They made me laugh out loud. It’s so strange how your evening can change course so rapidly, so unexpectedly. I went inside to get my keys and the cats looked at me with such yearning and angst that I thought, ‘ah, poor little things – I better feed them before I go’.
It was a new bag of cat food and as I took it out of the box, I worried about spiders. I lifted it very tentatively – ready to jump if something black and hairy appeared. When nothing did I felt quite relieved, and that was when I picked up the bag properly and the black scorpion hidden in the fold stung me on the soft skin between my thumb and first finger.
The first moment of pain was like a flash of light. I think I actually saw a flash of light. I did have the good sense to look to see what it was. Then I just swore loudly. It’s a shock! I mean obviously it’s a shock. But I mean really – I was very, very surprised by just how much it actually hurt.
I ran to the sink and plunged my hand into the cold water and then I just stood there. Swearing occasionally and then stopping to listen to the strange silence, only broken by the heartless cats trying to break in to the bag of cat food that I’d dropped on the floor.
Upon seeing the scorpion I had, of course, realised that I was about to experience an extortionate amount of pain. That’s all anyone ever says about scorpions – that you couldn’t imagine just how much it hurts. And you really can’t. It’s quite surreal. I stood there, observing myself and found I couldn’t fathom how anything could hurt quite this much. There are moments of clarity (and loud, fierce, bitter obscenities) then moments of, “really? Are you sure? This can't be real? Perhaps I’m going to wake up now?”
Then I started to think. How serious is a scorpion sting? Am I going to pass out soon? Because my house-mates (the human ones) won’t be home for hours. The clinic is 15 minutes away – do I need to leave now? What is going to happen when I take my hand out of this cold water? Can it, could it, actually hurt even worse that this? Is my arm going numb? Can I still move my hand? (I could – but didn’t do that again for a while – moving it hurts a lot more.)
I realised that I knew nothing about how bad or dangerous the scorpions are around here. I wondered how I could be so stupid to not ask something like that before now. I realised that I had to leave the house right now.
I didn't cry until I was outside and trying to get my shoes on - tieing my laces was agony. But I got it back together and soon I found my self stumbling up the road in the dark, holding my hand aloft like a torch. Self-control. It’s all about self-control. ‘Pain is just a feeling’ I kept repeating those words. I'm screaming inside. But I'm still walking, so I'm fine. Its just pain. Excruciating, unfathomable pain, washing over me like giant pacific waves. By the time I got to the first house I was drenched in cold sweat. I was quite surprised when I realised this, and quite alarmed when I realised I was light-headed.
I saw my neighbour in his yard. “Conoce escorpiones?” I asked called out (Do you know scorpions?)
“What?” he replied, walking over “what scorpion?”
“A small black scorpion” I replied, “It is dangerous? I need a doctor?”
He shone a light in my face “where? When?”
“About 10 minutes ago, here” I showed him my hand.
He said I needed a tourniquet; it took a while for me to understand that. He said I needed a machete. I mimed chopping my hand off and laughed. He smiled grimly and mimed cutting my tongue. I asked him “will I be ok?” I realised my tee shirt was soaked through with sweat. And it’s cold tonight. He said I should go to the clinic now. I left.
So I found myself stumbling down the road, light headed, sweating, my hair band tied tightly around my wrist, feeling bewildered and frankly amazed by how much pain I was in.
The doctor at the clinic said I would be fine. He offered anaesthetic. I asked “do I need it?” (I don’t use anaesthetics unless it’s an emergency – I had too many as a child). He said I didn’t actually need it. He told me the pain would wear off in a few hours. So I walked back to the bar.
Still drenched, still feeling quite surreal. They looked startled when I walked into the bar. “I’ve just been stung by a scorpion” I announced.
“Wow” said the bartender “you must be in so much pain”
“Yes” I said, choking back tears. I actually put my hand over my mouth and had to turn away for a second. I am proud to say I am not a woman who cries in public. “A beer please”
And so here I am, several beers and 2 hours later, sitting upstairs in the bar, letting the pain sweep through me like a warm summer breeze. It’s definitely not as bad as it was. Although I still can’t move my hand without great swathes of pain engulfing my head. It still feels quite surreal. I am typing this with one hand and trying to remember whether I locked the front door. Bizarrely, I am pretty sure I fed the cats before I left. Did I really do that? I think I did. The beer is certainly helping – as (strangely) is writing this.