It’s like that now, with nurses and doctors hovering over me, the strobes of emergency vehicles replaced with the harsh glare of hospital lights. They’re asking questions—What happened? Where does it hurt? Can you tell us your name? And, as always, I’ve got nothing. I stare at them, willing the words to make the journey to my mouth so that I can communicate. But when they finally do, what pops out isn’t an answer for them. Instead it’s a question of my own, the only one that matters.

“Is Carolina okay?”

Two nurses glance at each other, one of them running a scissors up the leg of my jeans, shredding what’s left of the bloody denim.

“Carolina Galarza,” I repeat. “She came in with me. Her arm . . .”

I trail off, thankful for once that my thoughts don’t make the leap out into public without first being examined. The truth is that Carolina probably is okay, according to their metric of the word. These people deal with ripped skin and exposed organs, patients who roll into the emergency room already dead, or halfway there. I can’t expect them to understand that the arm she was cradling is supposed to take us to state in the spring, flinging fastballs from the mound that most girls in the county can’t get a bat around quick enough to touch.

And if that doesn’t happen, nothing is okay.

“Galarza?” a male voice behind me repeats. The medics put a brace on my head and neck before they loaded me into the ambulance, so I can’t turn to see him. But we’ve definitely got a connection, because the next thing he says is, “The pitcher?”

“Yeah.” I grab onto this word, spoken in a language I know. The language of sports. “Five no-hitters last season,” I add, pride for my friend seeping out of me as fast as my blood is. We’re moving now, the lights above going past in a series of bright rectangles.

“You play too?” He’s still talking, and the other nurses have fallen silent, letting this conversation happen since these are the only words I can find right now.

“Catcher,” I say.

“Shit,” he says. “You’re Mickey Catalan?”

I’m used to it by now. Pretty much everyone in our town knows each other, but with the softball girls it goes past our names and faces to our jersey numbers and stats. I’ve got a weekly engagement with Big Ed at the market for a Monday-morning analysis of our team’s performance, and it’s not unusual to have long conversations with people who stop me while I’m getting gas to ask about our last game. I don’t always know their names but I can usually place their faces.

Like, Guy Who Always Brings His Wiener Dog, and Woman with Victoria’s Secret Umbrella, and Elderly Couple in Matching Scooters. Now I can add Emergency Room Nurse to that list, if I ever get a glimpse of his face.

“Yeah, I’m Mickey Catalan,” I say, addressing a spot of perforated ceiling tile above my head.

He doesn’t answer, and I know why.

Our first-string pitcher just walked into the ER cradling her throwing arm, followed by the catcher, who wasn’t walking at all. They might as well skip the X-ray entirely, because I saw, even though the medics did their best to distract me.

I saw my hip, the whole thing, exposed to the snow and dirt and all kinds of stuff that the insides of people aren’t ever supposed to touch. I don’t have to be a doctor to know that it wasn’t right, the pieces of me that work together separated, bones that knit to each other in the womb no longer touching.

There’s one word I learned a long time ago that never had trouble making it to my mouth, one I’ve relied on enough to get a formal warning from the umpire last season. I say it now, with feeling.


Chapter Three

trauma: a wound or injury directly produced by causes external to the body

I wake up somewhere else. I know I’m not in the local hospital because the ceiling doesn’t have water stains, and the lights aren’t bare fluorescents. I try to talk, but everything has dried together—my tongue to the roof of my mouth, my lips to each other. I finally put enough energy into it, the girl who once deadlifted the quarterback focusing all her might into opening her mouth.

My lips come apart with a dry smacking sound and I suck in air, rib cage protesting, everything groaning into motion like a car with a half-dead battery during a deep freeze.

“Thirsty?” someone asks.

I nod, and a nurse puts a cup in front of me. I raise my arm to take it but she shoos me away, putting the straw in my mouth, like I’m a baby. I’m not too proud though, not right now. Not with no idea what’s under these hospital sheets or where I am or why I can’t feel my right leg at all. The nurse turns away and I risk a glance.

It’s still there. I swallow what’s left of my last drink of water, letting it wash the tears that were threatening to overflow back down my throat, ice water mixing with warm salt.

“Why can’t I feel my leg?” I ask, while the nurse wraps a blood pressure cuff around my arm. She takes a second, noting my vitals and writing them onto a chart before answering.

“You just came out of surgery,” she says. “You’ll be groggy from the anesthesia. Swelling can interfere with feeling as well, and you have quite a bit.”

I’ll say. I might have been relieved when I saw that there was still a shape beneath my sheet where my leg is supposed to be, but the fact that it’s twice the size of my other one can’t be good.

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