Here’s the thing. If we were in the Carolinas or Seattle or somewhere, I would have let them take me to the hospital and pump me full of painkillers and worried about missing the show later. The fact I’d already missed one would have made it easier since I knew the world wouldn’t end and the show wouldn’t have to be cancelled or anything like that.
But we weren’t in the Carolinas. We were in fucking New Jersey. Which made me extra stubborn/irrational, I suppose. And everyone I’d practically ever met in this goddamned industry was going to be at that show. Carynne and I had just had not one but two talks about how important this after party was going to be. And I could not show my face at this after party if I didn’t play the show. I just couldn’t.
The result was I was probably more aggressive with various medical professionals than I should have been. I basically tried to pin anyone who would listen down to answer the question, “Do I need surgery?” “Mr. Marks you’ve lost a lot of blood.” “Yeah, but do I need surgery?” “A hand specialist is going to be here in under an hour.” “Yes, but does that mean I need surgery?”
I was obnoxious about it. That was partly, too, because after our various experiences with Ziggy and also my recent one with the stomach flu, I realized unless you’re kind of an asshole about demanding answers, a lot of medical professionals simply won’t give them to you.
I was also refusing any and all painkillers until I knew for sure what was going to happen. So I was in pain, and maybe that made me even more obnoxious. They kept offering me things, depending on the level of the person I was talking to, I think. So I could have had anything from a percoset pill to a shot of morphine.
I’ll confess the shot of morphine was kind of tempting. Remember when they put the drop of cocaine or whatever it was in my eye after the explosion? The most awful searing pain I’d ever felt in my life stopped instantly. It was tempting to wish for something like that again.
You know what I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted by, though? What I didn’t want? A drink. Alcohol was the furthest thing from my mind.
They did pack me in ice from the elbow down. Which hurt in a completely different way.
The hand specialist arrived within the specified hour. They did the weirdest thing. They had me sitting up, and the hand specialist–a nerdy guy with red hair who didn’t make eye contact–put a little curtain up so I couldn’t see my own hand. A non-specialist ER doc of some stripe looked over his shoulder. The exchanged various bits of medical jargon that were the equivalent of two people who speak a different language from you going into that language so they can talk about you right in front of you without you knowing.
Then the specialist snorted. “You don’t need me for this.”
I spoke up. “But am I going to need surgery?”
“Let me put it this way,” he said, looking at my injury and not at me. “You’re a lucky son of a bitch. You’re going to need a lot of stitches but you’re not losing any fingers and you probably aren’t going to lose the functionality of your hand if you take care of it and don’t get sepsis or anything crazy like that.”
“Killer bacteria,” he said, completely deadpan. “Don’t go wiping your ass with this hand for a couple of months.”
He left and the guy who was actually going to do the stitching stayed. “Okay, but seriously,” I said to him, “I need to get back to the Meadowlands.”
He was some extraction of Asian, with short black hair and smooth skin. “I just finished a rotation in sports medicine,” he said, then looked me up and down with a puzzled expression. “I don’t think it’s feasible for you to get in a game tonight.”
No one had told him who I was, apparently. “I’m not playing in a game. I’m in a band.”
“I play the guitar.”
He grimaced. “In a rock band?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t tell him I did a lot of finger picking.
“Well, we’re looking at stitches and a cast, but if you can hold a guitar pick once it’s all set…” He poked at something I couldn’t feel. “I think I can cast it so you can put your index finger and thumb together. I’ll try anyway.”
I took that as good news. And then I let them give me a painkiller (taken orally) and they gave me some kind of local anesthetic so as my hand warmed up during the stitching I wouldn’t start to feel it.
I’m trying not to be really gross about this, really I am.
Anyway, the upshot is by the time they let Carynne in to see me I was stitched, casted, and bandaged, and they’d given me a sling and somehow I’d convinced the nurse bringing me the sling to bring me an eye patch, too, and I was talking like a pirate.
“Are you on painkillers or something?”
“Aye, lass, that I be.”
I then asked her to get my jacket off the chair where it was sitting a couple of feet from me. With my left hand I dug a guitar pick out of the pocket and proudly demonstrated to her that I could still hold it.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not in the slightest,” I said, in a much less pirate-y voice. “How soon can you spring me?”
“I need to make a call.”
She went and found a phone and presumably called Remo and the long and short of it is they sprung me with just about enough time for me to get back to the arena during Happy Occident’s set.
With Carynne’s help I got out of my blood soaked jeans and underwear–yeah, that’s how much blood there was, even my underwear got soaked–but by then we could kind of laugh about how it looked like I had been in a horror movie but it really wasn’t that bad. Well, honestly I was laughing about everything at that point. We got me into clean stage clothes and then looked for Remo.
I was high as a kite but I proved that I could muscle my way through a couple of songs if I switched to the Strat. It wasn’t going to sound the way we’d planned, but Remo preferred me up there at least leading the band and taking a solo from time to time than absent.
There was no time to talk to anyone really but I did catch sight of pretty much the whole Ziggy entourage–Barrett, Priss, Linn the Aesthetician, Marvelle, Bradley–and it occurred to me to wonder if Bart and Christian were here, too.
Right before I went on stage I put my head together with Flip. “My worry is whatever they gave me is going to wear off halfway through the show.”
“Got any idea what it is?”
“Might be Percoset?”
“Did they give you more of them?”
“Oh, you know, I bet they gave a prescription to Carynne.”
“I have some of those if she didn’t get them yet. I’ll give you one with your first Gatorade. They warned you not to drink while you’re taking them, right? Can’t tell you how many rock stars that’s killed.”
“One trip to the emergency room is more than enough for one day,” I said.
And then I was standing with Remo and the rest of the band waiting to go on. The lights went down and we let the cheering build as usual.
Remo leaned over to me and hugged me, and then said into my ear, “You son of a gun, I told you you shoulda rehearsed with the pick, didn’t I?”