Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruel Pavement

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.

Right.

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?

15 comments:

Richard said...

Ouch. You seem to have come out of it okay. That's what really matters.

jenniferpickrell said...

When I was a teen, I worked retail and one of my co-workers was a girl a few years younger than me - tiny (like 5 foot) and really pretty. She had this big, bulky boyfriend who drove a truck and was into things like hunting.

They'd gone out canoeing one weekend and she took a spill and busted her face up. There was a bunch of other people there who witnessed it, etc, etc.

She came back to work with half her face bruised and it was amazing how many people were gossiping over how her bf had beaten her up. "I don't even know why such a pretty, little thing is with a guy like THAT."

People definitely make up their own stories. With women, we've all been beaten; but see a guy with a black eye and he's a badass.

Glad you are okay after your tumble!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I have seen falls paralyze people or land them in the hospital. I'm glad that this didn't happen to you. Wow...scary stuff.

shelly said...

Owie!Owie! You poor thing. I've broken my arm b/c I broke a fall. God knows I'm too vain to land on my face.

mshatch said...

I think the smile would make me wonder - without it and I might think the typical thought, too.

BECKY said...

OUCH! You ARE lucky, Katie. But I love your sense of humor....as always! You don't type with your face! :)
Unfortunately, even in the 21st Century, if I saw a woman look the way you described....I would automatically think she was a victim of husband/boyfriend abuse. And if she was proud and smiling?? I'd think THAT was really creepy and she's either trying to hide the fact, ...or....?
I'm SO GLAD you are okay!!

Martha Mawson said...

I'm just glad you are on the mend. I know how scary a fall can be and the potential for serious injury. But your inner self was smart to tell you to turn your head.

Sioux said...

I am sure I would jump to the same conclusion as most. However, as I'm a gawk, I could easily imagine how some freakily funny accident could blacken an eye or cause a facial bruise.

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm glad you're okay. That had the potential to be a lot worse.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

An upbeat demeanor would probably make me dismiss the notion of an abusive situation. People who've been abused, at least all I've ever known, don't generally make eye contact and stand tall, smile, etc. I'm glad you came out of your run-in with the pavement without any broken bones.

deborahjbarker said...

Ouch! You are so right about toddlers. I once gashed my leg open and was fine 'til mother yelped and called for my father whereupon I screamed too.
A good few years ago when I had my lurcher, Jess, I was walking her on the common on a cold and frosty day. Jess ran circles round the other dogs who tried to chase her. A German Shepherd fancied his luck but could not corner as skilfully as she did, he rammed into the back of my knees and lifted me clean off my feet, flipping me backwards onto my head which crashed onto the granite-like ground. First I knew, was the feel of my brain shaking and my teeth juddering. A desperately eery and scary feeling. Needless to say, I was helped up by the German Shepherd's owner and finished my walk with her and her friend. I then got in my car to drive home. Mistake! I was half blind by the time I had gone five yards. I made it home by hugging the kerb and called the doctor (couldn't see the numbers on the phone, had to guess)He diagnosed concussion. As I said, Ouch! Glad you are otherwise ok :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

So glad that except for being banged up you're okay. Not fun, but manageable, right?

I do understand your toddler comparison. When I was in 7th grade I broke my ankle in PE. I was yukking it up with the school nurse and having a grand time until my dad showed up to take me to doctor. The second I saw him and he said, "Oh, baby girl. What did you do?" I burst into tears. I wonder if that phenomenon has a name?

Jayne Martin said...

The last time I fell on my face I ended up in the hospital with a broken neck. I'm just so glad you're okay and isn't there someone you can suit because this could be your ticket. Seriously, so glad you're okay, my friend.

Reviewer11 said...

Yikes! How are you feeling?

True, people seem to jump to conclusions without getting the facts first.

Deb Shucka said...

I hope your recovery continues to go well. That kind of fall can shake you up for a very long time afterwards, even without hitting your head.

Interesting questions about the stories we tell ourselves. The smile would definitely push me toward a different conclusion - like a car accident. I think the age of the person in bruises would be a factor as well.