I sat down on one of the many flourescent-lit, blue plastic chairs. The man across from me glanced at my head, stood and left the small waiting room. I briefly wondered whether he was uncomfortable sitting with a gweilo, but then my name was called and I walked across the hallway to the x-ray room.
The technician asked me to remove my headband. As I reached up to do so, I noticed that my hair felt oddly stiff, as if someone had unloaded an aerosol can of Aqua-Net in a ring around my head. This thought passed quickly as the technician tilted my head this way and that before scurrying behind the lead wall to trigger the x-rays.
Then I wandered the linoleum-clad corridor and stepped into the ladies’ room. Looking into the mirror, I saw a large bandage covering my blood-dappled forehead. That was expected. Then I saw that my hair was sticking out at odd angles. Turning my head, I could see that it was entirely caked with dried blood. I was a Halloween costume in April.
Earlier that day I had been playing tennis. I wasn’t actually playing since I don’t know how to keep score or really serve. I was in a tennis lesson with a great friend. A friend I shall call, “Manga Tennis Star” in honor of her tall, slender stature and the very short tennis skirt and knee-high leg warmers that she wore that day.
Manga Tennis Star and I were fighting our way through our warm-up drills when she smashed her tennis racket into my forehead at full strength while following through on her left-handed, forehand swing.
“Mother fucker!” I called out (in violation of the club’s code of conduct) and grabbed my forehead.
Within seconds, blood was trickling down my arm. When I pulled my hand away to assess the flow, blood spurted out from my head. Manga Tennis Star and the coach looked at me; their chins dropped to the court surface and their eyebrows pulled up to their hair lines. Rackets hit the ground on courts one, three, four and five as league players noticed the developing blood bath on court two.
One player present was a nurse who swiftly took charge. Her authoritative and reassuring voice brought everyone into purposeful action. I was told to lay down. She called for the first aid kit and pressed down on my forehead to stop the bleeding. Looking at the depth of the gash and volume of bleeding, she instructed someone to call an ambulance.
Sometime later, after an ambulance languidly arrived and delivered me to the nearest accident and emergency department, Manga Tennis Star and I waited amongst the ill pensioners in a public hospital in Tai Po, Hong Kong. The gushing bleeding had stopped and we had already switched from racing-adrelenine-mode to bored-waiting-mode. Hungry, Manga Tennis Star wandered to the vending machine and found it to be stocked exclusively with surgical face masks and Ritz Crackers.
We were at the hospital from 10 am to 4 pm to so I could be observed to rule out a concussion. When not alleviating boredom by taking photos of my head or inspecting the partition separating us from the “fever zone,” Manga Tennis Star and I did our best to convince the staff to take care about my facial stitches to minimize scaring:
“Can the person stitching use very small stitches,” I asked, “since it’s on my face?”
“It’s not on your face. It’s on your forehead. Your face is down here,” the doctor responded, gesturing below his eyebrows.
“I’d rather not end up like Frankenstein,” I prodded.
The doctor laughed awkwardly and indicated that our conversation was finished.
Shortly thereafter, I stared up at the ceiling and listened to screaming echoing from down the corridor while a nurse cleaned the wound and stitched up my head.
Manga Tennis Star was horrified that her blossoming tennis swing had done this.
But it wasn’t her fault.
I had tempted fate by disparaging the term “expat wife” in a post last week only to stride onto a court and smugly attempt to play the expat wife’s central game: tennis. The Goddess of Expat Wives had simply avenged my slight.
But the last laugh is mine.
They are still trying to scrub the blood stains out of court two:
“Out damned, spot! Out I say! . . . What will these [courts] ne’er be clean? . . . Here’s the smell of blood still! All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this [artificial grass court surface].”
~ Vengeful Goddess of Expat Wives channeling Lady Macbeth
Picture sources: “Expat Lingo” is as depicted by my daughter several hours after the incident. “Manga Tennis Star” is as depicted on a random Japanese Manga fan site (original artist unknown).