Every birthday party has collateral damage. There’s drunken flirting, which often masks real, but soberly hidden desire, relationship scuffles, red-hot flashbacks and, of course, head injuries.
Matthew, Angus and I all had different kinds of collateral damage to deal with after Matthew’s 21st. Matthew, for one, was almost too drunk to have flashbacks (but when he does, oh man…). I indulged in some drunken flirting (though have to say I didn’t initiate), but it is Angus that takes the Collateral Damage Cake with his head injury.
To be fair, it’s not his fault that two of Matt’s friends drunkenly picked him up in fun. And then dropped him. Well, the guy holding his head dropped him. The guy holding his feet had no problem holding on, meaning that Angus’s top half – you know, the half filled all those organ thingies and his brain – plummeted to the ground and clunk, hit the concrete.
When he said he felt woozy the next morning, I just assumed he was hungover and tired, like the rest of us. However, by Monday it was pretty clear that that this was no epic hangover, but rather a serious injury. His head was throbbing, he felt groggy, tired and dizzy. After some persuasion (I are REAL MAN; real man feel no pain!) he visited the campus doctor who told him he should go to hospital for a CAT scan. Gulp.
The waiting room in the casualty ward of the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital is pretty much empty at 6pm on a Monday. Most drunken injuries happen over the weekend, I guess. But hey, Angus was never one to follow the crowd. The first thing I notice, behind the check-in desk, while we’re waiting for someone to check us in, is the bathrooms. One door has a picture of a stick woman (that’s stick, not sick) and is labelled FEMALE TOILETS. Next to it, with a pictogram of a man, is just the sign TOILETS, and next to that is the sign, no picture, saying DOCTORS. Why are there three toilets, and why do doctors get their own unisex loo? And labelling a toilet as ‘female’ is just asking for trouble. The actual toilets themselves aren’t female, are they?
While I was thinking all of things, the Admin Guy came and started to wearily and persistently take all of our details. First pet, favourite colour, great-grandmother’s signature dish and your surname please? It was amongst all of this mind-numbing bureaucracy that I had my first momentous moment as a grown-up. Since I am the main member of the medical aid (am not going to go into why now) he had to take a few of my details too (no I never owned a pet fish, yes I can cook, her maiden name was du Toit). He asked me, “What do you do?” I started to answer ‘student’ – my standard answer for any such question since I was seven years old, when it struck me. I have a job. I graduated in March, and I have a job. So I smiled a little and replied, “Journalist”. That’s right. I’m officially a journalist and, though my salary is laughably small, it’s mine. Angus and I high fived.
Later, after Angus had been poked and prodded and his heart listened to and his blood pressure taken, he lay on the bed waiting to be taken for the CAT scan. We overheard someone refer to him as ‘head injury’. Worst. Nickname. Ever. Hey Head Injury! Wanna go get a meal? Head Injury, come over here! Finished your homework yet, Head Injury?
We were laughing about that when Angus confided to me that he was glad he was going for something as hardcore as a CAT scan. “People won’t realise how stupid my injury is then,” he said. “See, if I say I got dropped on my head, people will laugh, but when I say ‘yeah, dude, I had to go for a CAT scan’ they’ll all be like ‘aw are you OK’ and they won’t laugh at me.” Just then a nurse wandered in and started to perform the same tests again. Blood pressure, heart rate, etc etc. Maybe, we wondered, after she left, re-performing these tests is the same as a restaurant bringing you knives and forks before a meal. You know, to keep you quiet. Because then you feel like something’s happening.
Eventually Angus was carted off for the CAT scan, with possibility of brain surgery if there was any bleeding on his grey matter. He was more panicky that he might get his head shaved for surgery than he was about the actual
surgery itself. His girlfriend, you see, likes him with long hair, and he’s flying up for her Matric dance in two weeks. As Main Accessory, he has to look like she wants him to look.
Luckily the scan showed that he merely had a minor concussion, though a sick note got him out of two tests (Angus couldn’t resist fist pumping the air).
Out of the three siblings, Angus was the only one to actually face relatively negative collateral damage from the party. In the end though, even that wasn’t so bad. I want to feel happy but I’m worried Murphy will notice…