I’m no stranger to grievous bodily harm, if not in the strict British legal sense. Eight and a half years ago, I fell down the stairs of my family’s brand-goddamn-new two-story house and ended up in a wheelchair for about two months and on crutches/in a walking cast for a couple weeks after that. Four fractures: Left fifth metatarsal, and then all across the right foot, at the joining of the second, third, and fourth metatarsals to the tarsus.
I’ve had various other mishaps, mostly dealing with one ankle or the other, which might seem to indicate some form of ligamentous laxity. But all these years I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid another double whammy. Until two weeks ago, of course.
Luckily, the tumble I took didn’t result in any fractures. Unluckily, it resulted in a pretty rough high right ankle sprain and a badly bruised/twisted left ankle. (At least, I’m assuming. I had no way of getting myself to a doctor, initially, and by the time I was able to sort of hobble around I knew it wasn’t serious enough to bother. I own a walking cast, for fuck’s sake; I don’t need to pay $40 to have someone tell me to wear it and make sure to use ice and ibuprofen. Though interestingly enough, the worst of the bruising on both sides was right around where the fractures were. Anyway.) But as many times as I’ve gone through this, it’s still easy to get caught up in the fairly intense emotions your brain decides are appropriate for the situation. And you know, it’s actually not so different from the Kübler-Ross model of the grieving process.
Denial: “NO SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS I’M FINE. I CAN MAKE IT TO THE TRAIN. I JUST NEED TO SIT HERE FOR A FEW MORE MINUTES.”
“IT’S COOL, JUST…JUST HELP ME WALK TO THE CAB.”
“NO, MR. CABBIE, I DON’T NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. I AM CRYING FROM JOY.”
“THEY’RE NOT BROKEN, I’LL BE TOTALLY FINE IN THE MORNING.”
“I CAN TOTALLY PUT WEIGHT ON THESE SUCKERS.”
Anger: “Oh my god, seriously? My entire Memorial Day weekend is completely fucked. And I have to fly four times in the next week and a half. I HATE EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, FOREVER. PLEASE GO DIE IN A FIRE THAT PROBABLY BURNS LIKE THE PAIN IN MY LEGS.”
Bargaining: “Look, Universe. If you let me make it from my couch to the door without having to stifle yelps of pain, I’ll tip the delivery guy an extra dollar. Okay? Okay.”
Depression: “Everyone is now looking at me like a two-legged dog. New Yorkers are looking at me like I’m abnormal. I’m slowing down my group, which is clearly chomping at the bit to just be at this next location already, for shit’s sake. Now that my walking cast is off, people don’t see that my gimpiness is just a temporary condition or that it really sucks to have to stand on the subway and you should really give me your seat, Mr. Roidasaurus. Everything is a total bummer.”
Next is supposed to come “Acceptance,” but that never really happens in these cases. The previous stage lasts throughout the healing process, and it only ends once you’re back to normal. But even after all that, there’s still…
Fear: For months, or even years, after the pain and swelling have subsided and the bruises have faded through, the thought will come to you as you’re racing for the train or stumble over a dip in the sidewalk: This step could be my last. The image will appear, unbidden, of those ligaments giving out, all those bones snapping; and you’ll hear the crack preceding the phantom pain. Unconsciously, you fall back into the gait you had when you initially learned how to walk– a little unsteady, uncertain, planting each foot down as though that is the first step you’ve ever taken. As far as I can tell, this is a fear that will never completely abate, a sort of metaphysical scar tissue to match the corporeal.