I have been lucky (touch wood), to have had little need to get acquainted with the medical system or the notion of convalescence. In fact, I remember driving back from a friend’s baby shower, discussing with friends who had never given birth what kind of pain we had endured which might rival that experience. One woman said she ate a lot of blue cheese once and had had a terrible stomach ache (how we laughed about this later, after she had experienced giving birth). I remember saying that the worst pain I’d experienced was getting bitten by a bull ant. Once, as a child, I stepped on broken glass and was taken to hospital for sutures but I think my mother’s over-enthusiasm out-classed the severity of the injury. Other than that, I’ve had nothing that couldn’t be cured by a boiled egg and toast soldiers, or in my adult life, by a Panadol and a Bloody Mary. So it came as some surprise, as the sun set on Christmas Day to find my legs pinned between two cars, and on being freed, to see blood seeping from my tights, to realize that my sturdy legs were wobbly as a newborn foal’s, and that they were feeling…incapacitated. How did a lovely Christmas of food and friends which began with me making a ‘planes, trains and wandering stars’ travel-themed CD end with me hobbling and confined to my house? Well it went something like this…
I was leaving my friend M.’s house – actually, most of the party was leaving, having eaten our combined body weight in assorted Christmas desserts. G., who had to go to work and was running late, left the house first, with me not far behind. I saw my car was nudged right up behind hers. G. had also seen this and thought ‘Ha! She’s played a little joke’. I, on the other hand, thought. ‘Oh $@%$#!!’ I realized my handbrake had not held and my car had rolled forward from where I’d parked, its momentum stopped only by the bumper of G.’s car. I also realized that when G. removed her car, my car would go sailing off, gathering speed as it went…with who knows what consequences. At the very least, it would crash into another friend’s car, parked further down the road. All this I saw as G. was getting into her car.
I shouted to G. to stop but she didn’t hear and she began to drive off. My car started rolling forward. Here’s the point at which I would do things differently. Overestimating my strength and underestimating the weight of my car and completely oblivious to the laws of physics, I stood in front of my car and tried to hold it back. Meanwhile, G. stopped her car. At some point while my car kept rolling forward, I must have turned around, so that my shins ended up squeezed against her car’s bumper and my car was pushing against the backs of my knees. When G. got out to assess the situation, I threw her my car keys and said: ‘Quick! Reverse my car and put the handbrake on. This hurts!’ I turned around to watch her manoeuvring her tall frame behind the steering wheel and fiddling with the gears. Even from where I was standing, G. looked a little panicky and this set off more of my own adrenalin as I foresaw the possibility of her selecting the wrong gear, jolting my car forward and breaking both my legs. A bystander would have been blinded by the whites of my eyes as I tried to wriggle my legs free to no avail.
What happened between getting free and getting into the house is quite unclear. I do know that while trying to hold back a car with my small frame and zero upper body strength, I must have been still holding my handbag, a bag with a bottle of wine and a Tupperware container with half a Christmas cake. Yes, exactly like a demented circus act. I think the first thing I did was put these objects in the back of my car as if it was business as usual and I was now leaving. It was then I saw the blood oozing from my tights and felt my legs go all wonky. I waved away G.’s offer to take me to hospital, telling her I was OK and she should just go to work. I think I kept repeating ‘I just need to go inside’. Fortunately, two of the guests at M.’s Christmas party were medical professionals – one a nurse, the other a paramedic. So they were used to the kind of scenario where a person waves a merry goodbye and ten minutes later returns, wild-eyed and limping with gashes in their legs. They cleaned the wounds, administered painkillers, made sweet chamomile tea and P. the paramedic applied bandaids in two neat crosses on each shin, adding a nice Christ reference to my suffering.
I took my tea into the backyard and shakily rolled a cigarette as the receding adrenalin and the newly introduced codeine fought it out in my system. I listened to P. as he explained what happens to the body when it’s embarrassed. In my hazy state it took some time to compute ‘embarrassment’ as a medical term – pertaining to being hit by a car, rather than the embarrassment of being hit by a car after standing in front of it.
Finally, it was just me and M.’s boyfriend, a tall Sudanese guy of few words, sitting in the backyard smoking, me regarding my bare legs with their twin crosses. I saw that my legs were starting to tremble and wondered if my body was still embarrassed or if it was just getting cold as the sun had left the yard. I looked at the pretty pink-stained sky – the codeine was clearly getting the upper hand. ‘Always you will remember this day,’ A. said. Damn straight. ‘You never know what will happen 10 minutes from now, 15 minutes from now, 20 minutes from now’, he added, sounding more like a prophet with every passing minute. ‘It’s cold,’ I had finally decided. ‘Let’s go in’.