Iowa Writes

LAUREL FANTAUZZO
When I Had a Hernia in My Hometown


      I've always feared I'll be trapped back in my hometown by some minor disaster of money or health. When I was 23, the disaster arrived. I was diagnosed with a femoral hernia on Christmas Eve, 2006. I only ever came home for Christmas anymore, and the months-long pain speaking to me from my lower right side decided to get much louder during this visit.
      My surgeon was impressed. He'd only ever seen the injury in old men. He had no idea how I'd gotten mine. I'd need to be repaired right away.
      So the day after Christmas, instead of returning to the city where I had a little sketch comedy troupe and a new girlfriend, I went to an outpatient surgery center in a strip mall, between a donut shop and an economy pet store.
      When I woke from the anesthesia, I asked if I'd missed my flight. "I have a sketch comedy troupe," I said, slurring. "I have a girlfriend. I don't live here anymore." The surgeon smiled and went to get my father.
      I spent the week on my father's couch. I dressed in my Catholic high school sweatshirt. My Catholic high school friends visited me. They tried their best not to make me laugh, because laughing worked against my stitches.
      Sometimes, when my Vicodin haze was strong, I'd forget for a moment that we weren't in high school anymore, and I'd wonder if I was due to confession for sinning with one of them.
      When the haze wore off, I called my girlfriend. I emailed my comedy troupe. I watched reruns of Saturday Night Live. I took more Vicodin. I liked the seasons with Molly Shannon. I felt inspired by Mary Katherine, her Catholic schoolgirl character, who kept tucking her fingers under her own armpits, then smelling them for strength. I thought, She has tremendous energy. She could flap her arms and fly home. She would never get a hernia.
      I smelled my hands. They didn't smell like anything.

      I've always feared I'll be trapped back in my hometown by some minor disaster of money or health. When I was 23, the disaster arrived. I was diagnosed with a femoral hernia on Christmas Eve, 2006. I only ever came home for Christmas anymore, and the months-long pain speaking to me from my lower right side decided to get much louder during this visit.
      My surgeon was impressed. He'd only ever seen the injury in old men. He had no idea how I'd gotten mine. I'd need to be repaired right away.
      So the day after Christmas, instead of returning to the city where I had a little sketch comedy troupe and a new girlfriend, I went to an outpatient surgery center in a strip mall, between a donut shop and an economy pet store.
      When I woke from the anesthesia, I asked if I'd missed my flight. "I have a sketch comedy troupe," I said, slurring. "I have a girlfriend. I don't live here anymore." The surgeon smiled and went to get my father.
      I spent the week on my father's couch. I dressed in my Catholic high school sweatshirt. My Catholic high school friends visited me. They tried their best not to make me laugh, because laughing worked against my stitches.
      Sometimes, when my Vicodin haze was strong, I'd forget for a moment that we weren't in high school anymore, and I'd wonder if I was due to confession for sinning with one of them.
      When the haze wore off, I called my girlfriend. I emailed my comedy troupe. I watched reruns of Saturday Night Live. I took more Vicodin. I liked the seasons with Molly Shannon. I felt inspired by Mary Katherine, her Catholic schoolgirl character, who kept tucking her fingers under her own armpits, then smelling them for strength. I thought, She has tremendous energy. She could flap her arms and fly home. She would never get a hernia.
      I smelled my hands. They didn't smell like anything.
      Eventually I could hobble. I didn't need the Vicodin anymore. The surgeon decided I was all right to fly. My stitches would fall out on their own.
            I waited at Burbank airport on New Years' Eve. An employee wheeled me to my gate for my own post-surgery safety. I sat alone for a while, feeling what it was like to be in a wheelchair. I felt afraid something else would prevent me from leaving. Some new wound anchoring me here, or the plane failing. Some not quite so minor disaster.
      An older lady in a dark green fur coat took the seat next to me. She held a long-haired dachshund with deep red hair. He was every bit as regal as the lady. His long, softly groomed belly hair brushed the airport floor when she put him down.
      "Please hold Lexington while I go to the bathroom," the lady said, and handed me his leash.
      "Um," I said, and the lady walked away.
      Lexington looked at me. I looked at Lexington. Lexington yawned.
      Two red-headed children lurched toward Lexington.
      "Doggie!" they cried.
      I worried a little, but Lexington yawned again. The children slowed and quieted. Someone had taught them to be gentle with dogs. Their mother, perhaps. She followed close behind. She looked from her children to me, smiling a pitying smile.
      "This is Lexington," I said to her.
      "Lexington is a fantastic name for a long-haired dachshund," the mother said. "Say hi to Lexington, sweeties!"
      Her fast voice told me this was someone who could keep up with toddlers at all hours. I thought, She has tremendous energy.
      Her kids reached their hands out to pat Lexington's head softly. Lexington stood on his feet and licked their fingers in greeting, no longer aloof, perhaps recognizing fellow gingers.
      I recognized a fellow, former Catholic schoolgirl. Her face and hair, and her strong voice. I forced my eyes not to widen. The mom was Molly Shannon.
      I have a sketch comedy troupe! I wanted to say.       But her children squealed and ran to greet a man with equally bright red hair. "Daddy!"
      "Fritz!" she called to the man. "Wanna meet Lexington?"
      The man was busy, crouched with the kids. She smiled at me again and waved.
      When I hobbled on board, past Molly Shannon and her pre-boarded, redheaded family, I thought, good. A sign. I am as safe and warm as two palms in my armpits. I am going home.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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LAUREL FANTAUZZO

Laurel Fantauzzo is an MFA candidate at the University of Iowa Nonfiction program. She was the 2010 Astraea Lesbian Foundation Emerging Writers grantee for her fiction. In 2011, she will spend seven months in the Philippines on a Fulbright research grant for her nonfiction project, "Jolli Meals: The Rise of Filipino Fast Food."

This page was first displayed
on April 13, 2011

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