Nighttime, late. Emergency room. Institutional green, armed security, people crying, people shivering wrapped in gray blankets. I wait a long time 'cos some of these people have gunshot wounds.

When my turn comes I'm the stereotypical battered spouse: denying the obvious to protect my batterer.

The physician says: "Most injuries like this are caused by contact sports or assaults."

I reply definitively: "Huh."

There's blood in my urine. A lot. A great deal of flank pain which at times has me unable to stand upright but does position me ideally to watch sweat drip onto the floor. Sometime during the evening scream-and-punch festival she's landed one which I didn't feel at the time. Feeling it now.

I tried to wake her up. Three or four a.m. "I have to go to the E.R., can you drive?" "Sorry buddy," she said, rolling right over to show me her back. She's not going anywhere. Next day she doesn't remember the conversation.

I drove myself, hands shaking from pain, sweat dripping into both eyes. Pulling over to rest, to check GPS for directions. It was probably twenty minutes but felt like fucking centuries.

The physician asks, "Is there anything you'd like to report?"

I tell her, "Nope."

I'm sticking to my story. I don't know how this happened. I woke up to take a pee and freaked when it was red.

I'm such a fucking stereotype. Protecting my batterer, from loyalty, from hope for improvement, from embarrassment. From not wanting to answer the obvious question: "Why the fucking fuck do you not end this situation?"

It's because I'm unwilling to let her die. She's sick, she isn't evil. Somehow, somewhere, we'll find help.

The diagnosis is renal contusion: bruised kidney. Drink ten glasses of water per day until the red color stops. Rest. Don't exert yourself.

Like that last will ever happen.