Just a little over a year ago, a very dear friend, and my excellent co-worker suffered a terrible accident. Her mangled foot and her life will never be the same. She was simply standing at the bus stop waiting to come to work when her life changed forever.
I visited this incredible woman at the hospital and while she was in rehab. I was not one of those who was brave enough to accompany her to her excruciating therapy sessions. Better and braver friends did that. But I saw enough. She racked up millions (literally) in medical bills. Her lawsuit is pending. Her complaints have been minimal.
Now she is back at work, part time but as vigorous and committed to work as ever. She wears a size 11 man’s shoe on her injured foot. She walks with a pronounced limp. In time it will change, but it will never be the same. We are only a few years apart in age — she is younger. We have many of the same cultural references. We also shared a walking style. Fast. I mean really fast. I have never been a “strolling” kind of guy. I walk to get to where I am going. I walk fast. I cut ahead. I jump the traffic lights. I often exclaim: “What is this, the Easter Parade?” when caught behind people languidly drifting along the busy city streets. So my friend and I liked walking together. Two determined dynamos on our way. It was always fun and we always laughed at how pokey everybody else was, while we strode ahead.
She cannot walk with such dynamism anymore. Though she walks faster with her injury than most healthy people, I think.
My sympathetic thoughts about all this were outside my realm of experience until about 14 days ago. Mr. wOw fell down while hailing a cab. The taxi was rushing toward the curb, I stepped back instinctively and … fell over my feet. One of those weird little stumbles. I slammed toward the pavement. I instinctively put my right hand out to brace myself. I was down and up in a second. Embarrassed for having fallen down. Pissed because the cab that was so anxious to have me, sped away. My hand hurt and so did my foot. Oh, shit — had I twisted my ankle again? (Years ago I’d had a bout of twisting and injuring one or another ankle, and they’d never been quite strong again.) I didn’t notice till I reached the Port Authority — another taxi arrived with unusual swiftness — that my hand was bleeding heavily. My foot was really painful but when I got home I saw that my ankles were fine. The impact had been to the front of my foot, however that had happened. It didn’t look bad. I went to bed with a painkiller.
I woke up in agony and nearly crippled. I could barely walk. My foot was massively swollen. I decided I should go to the emergency room. It was the day of the freak snowstorm. Although the Hoboken hospital is only four blocks away, I could not get a local tax service to come to me. When I did finally persuade somebody, they claimed they could not find our address. Now, we do have trouble sometimes with our Hoboken address — it’s a little off to the side of a main street — but this was ridiculous. In a final burst of desperation I said to the taxi driver, who called and claimed he was “right in front of your house”: “Look, I am a very middle-aged man in a bright green shirt and with a heavy limp. I look like Quasimodo. You can’t miss me. I’m going to stand in the middle of the street!”
Fifteen minutes later, no cab. I gave up. I couldn’t walk the four blocks. In a rage I crawled upstairs and cursed the day we moved to Hoboken and also into a three-story house. The accident happened Friday. I returned to work on Monday, hobbling and hunched. My boss wondered why I kept muttering about “Sanctuary!” and who the hell was Esmeralda?
That was then. This is now. The swelling has subsided some. The pain too but I am still in quite a bit of pain. I can walk. Slowly, with a limp. But I am determined not to limp, so I have kind of thrown my back out, once or twice in my determination not to appear infirm. It doesn’t seem like anything is broken. But I don’t know. Nor have I received any stable advice on how to treat the foot. Ice or heat? Elevated or bind it up? Nothing seems to help, really. I am seeing my doctor today to ask his advice on a foot specialist. Maybe something is broken. Who knows?
I do know this. Though it is only the very smallest variation on the injury my friend suffered, I now know what it is like to not move swiftly. To be cautious with every step. To watch others jauntily go about their business while you are wincing — every movement is a possible disaster. To feel suddenly old. Oh, that is the worst part. Anticipating more infirmity, realizing this is possibly the audition to the rest of your life. (Depending on how one holds up.)
My pain will pass, most likely and I will walk fast and furious again. That won’t happen for my friend. Not for years.
So, no matter what the diagnosis is on my foot, I will walk with my friend again this week. We will hobble and limp together in an unequal solidarity. And we’ll laugh at how fast everybody else is. Where are they all going with their great big strides? Pokey is the way, don’t they know it? And a limp can be rather stylish in the right jeans.
P.S. Mr. wOw’s wonderful doctor says there is no break, but a bad contusion. Mr. W. must be patient and take a chill pill.
P.P.S. Mr. W. will still be walking with his much more challenged friend. Mr. wOw has learned a lot. He is a better person for having hailed a cab.