I wasn’t even considering an accident.
We were on Nantucket. Favorite place. Old, wonky sidewalks.
I fell over a brick, pushed up by an ancient tree root. Flat on my face. I thought I was channeling poor Natasha Richardson.
My head was ok, but my shoulder got in the way and broke in four places.
Life as I knew it, screeched to a halt.
It hadn’t been going so well anyway. But this?
What had I possibly done to deserve this? Of course, as we know, life’s little tricks aren’t exactly fair.
Life is an ocean. Learn how to surf. Apt for this little island I was on.
Me, and my puzzle piece appendage, had to get off the island. On a ferry. In a pre-hurricane storm. Followed by a pothole-littered journey home, and a swaying, shaking Amtrak jaunt to New York. And my surgeon.
Trauma surgeons look like Marvel movie stars. Young. Athletic. Bursting out of their skin with enthusiasm for the job they’ve chosen. At least mine did.
I wanted him to like me. Want to save me. And remember that resolve when the lights got turned up in the operating room. I’m not good in harsh light.
The next thing I know, I am in the recovery room, looking out on the East River and the city beyond. With a beige foreign being lying next to me. Looked like my arm. Chubbier. Attached to me. But it had no feeling. At least not to me. I couldn’t control it with my mind. Totally creepy.
I freaked out. They explained that they had put a block in it. To ease the pain. Like that permanent pimple you get on your nose when you’re thirteen, I was sure this was permanent. I would never feel my arm again.
That was two months ago.
Now I’m haunted by the trauma of the fall. I keep reliving it. Afraid to walk anywhere.
I survey the ground ahead. Only wear sensible sneakers. And take giant steps when I’m walking. Like an R. Crumb character.
Normally, I have a good attitude about life and longevity. Forever young.
But now, in my mind, I have aged ten years. I am different now. Uncomfortable in my skin.
I have to wear oversized button down shirts I can maneuver my arm in. And pants with an elastic waist that I can pull up with one hand.
I can now wash my hair. Sort of. But no conditioner. Takes too long. And no drying it with a dryer. With one operative arm, I can only do one side.
I feel like wallpaper. I’m just there. In my corner. Icing the errant shoulder.
Friends sweetly come to “pay a visit”. Like they did when people actually used wallpaper.
The summer has come and gone. Pain, pills, physical therapy. Repeat.
There is something about an accident. The shock of it. Blindsiding you. Changing everything.
It frightens you. Like you somehow deserved it.
You feel unsafe.
And now as I face many more months of physical therapy…an arm that can’t reach up for a can of beans… I realize that I won’t go back to whom I was.
My guard is up. My naivete down.
I realize that life can change in an instant. A blink.
Am I better off knowing there could be another tree root in my future?