I remember as a child, still in elementary school, being hit by a small car driven by an attentive driver crawling across slick mid-winter road, wary of inattentive little boys yet to contemplate their own mortality.
You see, the first time I was hit by a car, I actually thought the whole ordeal amusing.
I remember flying, spinning in the air like a well-thrown football, then flopping to the ground like a stuffed animal before sliding across the ice like winter road kill.
Even four seconds of flight is fun for a 10-year-old kid.
Next came all the faces: peering down on me, frantic to comfort me, moving in and out of my vision, and then one would lodge my head between her knees. If it comforted her, ‘why not?’ I thought.
In truth, they were as confused by my laughter as I was their worry. Then came the ambulance, where strapped to a plastic board, I made jokes with the medics, in a tasteless attempt ignore my neck brace’s weak grasp on my neck.
“Are we paying for this?” I squeaked from the floor of the vehicle, just barely audible over scratching tires, whining sirens, and the clanking metal of my stretcher.
“It’s all covered by Medicare…” my mother piped in with a French accent I didn’t notice at the time.
Unencumbered I continued. “I tell ya’ boys, I don’t feel too bad – Just a pain-in-the-back.”
“I say we make a quick stop at the McDicks. If you’re really concerned, I’m actually more hungry than hurt!”
Then the medic has the balls to ask me why I was sweating so much, like I was on-the-drugs or something.
“I‘m lying on hot asphalt in the hot sun,” I responded. He was a nice guy, but I was not laughing.
Nor was I when I finally heard the news.
“You have a fractured hip and tailbone,” said the doctor.
I had been waiting on him for hours, to give me the good news and send me on my way. I had suffered hours of the neck brace and somehow survived a nurse’s every attempt to shut me up with edible opiates and IV’s strung with liquid sedatives.
Later, it hit me like lightning: every hot spark of pain, every muscle spasm, and every slow building throb to hit my nerve was potentially crippling. I was no longer whole. I was broken.
“Please don’t curse in the emergency room, sir. There are children,” the doctor said in a stern voice.
I am not proud to say, at that exact moment in my life, I had little to no concern for the innocent ears of children.
“What are you fucking talking about?” I growled as low as I could, half in physical pain.
“My god man, if there were ever a time in a man’s life when he has every reason to use curse words, seconds after hearing his ass is broken must be it!”
Later, I learned my only course for not causing future injury was to keep weight off my left leg and avoid doing things that cause pain.
Was that a joke?
No, that wasn’t a joke.
I know I’m lucky to be alive, let alone at school. The medic I joked with, the doctor I made angry and the mother I made worry are the reason I ever made it this far. As a kid I couldn’t understand that.
My family rushed to help me as soon as they heard and nursed my broken ass back to usable condition. My best friend and roommate helps keep me fed and makes sure I don’t fall down and completely shatter my ass. Friends visit me when I’m in too much pain to leave my bed, drive me to class, and help me with everything that takes two legs, really.
There’s something humbling about being injured, being unable able to fend for oneself. I guess when you can barely feed yourself, you can’t just think of yourself, because you’re living off the kindness of others.