Lightning strikes are like...well, like lightning strikes. They're mostly predictable, in that you know one might be coming if the sky gets stormy, but also strangely random, in that you can be a perfectly happy, outgoing sixteen-year-old in a lake at one moment, and then the next and forever a person in a high-backed wheelchair, gorked out.
One hole to shit through, another to breathe through, and an indwelling catheter so that your urine doesn't eat through the skin on your legs and buttocks. The high-backed chair is there so that your natural tendency to torque backwards is controlled. Splints for your hands and feet complement the chair; there'll be no decorticate positioning going on, not while your parents are alive.
Your hands and feet are smooth. You never use them. Your toes and fingers are perfectly manicured, colors changing depending on the season. Your hair is styled every morning by your older sister, who gave up a college scholarship to help take care of you, and to tell you how pretty you are. So very pretty.
Pretty is all you were ever known for. Being born pretty is a curse; the pretty girl never gets the chance to develop any other talents.
Dead John was nice-looking, in a sort of retired-hippy, craggy, fiftyish guy sort of way. He couldn't be trusted to not wear black boxers with red print on them under white scrubs, but mostly he cleaned up all right.
What I remember him for, though, was the way he used to barricade himself inside the one-hole bathroom on the floor and chart. We'd page him, and he'd call us on his cell phone: "I'm in the bathroom, dammit!"
Or the way he'd answer any question that rephrased "How are you?" "Lovin' life" or "Workin' for the maaaan", he'd say, and it seemed so odd coming out of him that I'd always laugh. I would laugh at his enormous white-framed, mid-eighties sunglasses, too, and the way his cell phone played "Ride of the Valkyries" every time his wife called.
And the time he wore the tuxedo shirt and bow tie to work on New Year's. And the way he'd flutter around the med room, delaying everybody else.
Point is, I loved him and I remember him for more than being pretty, though he was easy on the eyes.
Pity, then, the poor bartender at my usual watering hole. Through no fault of his own, he was born with a perfect nose. Through hard work, he's developed the sort of build that makes random women at the bar cheer when he bends over to grab a tapped-out keg.
Still, I didn't look forward to seeing him until the night that I made some offhanded joke and he responded with something lightning-quick and funny. The man somehow overcame the hell of being pretty and managed to develop a brain and a wit besides, though how many people actually see that is debatable.
Should he (Frog in his Spaghettiness forbid) be struck by lightning, or pasted by a bus, or develop some nasty brain tumor, I promise I'll remember the brain and the wit. The pretty is easy-come, easy-go, plus I hear it gets harder to maintain as you age.
Pity the pretty ones. Cherish those with seams in their heads or warts on their noses, who might have something more interesting to give.