I. Falling is never as bad as the anticipation of falling. It happens so quickly that there’s no time for fear or pain. One moment you’re walking down a little ramp that leads from one room of the bakery to another, the next you’re lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling.
II. When someone falls, it deeply disturbs something in the ones who witness it. They want you back on your feet immediately.
Are you okay? Here, give me your hand, I’ll help you up. Here, you put your arm under her shoulders and I’ll put my arm under her waist and we’ll pull her up.
Sit up as much as you can. Smile and put your hands over your right leg. “Thank you. But I’m just going to stay down here a little while.”
No, no, come on. Give me your hand. We’ll help you up. It was a little spill, that’s all. You’re fine.
Keep smiling. “I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”
No, no, no, it’s not broken! It was a tiny fall. If it were broken you’d be crying in pain.
Keep smiling. Shake your head until everyone droops back to their tables. After a while, take your boots off. Try to stand. Hop on one foot back to your table. Collect your things. Ask your Spanish-speaking friend, the one who’s there at dawn every morning sweeping, clearing tables, smiling, asking how you are, to help you to your car. Lean on his shoulder and hop on your left sock-footed leg.
III. Once in the car, realize that you’re going to have to drive two-footed. This will be a new experience. Bad leg on the gas, good leg on the brake. Surprisingly, this isn’t that hard.
IV. Park as close as you can to the Urgent Care entrance. Hop on one sock to the trunk of your car. Scrounge around for that extra-long windshield scraper thing you bought a couple of years ago. Aha! Pull it out and use it as a cane. Hop and windshield scraper-cane your way into Urgent Care. Use the scraper-cane to punch the automatic door opener button. Feel great happiness as the doors yawn open and stay open while you hop-scraper-cane your way in.
V. “What makes you think it’s broken? It’s not very swollen.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”
VI. Try to answer the question “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, what is your pain level right now?”
The worst pain you ever felt? Childbirth, just like a million other women. This is definitely not as bad as childbirth, so. . . 6? 7? Wait. Even childbirth had moments that didn’t hurt so bad, like when the contraction receded and you had a few seconds to regroup before the next one. And this doesn’t hurt all that much unless you try to stand on it, in which case it hurts way worse than . . . childbirth? So should you say “8” then? “9”? But you’re not putting any weight at all on it right now, you’re sitting in this wheelchair, so it doesn’t really hurt much. So. . . 3? Wait, maybe you should split the difference between 9 and 3. 6? Isn’t 6 what you started out with? Yes, it is.
VII. “I have bad news. Your leg is broken.”
Smile and nod.
VIII. Stick the windshield scraper-cane down the sleeve of your coat and crutch yourself and your compression-booted broken leg back to your car. Start the car. Put the boot on the gas and listen in surprise as the gas roars and the brake clenches simultaneously. Realize that the boot covers both the gas and the brake. Take the boot off, which you have been told not to do until the broken leg heals. Drive to the orthopedic doctor/surgeon/specialty clinic with your broken-legged foot on the gas and your left foot on the brake. Drive home the same way.
Once home, realize that it is 100% dangerous to drive like that. Realize that you will not be able to drive until the broken leg is no longer broken and the boot/cast is off.
IX. With immediate, unquestioning and surprising calm, accept this new reality. Mentally shrug and think, Okay then. No driving. Cancel everything that requires you to be somewhere for the next two weeks except the class you teach. Figure out how to get to/from the class without driving.
Think: You have come a long way. You really don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, do you? Feel proud of yourself.
X. That night, almost fall as you let the dog out and in. Almost fall as you put the cat’s food down. Almost fall as you figure out how to get up the stairs. Think: Yikes, you better carry your phone with you everywhere, because what if you did fall and you couldn’t get up again? Remember the long-ago commercial about the woman who fell and couldn’t get up. Think: You can do this.
XI. Late at night, drink some whiskey and take a painkiller and lie in bed completely enjoying the silky blurry feeling traveling up and down your body.
XII. Three days later, hobble around your kitchen cleaning it up. Think: You are so lucky this didn’t happen in the beginning of summer. Think how miserable and pissy you’d be then.
Use a crutch to haul the wastebasket closer. Think: You are so lucky that it was a clean break. No surgery. No pins and screws.
Use the backs of chairs as little springboards. Think: You are so lucky to have all these friends bringing food and offering to do the laundry and walk the dog and go grocery shopping and keep you company.
Lean against the sink for support. Think: You are so lucky that you knew it was broken even though everyone kept telling you it wasn’t. Imagine if you had just come home and iced it and then kept trying to walk on it.
Run the water until it’s extremely hot and then soap the sponge and hobble around on the crutches and scrub the table and all the counters. Think: This took you an hour and a half and it would usually take you 15 minutes.
Lean back on the crutches and admire the clean kitchen. Be flooded with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Think: When was the last time you felt this great about something you accomplished?
XIII. Think: What if you felt this good about something like a clean kitchen all the time?
Think: Maybe you could. Maybe you could choose to.