Welcome week of my Freshman year at the University of Michigan, I woke up with a skull fracture. Which didn’t make any sense because I woke up on the same bed I fell asleep on and remembered nothing in between.
I had no idea what to expect of college. I am the first person in my family to go to college in the US. Ann Arbor was less than an hour away — a little too close to home, but happy to have close friends starting at U of M with me.
My roommate Julie and I were assigned to 2nd Little at Mary Markley Hall. We set up our 11’ x 12’ space with her bed on the floor next to the window and my bed elevated and at a right angle to hers. In one photo, we are perched on top of one of the dressers, leaning toward each other, laughing.
Taken a couple days before I woke up with the skull fracture.
The night before, I had the room to myself. The next day the plan was to meet a guy I was interested in and then head to a bookstore to work.
But then I woke up nauseous. I didn’t try to get to the bathroom or even a trash can. I threw up by my feet, right on my bed. And all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. So I tried. But then the nausea hit again and again. So I gave up on sleeping through whatever was happening. Thank G-d.
I got off of my bed and opened our door into the hallway to make my way to the bathroom. I saw a round stain on the rug by my roommate's bed. Nothing made sense.
In the bathroom mirror my face was so unrecognizable, I looked over my shoulder for the person in the mirror. No one else was there. I washed my face. It was covered in dried blood. My right eye was nearly swollen shut.
I don’t understand what is happening. I woke up right where I went to sleep. Am I sick? I didn’t drink anything the night before. Maybe I am sick to my stomach. But that doesn’t really explain anything.
The hallway was quiet. I made my way to the RA’s room. She asked if I needed to go to the hospital. The question didn’t make sense — because nothing wrong had happened. I just woke up and didn’t feel good.
I sank into her beanbag chair. I asked her to call the guy I was supposed to meet and apologize to him that I didn't make it. She tried to find his number through the dial by name directory. This was 1999.
Markley is across the street from the University of Michigan Hospital. Once she called 911, everything moved quickly.
In the hospital, in addition to medical staff, I was questioned by police. Their assumption from the start was that I was assaulted.
I had sustained a concussion and contusion and skull fracture. I had internal bleeding.
The first night, I spent in the Neuro ICU. I was being observed to see if surgery would be necessary to relieve the pressure in my skull. They determined I did not need surgery.
I was strongly encouraged to complete a rape kit. Which I did in front of an audience of med students just a few years older than me.
In addition to the head trauma, I had severe bruising on my upper right leg.
My mother was the first to suggest that I probably just fell.
The second night, I was in a regular hospital unit. And then discharged with a Vicodin prescription.
Julie and I were moved from Markley to South Quad.
When I started classes late, I still had a black eye.
If I could go back in time, I would lean on my friends. I would start therapy. I would study Spanish and Sociology and Photography and all the things I was passionate and curious about. I would be at every football game.
And I would keep my bed on the ground.
Yevgeniya Gazman has told multiple stories at The Moth in Ann Arbor. She prepared this story for the theme Beginnings.
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