I’m not saying I’m a trendy gal or anything, but on that same morning, the L.A. Times ran a piece about the city’s sidewalks being in disrepair.
That same afternoon, I walked the half mile to Vermont Avenue, where I mailed some bills from the post office. Then, I walked down to the bank, where I deposited some checks.
After that, the tasks were checked off, and the return trip was up for grabs.
I opted for the more commercially-active, east side of the avenue. Even stopped in a few shops, albeit briefly.
But as I neared the more familiar venues – the Los Feliz 3 Cinema marquee now readable – there became an immediate change in the day’s agenda. Suddenly, I was airborne, and then I was looking at some sidewalk, heading toward me.
My reflexive capabilities – apparently having ruled out help from my hands or my knees – delivered a good message to my head. As in, “TURN IT!”
And so, although I landed on my face, I didn’t hurt my nose or my teeth.
… Reflecting on what happened next, I am reminded of a scene involving a toddler. Even those of us who are child-free know this scene and can imagine it clearly… Okay, so there’s this little kid playing on some swings or a slide or something. Kid falls. Kid is fine UNTIL a bunch of adults come running over to see if s/he is okay. It is at that point (and because of that point) that the kid bursts into tears and then cries uncontrollably.
So anyway, I have just landed, left cheek first, on the sidewalk on Vermont Avenue. In front of Skylight Bookstore.
I know that my situation isn’t good, and I hope that it isn’t really bad.
I wait several seconds, and then I raise my torso and turn so that I am sitting on the sidewalk.
Just at that moment, a woman quickly emerges from the bookstore.
“Oh My God! Don’t move! Oh My God! You’ve split your lip!”
Someone hands me a napkin or a tissue or something.
I dab my lip and come up almost blank. There’s a small, pink stain on the napkin or tissue or something. I feel short-changed (in a good way). I mean, surely a split lip would produce something more alarming, like… I don’t know, some seriously red blood, maybe?
I am at a loss and completely vulnerable. There are so many strangers looking at me, and each one of them knows what my face looks like in that moment.
I do not.
But I’ve been told that I have a split lip and that I shouldn’t move.
But I also am me.
(Me, with my chapped lips…)
And sitting on the sidewalk is just not working out.
I reach for a hand from someone nearby, and I slowly and cautiously rise to my feet.
But it takes me a while longer to walk away from the scene.
I had hit my head, and I know that a hit to the head can lead to a brain injury, and when that is the case, the manifestations can kick in whenever.
I had hit my head, and I’m hoping I didn’t also injure my brain.
I had hit my head, and I need to walk a half mile to get home.
When the worried woman continued speaking with me (after I stood up), one of the questions she’d asked was, “Is there someone you can call?”
“No,” I had said. (An answer that seemed honest in the moment. An answer that would continue to haunt me.)
I had hit my head, and I needed to walk a half mile to get home.
…A few days have passed since my confrontation with the uneven sidewalk, and mostly, I am grateful. Grateful that my hands had not been the first to respond, as that might have resulted in a broken wrist (or two).
Same deal with my knees. I need them.
My face? Whatever.
I don’t type with it.
I don’t wash dishes with it.
I don’t use it to drive.
And, since the day of the unfortunate trip, I’ve also been grateful that I’ve not had to look at my face. At least, I’ve not been confronted by it, as others have been.
For those others, the view is painful.
For me, the view is of them.
…One of my clients runs a domestic violence agency, and when I shared my tale with her and told her of the purple circle under my left eye and the bruise at my chin, she sent a reply email suggesting that people will think that I have been beaten.
And based on my experiences thus far, I think she might be right.
The other night, as I waited my turn at the grocery store, I stood proud and tall. I also was smiling because – quite frankly – I was in a good mood. But the checker, apparently having caught a passing glance at my bruises, could not accept my posture or positive energy. He couldn’t even make eye contact with me.
In fact, he worked very hard at not making eye contact with me.
Yes, my client had been right.
And so had I when I responded to her email with this: “People will make up their own stories.”
What story would you write if you saw a woman with bruises on her face? And would that story be different if the woman bruised was standing tall and smiling?