A full moon brought out the kooks. She couldn't run in heels without wrenching an ankle. To catch a cab these days involved gymnastics. Involved knowing someone on the inside. A professional transporter. A non-English-speaking driver who navigated streets the way explorers did the seas. Wobbly, unafraid of the spray, on a mission for the queen.
The ER doctor turned her leg this way and that, lifted within his grip, a limb on a spit. She was browning on all sides. Felt the flame. It rose in her eyes, yellowing them.
"That hurt?" he said.
Pain was an elixir she swallowed.
She laughed hyena laugh—wild animal, boar. The circus had set up at the riverfront. The rare ones escaped.
"It's not the funniest thing I've ever asked. I'm all about the clinical," he said. "What's your name?" He checked her chart. "Alice."
She recognized herself coming out of his mouth.
He wrapped the ankle; he wrote a scrip. He said, "Do you have a ride?" His shoulder bent for the leaning on.
She tried to stand, didn't. First a blue pill, he gave, then a pink. She expected to hallucinate.
He left by a door, re-entered via magic curtain. She blessed every foreign-born taxi man who'd ever taken her for a ride.
"Are you far?" he said.
"Within walking distance."
"You can't walk."
She said, "I need a crutch or a third leg."
"Take mine," he said. That's when he lifted her.
She squinted and inspected him through slitted eyes, hazel now, the pupils wide from the drugs. She wondered where he'd put her. "Are you really a doctor?"
"Yes, ma'am." His laugh was quinine.
She splashed about. "Quite a bedside manner, yours."
"Yes," he said.
"Bedside," she said, half-lidded and yawning.
"Yes," he agreed.
Where medicine and mythology met, the moon loomed large, large as the largest dish in the sky. Her belly growled.
She said into his clean-shaven, carbolic-smelling neck, "Kooky."
He put her in the back of a taxi and ordered the driver, "Wait right here."
"You're payin' for it, man," the cabbie yelled. Then he looked her up and down in his rear view, her and her outstretched leg across the seat. Her ankle wore shrink wrap. "What happened to you, sister?"
She tugged at the hem of her indecently short skirt. "Stumbled, sprain."
"Klutz with nice legs."
She smiled through her dazzly daze to the drops on the windshield. "Are you sexually harassing me?"
She leaned forward but held onto her skirt. "Do I know you?" And before he could speak, she said, "Is it raining?"
"You say the funniest things."
The doctor slid into the back with a copy of her admissions form. From it he read her address aloud and the taxi lurched into the rain, her ankle a metronome on the lap-flap of the doc's lab coat.
"Is it raining?" she asked him.
The taxi tires said, Shh shh shh.
The doctor said, Shh shh shh.
The cabbie said, shh shh shh, and he said it in English, with a lisp.
My native tongue, she thought, but abrupted. Abrupted? The drug high helped when inventing new vocabulary.
"To write a dictionary," she said.
"We'll find the defines," said the doctor. He touched her wrapped leg gingerly.
They both looked at the expert bandage and his hand on her leg and the watch glinting on his wrist, cleared by his lab coat cuff in the stretch. Behind his silhouette of perfect mussed hair the window framed the Big Top, then a quick flash-by of tents beside elephants washed by rain. In the back of the cab, she faced the man who'd taken the Hippo oath, pointblank and thirsting for his fingers, to be the life in his eyes.
"Circus," she said. Her mouth was the cotton candy, the cotton part anyway.
The scrip he'd given her was so beyond good, it was gold. It turned outside the cab brilliant—precipitation, tears, and all the night lights strobed. While rocked by their lead-footed driver, they deciphered grunt, they invented hiccup, they found impatience between the two of them and novel use for their tongues.
Depressor, she thought, suppressing the giggle urge, and collecting her spit in her cheek.
Until his tongue opened the gusher.
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