Hello again white pages. I’m writing this on Sunday for Saturday because I came seven hours away from dying yesterday, I was a little busy. I know I need to write this now or I’ll start to forget certain details so, here we go.
I woke up at 5:30 for my 6:00 breakfast. The air in Lima is always wet and sharp in the morning; it is incomparable to any type of Alabama morning mist. The morning mist in Lima is tainted from the 8 billion people who live here and curse it with their waking breath, it curses them back with sharp gray stings of water on their, our, faces as we leave the shelter of the tin roofs and adobe walls. As I walked into the kitchen, Madre Tula scolded me, again, “¡Estás tan flaco como un frijole mi amor! Ven. Ven aqui. ¡Comé!” Which, if you forget your Spanish years from now when you are reading this basically means she thinks I’m too skinny and need more meat on my bones. Madre accomplishes this by feeding me, every single morning, a piece of torta, a bowl of cualquier con fruta, and a ham and quail egg sandwich. It’s always delicious and yesterday was no exception. The NesCafe coffee yesterday burnt my tongue. I gulped it down in a heated hurry because of how tired I was. I gave Madre un besito and left to walk down the street to get the girl interns, Dylan and Lindsay, from their house so we could catch a combi (bus) to Salamanca to work the yard sale for our church with our missionary leaders, Mike and Lauren Ferry.
We made it to the yard sale safe and got straight to work. There was already a huge line of locals waiting to be the first ones in the gates to buy what the American missionaries were selling. After setting up tables and moving hundreds of boxes for about an hour Lauren came sprinting up to me and said, “You got bit by a dog?” I tried to laugh and make a joke about it being just my luck but she interrupted, “This is really serious, Cyril. This is a dang big deal.” I was instantly immersed into a stage of cold adrenaline as she continued, “Cyril, you need to go to the hospital. NOW. People die from this. We’ve had to send interns home for the rest of the summer for scratches from dogs in Salamanca.” She continued to tell me that I needed to catch a combi and find the nearest hospital immediately. The sides of my vision were clouding black and I sat down, I was suddenly very cold.
I think I was in shock and my brain was trying to refuse what it was being forced to process. Rabies. Rabies? Really? That **** dog. It was foaming and all the locals ran from it. I don’t know why I thought if I just stood still it would run past me. I remember the locals screaming Spanish, Quechua, or Aymaraat at me that I was helpless to translate with my two semester of Spanish at Auburn. That **** dog was brown and its lips were foaming. After I kicked it off me and climbed up on a wall of someone’s house I remember wiping the foam off my bloodied legs. Why the hell did I not think, “Oh, that’s probably a bad thing, right?” No. I was just too embarrassed by having made a ****** spectacle of myself in front of the locals to even think about the inherent dangers of rabies.
“Cyril?” I remember looking up from my racing thoughts. Somehow I had ended up sitting on the ground with my head in my hands. I was shaking as I looked up and saw Mike, Lauren’s husband, offering me a hand. He asked me to try and remember exactly what time I got to Salamanca yesterday and when I was attacked. I thought about it and remembered I was running late so I kept checking my watch. It was around 3pm. “****,” Mike said. When you hear a missionary cuss is when you know you’re totally ******. “Stand up, come on.” He helped me to my feet. “Cyril, listen. If you don’t get the first booster shot within 24 hours you die. There is nothing anyone can do. You have about seven hours left. You need to hurry, don’t be scared.” When he said that I remember laughing. Mike gave me a concerned eyebrow furrow as he led me, by the arm, over to one of the other missionaries working the yard sale, Mrs. Sarah. He explained the situation to her and I watched the Peruanos spilling in the gates and milling through the rows of tables and missionaries selling old books and trinkets. One lady that walked in had a monkey with yellow ears on her shoulders. I remember worrying it could be rabid too.
“Cyril?” Mrs. Sarah smiled at me, “You’re going to be okay honey. Lets go.” We left the yard sale. I remember anxiously watching the monkey sitting on the ladies shoulder and as we walked past it, it **** all over her and started to rub it in her hair. I swear it was smiling at me. Mrs. Sarah hailed a combi and we headed for Clinica Anglo-Americana. The taxi driver asked if we were okay and Mrs. Sarah told him about my situation. He fingered the rosary hanging from his rear view mirror and said over and over again, “Dios mio…pobre, pobrecito.” I understood that much Spanish. Even my taxi driver thought I was going to die.
We pulled up to the hospital and told the guard with the AK-47 why we were there and he waved us in past the spiked metal gates. Inside the hospital looked more like a bed and breakfast than the place where I would be given a second chance at life after rabies. The walls were whitewashed and the Untied States, Peruvian, and British flags draped down from three golden flagpoles by the front door. There were beautiful pink and yellow flowers everywhere that scared away the painful Peruvian morning fog that permeated my memory of the rest of that morning. We paid the taxi driver; he patted my hand and drove off.
Inside, I was encouraged to explain why I was there—in Spanish of course— to the friendly nurse waiting in the entrance. I was furious. Time was wasting; it was not the time for me to practice subjuntivo or pluscuamperfecto. I mangled out a few awkward sentences and the nurse’s jaw dropped. Mrs. Sarah erupted into belly bursting alto laughter. The rest of the waiting room was empty. I was so confused, terrified, and angry I didn’t know what else to do except sit. So, I sat on the closest wooden bench and felt a tear peer over one of my eyelids. Mrs. Sarah and the nurse were twittering in rapid Spanish and I kept thinking, “Six hours. I have six hours left to live by now.” Mrs. Sarah walked over, put her arms around me and explained that I had told the nurse the reason I was in the hospital was because I killed a dog in the streets yesterday. I smiled.
“Señor Blythe?” A doctor appeared and frantically motioned for us to come into his room. I walked in and it looked just like any other doctors office except the tray of scalpels, huge needles, tweezers, and vials of purple medicine beside the bed that he motioned for me to lay down on, “Acostarse.” Mrs. Sarah told me to relax. Humorous. The doctor and his two nurses wiped down the bite marks on each of my legs with three pungent and strangely colored gels in quick succession. I swear I hear a sizzling noise. The doctor picked up the scissors and I winced, but he only used them to open up a white packet from which he pulled out a huge thick roll of rough, wet gauze, which he used to wipe my legs clean. It numbed my legs. Then, of course, he grabbed the biggest needle on the table and used it to stab both legs; directly into the bite marks. If he hadn’t already scrubbed them so hard they were scab-less the needle would have cracked the crusted scabs back to flowing red. Rabies vaccines are not fun.
After a few more vials of life were shot into me the doctor wrapped up my legs in weird smelling gauze I was told not to shower and that I had to return to the US within 3 days to receive a “monohemoglobin shot” that they didn’t have in the hospitals in Lima at the time. I sat up on the bed and asked Mrs. Sarah, “So, am I going to live?” She smiled and nodded her head and the nurse answered, *“Si, mi amor, por supuesto.”