And he was no stranger to Puerto Rico, since he was embroiled in a controversy with the Archbishop of San Juan. So he made frequent trips to the island, and stayed in the neighboring diocese of Arecibo.

There’s not much doubt that Wesolowski was a pedophile: the Vatican defrocked him, releasing him from all his vows except—hold your seat here—chastity! Then they set out to try him in a criminal trial in the Vatican, after declaring that they would not extradite him to the Dominican Republic.

So yes, he was a pedophile, and his crimes were committed—as far as we know—in the Dominican Republic. But what of his travels to Puerto Rico? The press reported that there were some 100,000 pornographic images of boys having sex on his PC and on the laptop he used for travel. So were there any Puerto Rican boys in that laptop? And if so, hadn’t Wesolowski committed crimes on American soil?

Of course, the point was that he was neither on Dominican nor Puerto Rican / American soil. He was in the Vatican, and a fellow Pole, Alberto Gil, was in Poland. Gil was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison for sexual abuse of minors. But how, and under what circumstances, had they left the Dominican Republic?

One Mexican ex-priest, Alberto Athié Gallo, claimed that Wesolowski had fled the country with false documents. Whether true or not, there is no doubt about other events, such as how the Vatican had come to learn of Wesolowski / Gil.

Given the scope of Wesolowski activities—he was frequently seen drinking beer, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap on the malecón in Santo Domingo—many people must have known or at least suspected what was going on. And one priest, Padre Manuel Ruiz, alerted the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Nicolás de Jesús. What did the archbishop do? In his own words….

El Padre Manuel Ruiz fue la primera persona que me informó sobre algunas conductas del ex-Nuncio reñidas con las normas de la iglesia y con posibles implicaciones penales. Por lo delicado del caso le di instrucciones precisas para que a la mayor brevedad posible recabara las informaciones que me sirvieran como base para elaborar el informe que en su momento presenté personalmente al Papa Francisco.

(Rough translation: Father Manuel Ruiz was the first person who informed me of some actions of the ex-nuncio contrary to the norms of the church and with possible penal implication. Because of the delicacy of the case, I gave precise instructions to compile the information as quickly as possible so that it would serve as a base for the report that I later presented personally to Pope Francis.)

It was, in short, business as usual. Despite all the talk about new reforms and revised policy, a pederast priest was transferred and protected. Or rather, they tried to protect him, since the official line immediately after his departure was that Wesolowski had been recalled as an administrative matter. And who made that statement? Padre Ruiz, who knew perfectly well that Wesolowski had been yanked for quite altogether different reasons.

In fact, one person, Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, came out and made the statement publically; the spokesperson for the church said that he was unauthorized to speak.

Things proceeded slowly, as they tend to in the Vatican. And so Wesolowski was free to roam around the Vatican, until there was sufficient protest; he was finally placed under house arrest.

He had been “laicized,” which is to say defrocked. Now, he was to face trial in the Vatican on criminal charges. At this point, the story turns seriously strange: on the night before the first day of the trial, Wesolowski was taken to the ICU for an “unexpected illness.” He was released several days later.

To go from ICU back to home in such a short time raises suspicions: had there been a serious health matter, wouldn’t the hospital have held him longer, submitted him to further testing, monitored him? Yes, unless there was nothing to monitor. Which might have been the case, if Wesolowski had overdosed on something, had been treated, and then released.

We’ll likely never know, although it is curious that only a few months later, in August of 2015, Wesolowski was found dead in his easy chair in front of the television. The Vatican came out and said that his death was likely due to “natural causes,” and promised that the results of the autopsy would be released in the course of time.

In fact, it took several more months before the Vatican announced the results, and guess what? Yes, the death was entirely natural: Wesolowski had died of cardiac arrest.

Nobody, of course, could dispute that: we all die of cardiac arrest. Put bluntly, the heart stops beating when we die. The question is what caused the arrest.

I had followed the story, I had written the story, and I knew, I felt, as much as anyone about the story. There was the curious side story of the Deacon Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, who was Wesolwski’s “lover,” and who admitted to procuring a boy for Wesolowski. Reyes is currently a prisoner in San Pedro de Macorís.

Yes, it had obsessed me, but to delve any further might unhinge me. The bad guys had won; neither truth nor justice had prevailed. The cavalry, if there was one, had stayed contently on the other side of the hill. It was time to turn away, look elsewhere, and move on.

And I would have, if I hadn’t forgotten to erase Wesolowski from my Google Alerts. So occasionally an unrelated Wesolowski crops up in my email, and I learn that some Wesolowski somewhere has made a winning goal or a multimillion-dollar deal. So I was only slightly surprised to get the alert on Saturday. The story, however, is a shocker. Here’s the headline:


And here’s the second paragraph:

Catholic priest Manuel Ruiz charged five prominent journalists with slander stemming from the sexual abuse scandals caused by the late bishop Jozef Wesolowski and priest Wojciech Waldemar Gil (Padre Alberto).

And in fact, padre Manuel Ruiz—the very man who had reported Wesolowski’s conduct to the archbishop—has tried three times to bring charges of slander in previous trials. Not one has succeeded.

And one wonders, what could possibly be said about Wesolowski that isn’t already a matter of record? The facts are as clear as his death was mysterious.

It was, said the archbishop of Santo Domingo, a “delicate” matter that the archbishop charged Ruiz with uncovering. But in fact it wasn’t, or at least I suspect it wasn’t. Because this was sex between a 60-year old man and teenage boys. Some of them were paid, some of them were plied with alcohol, but all of them were used and abused.

“Used and abused,” I wrote, because what do I know of what actually happened? Only what happened to me, when I had my first sexual experience with a man.

He was my aunt’s husband; I was 17. Technically, it was statutory rape, but isn’t that a bit absurd, since I was three months shy of my 18th birthday? For years, I discounted that there had been any abuse at all. I dismissed that the obvious power difference—he was a very skillful seducer, as I later found—had made any difference. I went on to have long-term relationships with no apparent harm done.

What do I remember? Well, there was the fear of being found out: we were having sex in a public park. There was the feeling of my hip rocking against an underground rock. There was the heat: it was August, and the night had brought no cooling relief. There were mosquitos, who buzzed in my ear.

These are, in fact, very real things, as are the specific practices that I remember, and that I spare you. But if I withhold them, don’t imagine that I don’t remember them, and that they are not as vivid, and as much remembered, as rocks and mosquitos.

And so there may be young men in however many countries who smell vodka on a man’s breath, and that triggers the memory of a man in a baseball cap and sunglasses strolling the malecón of Santo Domingo. A man who offers a few pesos to a kid to do some things behind the gigantic statue of Montesinos.

I won’t put words in their mouths; I won’t claim that they are scarred for life, victims of intolerable abuse. They may, in fact, be convinced that they were doing what they had to do. They were living on the streets, and if that man in the baseball cap wanted to pay to…well, wasn’t that what they had to do?

Yes and no. But can’t we at least call whatever it is, and whatever it was, anything but, well…



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Monday Morning Blues....

I was still groggy when Raf’s cousin came, kissed me, told me that she would be releasing me from the hospital, if it weren’t for the fact that I’d refused the X-ray.

“But I’ve already had one,” I told her.

“This is a special one—we have to make sure that nothing is compressing on your spinal cord….”

“Well, no one told me that….”

“That’s OK,” she said. “I told the spinal guy that you weren’t difficult, just really intelligent, and he understood….”

It developed: even being a neurosurgeon is not enough: the spinal column is sufficiently long to allow for sub-sub-specialties. So while she works with the skull base and neck, there’s another guy—unseen—who’s looking at my spine.

Well, sort of looking, because the curious thing is that no one, absolutely no one, has looked at my back. The have CT’ed it, MRI’ed it, X-rayed it but not, in fact, looked at it. And that’s weird, since I could swear that I can feel the place where the fracture is. Granted, I presume the lack of bleeding means that I don’t actually have bones sticking out of me, but shouldn’t some look and see?

At any rate, no one has touched me except to take vitals signs and draw blood. So whatever happened to the laying on of hands? Well, if it’s taking place, it’s taking place internally, since I have remembered the monastery in Chicago where I spent a bit of time, recovering from my mother’s death.

A monastery—ancient buildings, steeped archways, quiet gardens, contemplation—right? In fact, it was none of these things, and I never saw the cells or rooms where the monks hung out. Nor did I have the stamina to wake up at three in the morning—or whenever it was—to hear the monks sing the first office. But in the days of the worst pain, I remembered the monks, remembered the ancient chants, and formed the oddest image an old atheist could concoct.

I was lying face down on the altar, facing the cross. The prior was kneeling at my side, with his hands on each one of the two fractured vertebrae. Around me, in a circle, were the monks—holding each other’s hands, and singing. And so I spent hours of pain-time, feeling the energy of Gregorian chant warming my spine.

Did it work? I have no idea, but I do know that there was no energy for music, and none for serious reading. For I had decided to join the ranks of the elect: to emerge from this enforced period of inactivity having read War and Peace, as well as Anna Karenina….oh, and throw in The Brothers Karamazov. But the energy to listen to music, or absorb serious reading, was too much for me. I lay in bed with my pain, and with six or eight once seen but now-imagined monks.

During this time, I was as likely to be asleep at 3 PM as I was to be awake at 3 AM. And so, in the twisted logic that a pain-ravaged brain can conceive, I decided to eat as much shrimp as I wanted, because do you ever get enough shrimp? Of course not—whatever dish you order comes with just three or four shrimp artfully distributed across the plate. Well, screw that! Because if I was going to be assaulted with this kind of pain, and if at the end of it I might after all stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of my life….

….and so I was—on my one daily journey out—buying a pound and a half of frozen shrimp, at, yes, an obscene price. I would gorge myself on shrimp in the middle of the night, and then stumble back to bed. In the morning, I would take the plastic bag with the shrimp tails out to the trash—like a drunk taking out his nightly bottle.

Through it all was the fear—one false move and it would be over. A cat, rubbing up against my legs at three in the morning, could provoke a fall, and then it would be a wheelchair for life. So I began to leave lights on, in the bathroom and kitchen. That was fine, but what about all those unthought-of, almost instinctive movements? A cat jumping on the table needs to be swatted—but if I were half-turned, moved suddenly, jerked in some unexpected way? Would that be it?

“Well, I guess you’ll have to have surgery,” said an acquaintance at the café one Monday morning, during this time. And I, who had held it together all of this time, simply became unstrung: I began to cry and could not stop, which is, it must be said, inconvenient in a public spot. But the café has seen many tears—not always of sorrow or pain, but of joy as well. And so I am in the arms of David, the Mexican guy who makes the little plaster houses that Lady will paint. And I am telling him that I can’t, I absolutely can’t have surgery and I can’t stand the pain, and that my whole life has been pain.

Which leads me, in some crazy way, to tell him the whole story of my life, and guess what that has been? Yes, pain—starting with the pain of knowing I was gay and having to do something about that, and then all of the anguish with the cello, and then it was time for a major depression, and let’s see…. Well, there were the wasted years as a nurse, and then the crazy years as a teacher, and then I lost my job…and have I told you my whole life has been about pain? Which is what I am in right now, and what I’ve been in for the last two months, and now some guy tells me casually that I’ll probably have surgery and I can’t, I can’t, I absolutely CANNOT bear the thought of surgery.

So now I am shaking and crying and David is holding me, and caressing my head, and shooing Nico—Lady’s husband—away. For he has seen me for months, writing away at whatever I’m writing, but has he ever seen me in full psychiatric crisis? No, and it’s not pretty, because in addition to the crying and the wails, I am also shaking. And why is that?

News flash—it takes a lot of energy to melt down, and had I had anything to eat? Of course not, so my blood sugar had bottomed out, and I was now in hypoglycemia.

Nor was that all of the problem, since I was halfway on the road to a place called Panic Attack, and so my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow and I was sweating and afraid and couldn’t be alone, and that was a problem since David? His job was to pour plaster into molds, not to hold aging writers undergoing panic.

So then it’s Gabriel’s turn, since he has the misfortune of walking in just as I am realizing: I can’t keep David from his molds forever. So now it’s this 18-year old kid, this sweet and earnest kid who is probably gay but definitely not aware of it. Or so it seems, since I have seen him with his arm around a girl—presumably his girlfriend. Though one of the people in the café asked him about all of that, and then was rebuffed very gently, and not given an answer. Anyway, Gabriel is the new David, which gives me a wonderful opportunity to tell him the whole story of my life, and have I mentioned what that’s been all about? Right—pain! Oh, and also loss.

So now I’m feeling seriously horrible, and I realize: I either pull myself together or they are, yes, going to have to call the ambulance and take me to the loony farm. So what to do?

“Listen, Gabriel—get Santana, and ask him to come here.”

Gabriel is relieved, since it is one of the only things I’ve said that has made any sense. And Santana, when he comes, is perfect, because he is not eighteen, but rather my own age, which means that he’s seasoned. And so I explain that I am in hypoglycemia, and he brings me a papaya smoothie, heavily laced with brown sugar and cinnamon. And then he sits with me as I drink it, and talks calmly, and then he brings me a sandwich. And so I have become the invalid of the Café Poético, since they have brought me a little tray table, and put me in the back of the café, where they can monitor me and hide me from people who—astonishingly—are little interested in writers in breakdown. So I get all that down, and start to feel better but not—because why am I shaking so badly? So now Carlos is the new Santana, since Santana has other things to do, like make sandwiches for paying-and-not-breaking-down customers.

Yes, it’s Carlos, whom I’ve known for a couple of years, and who is a pirate, when needed—which is often, since being a poet and a Yoga teacher? Well, somehow the money isn’t rolling in, so the only solution is to get himself up as a pirate, and then to get “offerings” from tourists after having their picture taken with him. But today, Carlos is un-pirated, since he’s just come from Utuado, where he’s doing something related to something, which I would know if I were in my normal state. Which of course I’m not, and so since I am so anxious, I decide to go and plead with the people at CVS to give me Klonopin. And who will go with me, in case I start bawling in the street? Right—Carlos! So the plainclothes pirate and I are going down the street, and I am breathing deeply and pretending not to be anxious, and Carlos is explaining his project, about which I still know nothing.

Well, the pharmacy can’t give me Klonopin for another week, so what to do? We walk back to the café, stopping at my house to pick up some Benadryl! Yes, Benadryl is the new Klonopin, and it does take the edge off the anxiety, but what has happened to my stomach?

Because all the medicines that I am taking for the pain and the muscle relaxation and everything else have held a conference call, and what has the committee decided? Right, the first battle in the war will be my back, but why not head around the front (which is the back) and attack the back (which is my stomach, if that makes any sense). So now I’m under attack from both sides, and the Prilosec that I have taken will do nothing, since it doesn’t. Not at first. Rather, the Prilosec needs to see other Prilosecs over several days before they decide to go to work. So now I am in serious stomach pain.

Well, my grandmother stepped into the room, and though she died in the 70’s, she still comes through with the suggestion: baking soda and water. And so now I am taking baking soda and water every half hour or so, and then I begin to worry. I have to be absorbing all of this stuff, and what will happen to my electrolytes?

At this point, I’m at home and it’s after five, and Raf will soon be home. And there he is, and there I am, eating dinner and watching television later. And I go to bed, stomach still aching, and thinking, hoping, praying, pleading with the gods please, please, PLEASE let me sleep.

And of course, I don’t.    

Friday, February 12, 2016


It wasn’t a code blue, I realized—though it seemed that way, because why else should there be so many doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists all hanging around? But then I realized—this was a normal hospital, with adequate staffing. And then I began to ponder: had something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome occurred? After six hours of lying on a gurney and seeing no one, I had completely forgotten what an emergency room should look like. I had come to expect to be ignored and forgotten.

Did it help that Raf’s cousin had called the ER to speak to the attending in charge? Undoubtedly—and the attending strolled by and chatted with Raf as I did the triage. Then, and curiously, she completely ignored me. Was I miffed? Yes—until I began to marvel that the care was almost choreographed: first the administrative process of admission, then the financial business of the deductible, and then the chest X-ray, the EKG, the routine blood work, and finally the interview with the admitting doctor. By this time, it was getting late, and though Raf had taken Blanca out for dinner, it was clear that everybody needed to get home.

“Is it definite that I’m going to be admitted?” I asked the doctor.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“Go home,” I told Raf and Blanca, since what sense did it make to wait for the two or three hours for a bed to become available? Besides, I had done something completely uncharacteristic: I had lied, and told them I was taking 1 mg of Klonopin three times a day.

Klonopin is related to Valium, and although my psychiatrist had prescribed half a milligram only as needed, I rarely took it. But in the week after the fall, I had taken it once or twice a day: like Valium, it also relaxes the muscles. And so, as the nurse was writing down the (extensive) list of medicine, it occurred to me: short of LSD and mescaline, there was nothing I couldn’t get.

Drug holiday!

Even better, the admitting doctor had been incredulous when I told him I was treating the pain with Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

“I think we can do better than that,” he said.

And so, three times a day, two Percocets and 1 mg of Klonopin appeared in the little white paper cup. Half an hour later, I would experience the strange effect of being pulled down into the deepest rungs of sleep—it was like a slow-motion anesthesia, and it was hugely soothing. For the first time in seemingly weeks, I slept, and slept well, and slept without pain.

The next day, I was awakened by a woman bringing me a tray of breakfast, which she put on the table in front of the window, and then said: “don’t eat this.”

Say what?

It was a classic example of hospital idiocy, I decided. The woman’s job was to deliver the tray, but it was also her job to instruct me not to eat it. And in fact, she had committed the ultimate mistake of those who deliver trays: she had left it out of reach. Not a problem if—as I was—the patient could stand and walk. But every day, thousands of trays are delivered in hospitals, and how many patients are left, hungry and unable to eat? No matter—I waited for what came next….

It turned out that I had to have a CT scan, and that the test—for some reason—was best done fasting. And so I went down to the lab, escorted by two amiable chaps who had tossed a coin: who would have to speak English to me? The answer, of course, was neither, and we chatted in Spanish.

I had been told by my internist that an MRI was just as good, and considerably less annoying, than a CT scan. In fact, even though the lab technician gave me earplugs, I was completely unprepared for the menacing, unpredictable series of roars, whirling, clicks and unnerving silences. At times, it seemed that I had been cornered by a snarling, mechanical beast, which roared in my ears just prior to devouring me, and then retreated, silently and maliciously eyeing me, as it plotted its next pounce.

I did what I had been doing for almost a month: I counted my breaths. But then, curiously, I began to be fascinated with the sounds; was there a pattern to them? And if so, could I discern it? And so for twenty minutes, I was bombarded with cacophony—I, a musician, acutely sensitive to sound, to the point that people eating popcorn with their mouths open will make me want to flee the theater.

What, I wondered, in God’s name had we been doing in those years when I worked on psychiatry wards? Because it was routine: young schizophrenics were sent down to get CT scans of their brains. And if I—neurotic, perhaps, but connected with reality—had experienced the CT scan as distinctly unnerving (to the point of Satanic), what in the world was the experience for a truly psychotic person? How could they not think that something or someone was implanting thoughts in their brains?

“Well, now I know what people abducted by aliens go through,” I told the technician. He laughed and sent me off to lie in the hall: my two companions would appear in moments to take me to X-ray….

X-ray? Why X-ray? I had had, after all, X-rays of my spine: that’s what had led to the doctor’s visit, and the MRI, and then all the way to the gurney I was currently lying on. So, why repeat the X-rays: I protested and ultimately refused. No one was particularly pleased with me, but I stood my ground.

And I returned to my room, got my breakfast, and then the angel in white appeared with the balm and blessing of Percocet and Klonopin, and I was just about to plunge down deep, deep into the ocean of unconsciousness, when it occurred to me: administratively speaking, how could I be here?

I had, after checked into one hospital, never officially checked out, and then checked into a second hospital? What would Triple-S think? How could I be in two places at once? Were they paying double? And then I thought: did it matter? I was here, safe, no longer in pain. People appeared, gave me drugs, hung IV bags, administered Heparin (I presumed, since it was into my belly, not intramuscular), and took charge. And I couldn’t have been more pleased: I relinquished control as a snake sheds its skin.

Was the ordeal over?    


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Another, and Better Trip

There was a mildly Bonnie-and-Clyde feel to it, since we were fleeing Centro Mérdico (sorry, that was a typo, but it’s so apt it stays! And may become permanent!) and I worried: would they send out the security guys? Or maybe the National Guard? I didn’t mean so little to them that they’d just let me go like that, did I?

Happily, we’ll never know, since as we were walking down the sidewalk, Blanca—Raf’s cousin and second wife of the neurosurgeon cousin’s father—was coming up the street. The problem was that there were two railings between us: one at waist high, the other at knee level. So desperate were we to get out of the place that we crawled through the railings, to Blanca’s protest and—very much—my back’s as well.

So we were out of there, passing the sign announcing cremations starting at 199$. This, of course, is just one of the many gallows’ humor that Centro Médico attracts. Nico, Lady’s husband, declined to eat at the cafeteria, located in the basement—but location had nothing to do with it. Or rather, it did, since….

“…It’s right next door to the morgue!”

So I began thinking of all the ancillary business that might pop up advertising at Centro Médico: malpractice lawyers were an obvious, of course. Ambulance services, designer-made coffins. (“The corpse looked stunning as she reclined in a ermine lined coffin studded with diamonds….)

On the more prosaic level, what happens to all that medical equipment that is so vital one week, and so utterly useless the next? How many urinals are wasting their time in bathroom cabinets, when they could be far more gainfully employed reprocessed and reused? I saw myself, sitting in the summer sun outside the emergency room, surrounded by attractively priced and professionally sanitized bedpans, urinals, commodes—maybe even a titanium hip or knee replacement or two. (I mean, why bury that stuff?) The business would expand, go global, and I would be the face of the empire!

Of course, there was money to be made, too, in the personalized bedpan or urinal. Look, if you have to be taking a dump on a bedpan, wouldn’t you at least want to be spreading all over a photo of George W. Bush? Clearly, the possibilities were endless….

It was now dusk, and we were heading into the mountains outside San Juan. The harsh daylight of noon had softened, and the hills appeared almost glowing as we moved toward them. My world had been a bedroom, a bathroom, and—I now remember—one daily trip out to eat breakfast in the morning, and scavenge food for the rest of the day. The problem was that the grocery store was two blocks away, the importance of which I learned on one of the worst days after the fall.

I had eaten, and someone strengthened, had determined to go get bread and peanut butter: it had gotten me through my childhood, it could serve me now. But I could not walk ten feet without stopping, grabbing onto a building, closing my eyes, cursing silently, and then counting my breath until the pain subsided. Still, I was out, I was close to the store—if I could just get there, get the food, and get home, all would be well.

The store is small, crowded, and has the distinct and interesting feature—unique in modern retailing—of the disappearing cashier. Because while you are chatting with your neighbor—poof, Alfredaida (the cashier, whose father was Alfredo and whose mother was Betzaida, and that’s sweet, isn’t it?)—anyway, the cashier suddenly isn’t there.

At first I worried that it was the rapture, and began to wonder why it was she, and impeccable me, who had been seized? Is scanning an entry drug for rapture? But no, she reappeared and now can enter “grocery—2.99” into the register for the item she has just gone to find on the shelves (stopping, of course, to kiss her neighbor and give a detailed account of a recent excursion to Plaza, as well as kissing / caressing three babies….) Anyway, she now knows the price, and everything goes on.

The amazing thing is that nobody—absolutely nobody—complains about this. Can you imagine that scenario in Manhattan? Anyway, all goes well because everybody is in the middle of some anecdote or two—and what’s the worry about a missing cashier or two?

Why this long digression?

So that you will understand why I—my back howling in pain—suddenly realized: I would rather starve than deal with the store. And so, I continued the ten step / pause / curse /breath process back to the apartment. But first, I got to the Always 99 Cents Store, which had nothing healthy to eat, with the marginal exception of a tube of oatmeal cookies and a Hershey’s candy bar. Unwisely, I bought them both.

Unwisely because I am a creature of habit—since the next day? Of course, I did the same thing, and I also did the same thing with the wrappers, which I had dropped on the floor.

I was in bed for two weeks before I could move—barring my one trip out per day—to go hail a cab and go to the emergency room. And so, if I was recovering at all, I was recovering in a pigsty. Why didn’t I ask Raf, or a friend, to come clean it all up? I was ashamed, and did I need the lectures about eating junk food?

So there we were: I had gone from a completely disordered space to an ordered but careless (meaning not caring) space, and now to a view of the mountains. It was that moment in The Wizard of Oz when the Technicolor steps in.

It was also that moment when—at last—I could stop caring for myself (badly) and allow others to care for me.

And so we got to the hospital—but where was the emergency room? We searched everywhere for a sign.

Nor were we surprised when there was none, because Puerto Rico has a curious attitude towards signs. First of all, since everyone knows where everything is, why go to the bother of putting up a sign? And if you don’t? Well, you stop the first person you see sitting outside a gas station drinking beer (another local custom, since when go to the bar when you can get beer cheaper at the gas station? So now, many gas stations have carps or tents and picnic tables and even outdoor speakers barking salsa—great promotion, right?)

OK, digression over….

So there we were arriving at the main door of the hospital, and being told that the emergency room was down below, and the only thing below seemed to be the parking lot—which had no attendant, but did have plenty, plenty—and my back can tell you---PLENTY of …

…speed bumps!

Right, so there was no emergency room in the parking lot. What did we do? Well, we went back to the main entrance received a variant of the original answer, and did the whole thing all over. Finally, we went into a nondescript driveway and asked a security guard where the emergency room was.

We had arrived!

We went in, were admitted immediately, and walked into the emergency just after, I was sure….

..a code blue