Purple People Eater

No. I don’t eat people.
Eating people is still illegal in South Africa.
Not that anything being considered illegal makes anybody less inclined to do it these days. Even if it was legal, I still don’t think I’d eat people…
But I got the nickname anyway…and here is the tale as to how this ‘little lady’ earned her Purple People Eater stripes.

It had been a wicked weekend of Arty people celebrating life and showcasing their talents as only Arty people can do. There’s a festival around here that happens once a year in a nearby town, where pretty much anything goes and law enforcement has a tough time of trying to maintain balance between ‘turning a blind eye’, and ‘how far is too far’.
When you’re older and you attend the festival, you tend to appreciate the ‘Arts’ perspective and usually book to see a show/performance in one of the various locations that act as theaters.
If you’re young, then you’re probably going more for the ‘experience’ – the late night bands rocking it in the streets with countless options of all night, open-air pubs and dancing with reckless abandonment on cobblestone streets.

While I was young enough when I journeyed into that wicked weekend; I wasn’t wicked enough. I suppose there is something to be said about a healthy amount of fear – rebelling to a point, but never quite reaching the point of no return?
Somehow I got separated from ‘my group’, and wandered the streets without my friends, yet never alone; scrambling from one circle to the next, strangely accepted as part of each new crew. Two hours later, I found my original crew – happily sweeping in and out of circles I had passed earlier, without even noticing that I’d been gone. I was fed up, and bored. I probably should have had more to drink? Well, that’s what they told me anyway. But then where would everyone be – because at all of eighteen, I was the responsible one and the mommy of the group; and the way they were going, they needed me to stay that way.

I eventually coaxed everyone back to our campsite at two in the morning. I fell asleep to laughing and dancing around the fire – after holding my friends hair as she upchucked in a nearby bush. The next morning I lit a new fire and woke everyone with coffee. By ten o’clock, our driver said that he really wasn’t feeling well and wanted to travel home. I couldn’t convince him to wait it out (because somehow a four hour journey with a driver who, by his own admission, is not really concentrating too well is not quite my idea of safety first), and so we packed up and left. I fell asleep twenty minutes into the trip home.

The sky was overcast – but I couldn’t see it very clearly. Why wouldn’t my eyes open properly? Who was sitting on my chest, making it so hard to breathe – and why was I so cold? Was it raining?
“Don’t move. We’ve had an accident. The ambulance is coming.”
I tried to look at my friend, but she was blurry. I gave her a half smile, and told her,
“It’s difficult to breathe. I think I’ll just stop for a while.”

It was a day and a half before I woke up. I have been told snippets about what happened in between – but they aren’t important for now. What IS important is that I woke up, eyes struggling to open fully, and the nurse taking my blood pressure smiled down at me and said, “Ah, my little Purple People Eater is awake.”
I must have looked as confused as I felt because she began to explain, and I had to laugh as she told me her story – but promptly stopped as my broken body reminded me that moving was taboo.

As part of my rebellious contribution to the festival participation, I had turned my dark brown hair into a deep purple mixed with brown, by using a bottle of Gentian Violet. Lying on the road in the rain for an hour while we waited for an ambulance to respond had caused this lovely Gentian Violet to start washing out of my hair, and it had started running on my face.

It permanently marked (with a frighteningly large amount of purple) the stretcher of the private ambulance company (their owner told me a year later that they’d had to throw that stretcher away); the hospital had to give me a plastic covered pillow because I’d ruined two pillow cases already; sheets and covers were not allowed to be pulled up (stay away from the hair!).
The nurse held up a mirror, to show me my reflection…but only after warning me how swollen and cut up I was so that I didn’t get a fright….
She should have warned me about the bright purple skin too! Matched with the still purple hair, I looked like a purple headed monster. The nurse smiled and told me I reminded her of a song from the late fifties – hence my ‘new name’.

The buzzer to call on nurses that is fitted over that bed remains purple to this day – almost twenty years later- I am not sure if I should be proud, or embarrassed!
And my face is nowhere near as scarred as it should be – so now I know that despite it being my favorite color, there’s other great stuff about a bottle of Gentian Violet!


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