Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cocoa the Bear and the smell of coffee

I’ve been thinking about writing about this weekend and what it means to me all day, but it just isn’t ready yet. It’s still coagulating. And when I tried anyway – sitting down at my laptop in a café, finally able to breathe and get away from the throngs of visitors that have descended upon my town like some kind of spontaneously materialized sneaker-wearing species – I just freaked out.

I’m also distracted, because there is scattered energy in Boulder right now, as thousands are here for the Bolder Boulder and the Boulder Creek Festival, and there is a tilt-a-whirl and screaming neon lights in my work parking lot, and event booths with non-compostable cups, and a man in a suit using both a typewriter and an iPod in this coffee shop, and all of this… makes me unable to write what I want to right now.

So I’ve decided instead to just post a picture and, much like in a children’s book, to point out and explain an object in it.

I created this today. It is a love seat in the bay window of my apartment, for reading, writing – or eating green grapes and cherries, which is what I did this afternoon, trying to get used to the feeling of sitting inside of a floating box of glass, in front, in back, and to the right of me. Like a glass peninsula bubble.

For the past 17 months I’ve lived in my apartment, I’ve done essentially nothing with this particular space. See photo below of nothing:

Looks like it would be good for plants, right? I once put a basil plant in there, named her Priscilla, and promptly killed her in two weeks.

“Aren’t basil plants easy to take care of?” my friend Ashley asked when I told her of Priscilla’s untimely demise. Yes, they are. I am just very good at killing things, or else I like to think my plants can be as independent as I am and not need my attention for nine days straight. Regardless, Priscilla made it onto a few mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, and then she got brown, and we parted ways.

What I’d like to point out about this love seat area that I am so proud of, is Cocoa. The Car Accident Bear.

Cocoa was given to me by a hospital nurse in North Carolina, right before my ex, Ian, and I accidentally moved to Colorado. The tag is still on him; I have her name written in there, so I can remember her. (If you Google your name, Crystal Wainwright, and find this: hi.)

The nurse bought this for me from the hospital gift shop because I was waiting hours for an appointment I’d made much earlier. I really needed to know what was going on with me and I was being completely ignored. I thought I had an ectopic pregnancy, which is scary, and something Dr. Google was sure I might have, due to my very specific symptoms. I was also typing on my laptop writing an article for my newspaper section, since I was using work time to be at the hospital, and I was randomly bursting into tears worrying about myself.

I’m guessing that the frequent vacillation between hardened concentration and whimsical emotion probably made me look like I was in the wrong ward of the hospital.

The nurse who was overseeing the waiting room noticed my pain or insanity and gave me this bear. It turned out I didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy, I named the bear Cocoa, and got my article in on time.

I played with Cocoa so often the last week I was in Wilmington that I even started taking sentimental pictures of us on my old flip cell phone, long-arm-coming-out-of-side-of-the-photo style.

When Ian and I got into the accident, Cocoa was on my lap and I was sleeping. After the car stopped flipping around in the air and landed right side up, Cocoa had migrated to my feet, and he was covered in the cold coffee that had been sitting in the cup holder.

I’d like to say I took him with me to the hospital, but I honestly don’t think that I did. All I took was my cell phone, and when they put me on the hard board-like thing and loaded me into the AirLife helicopter, I managed to clasp onto it even as they cut my sundress open to put sticky electrodes on my body to monitor my heart. Even as they stuck needles in me, and moved me from board to moving thing to MRI machine to hospital bed.

The only reason I was able to remember my cell phone was because it was my link to Ian, who had been separated from me minutes after the accident and taken to a different hospital. It was the thing that would connect me to him – it was Ian as the only way I could take him with me – and I knew that even in my delirium, and I held onto it like it was the only thing that could bring me back to any place I recognized.

I retrieved Cocoa from the wreckage just like everything else that highway patrol had collected and taken to a facility operated by an impersonal man who charged us $300 to retrieve our own belongings. Cocoa was fine, except he smelled like coffee beans, which I like to re-phrase as "cocoa beans," for effect.

And so there he sits, the protector of my love seat area. I smelled him today, but he doesn’t smell like coffee anymore, like he did for about a year after the accident. But he was fine, and I was fine, and Ian was fine. We were all fine. And so, I really didn’t mind the smell. In fact, I liked it.


  1. What a beautiful story. It's reading things like this that remind me of all the beauty in the world, and how much there is to appreciate and love about life. Thank you for giving me the privilege of reading it. You are a truly wonderful writer.

  2. @Akhila - This car accident changed the course of my life so much that I love to acknowledge the effect it's had on me. I'll be celebrating my two year anniversary of it on June 14.

    I'm always weighing how much I want to reveal about my personal life in my blog... but I tend to really want to write about things that have affected me in a powerful way, whether or not the events themselves can be thought of as "positive." You're right, there is so much to appreciate about life - even if the writing about it is spawned by a simple teddy bear.

    Thank you for reading; your comment means a lot to me.

  3. Amy, I didn't know that the car crash led you here to Boulder! I followed the link to the actual story on your blog and what really moved by it. Life is so full of surprises and blessings in disguise we can't even begin to fathom it. I think hearing a story objectively like yours, it helped me realize that again.

    And your window seat is adorable, by the way. It's nice to make little aesthetic changes like that :)

  4. Love your blog and the window seat.


  5. @Grace Boyle - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I had no idea what Boulder was like before that accident... I'm glad I found out, though. If I could make it so the accident never happened, I truly wouldn't take it back. I've experienced a lot of personal growth here and that's enough of a reward for me.

    And, thank you - because it's been so rainy lately, I've been sitting and reading in it and it's wonderful to watch the rain falling above me.

    @Alma - Thank you. I'm going to have to check out your blog now. :)

  6. Amazing writing. Very powerful. It is good to hear you recovered from your injuries.

    I escaped from Boulder decades ago. Ideologically speaking it hasn't changed all that much from the 70s. Loved the mountains, hated the political climate.