(Update: So maybe I should’ve named my blog Sometimes I Don’t Remember Right, but somehow Sometimes I Lie sounded cooler, as if there were intent. Anyway, in honor of full exposure, let me say the following story is not entirely correct, beginning with the fact that it wasn’t Charlie or even Jason there that day, though they visited later. It was actually Tony and Jim, and it was Tony who brought Victor. If I find out more that I got wrong, I’ll put it here. Or maybe I’ll lie and say I did it on purpose.)

It was boys against girls. Me and Dolly and Tammy took on Charlie, Jason and Jason’s friend Victor Sears. Victor was huge. I smelled a ringer and questioned whether or not Victor was really only 12 like the rest of us, but we needed even teams so it didn’t matter.

We were tied six to six. Of course. What kind of story would it be if we girls had been down by 18? Where’s the drama, the grand sacrifice? Or what if I hadn’t been just about to cross the shadow from the chain-link fence that Jason had declared the goal line? What if I’d actually just been in the middle of the field? No, I was inches from the goal, making the winning play, when Victor Sears grabbed me by the waist and knocked me to the ground in a perfect tackle. Only his knee landed dead-center on my right leg just above the ankle. It sounded like someone snapping a handful of pencils in half.

There was this split-second where it didn’t hurt, when everyone was turning to look and no one said a thing. Just a heartbeat. Maybe two. I thought about how my little sister and I had tried, unsuccessfully, to break my big brother’s leg with a cinder block the previous year. Just a heartbeat, maybe two, when I wished I’d drank more milk like my mom was always telling me. But then the pain hit, and I didn’t think much of anything except a fervent, wasted, wish not to cry in front of the boys.

They say that breaking a bone doesn’t hurt. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I know they’re liars. All of them. I don’t know; maybe breaking an arm doesn’t hurt. But breaking a leg hurts like a son of a bitch.

The bone didn’t break the skin, but it was poking it tight as shrink-wrap.

Dolly jumped on her bike and rode the seven blocks to my house as fast as she could for help. Or maybe it was Charlie. I’m not sure, but someone must have, because Nick was there before I’d stopped crying. He carried me to the car and put me in, stretched across the back seat. He talked to me the whole way.

“You OK? Do the bumps hurt? Do you want me to go slower? We’ll call your mom from the hospital. Don’t worry, she’ll be here soon. Do you want the radio on?”

“I don’t care,” my jaw tight on the words.

“Don’t worry. These doctors are great. It’s the ER. They save the best doctors for the ER. They’ll know what to do. Pain pills. Don’t worry. They’ll fix you right up.” He babbled, and that was almost as disconcerting as the broken bone pressing out from inside my skin .I’d heard Nick yell, joke, rage, and take to a soapbox, but I’d never heard him babble. It made me wary.

I could see the tops of the trees swim by, the power lines like cable connecting us to the hospital, pulling us slowly. “You can have all your friends sign your cast. Won’t that be fun? You can get that Dolly to draw a picture. You know, like one of those … what do you call it? A mural? That’s it. You can get Dolly to draw a mural.”

I don’t remember Nick stopping for stoplights. I remember hearing breaks squeal, but that might have been us when we pulled up to the hospital. He left the car in the no-parking zone and carried me in, demanding help from anyone who looked like they might work there.

The nurse put me in a room right away, and my mom showed up soon after. She kept going back and forth between me and the hall, looking for someone to ask about my condition. She hovered out there and looked worried, but she didn’t actually ask. She always came back into the room looking a little defeated. But then she’d go into mom-mode, brushing my hair back off my forehead, caressing my cheek, whispering nonsense.

Nick adjusted my blankets and peeked in all the cabinets, giving me an inventory of each. “Those tongue things, cotton balls, needles – no, just the plastic part.” He closed the cabinet, opened the next. “Bags, gauze, tape, gloves. You want gloves?” He took a couple pair and put them in his back pocket before I could answer. “You can make balloons.”

Time passed in the start-and-stop way ER time does. The nursing shift changed and a new nurse brought in a new ice pack to replace the bag of tepid water draped across my ankle. “It hurts,” I whined after she left.

“I know, sweetie,” Mom said. “But it’ll work in a minute.” She went back to the hall, one foot in my room, one foot out.

“It didn’t last time.” I started to cry out of frustration. I had barely tolerated the first round, the numbness not making up for the freezer-burn feeling above and below the ice pack, but I’d left it there because Mom seemed so worried.

“Honey?” Mom said, rushing over.

“The ice is worse than the ankle,” I cried, gripping the blanket with dramatic flair.

“Keep it on, baby.”

“Fuck it,” Nick said, grabbed the ice pack, and tossed it in the garbage, making the metal lid spin and making me cringe. Then he was in the hall. “Hey!” I heard him yell. “What the fuck? My kid’s been here for,” he paused, and I imagined the poor sucker he’d cornered looking for an escape, “six hours. Six hours? Where’s the damn doctor? She’s in pain.”

I didn’t hear the response, but context made it clear.

“The ice is hurting her. You’d know that if you ever came in and checked. She’s just a kid, you know. And you can see the fucking bone!”

Mom positioned herself between me and the closed door, back to smoothing my hair.

“I’m thirsty.”

“I know, but you can’t have anything. In case they have to do surgery.”

And Nick was back in the room, just like that. Like he’d popped up through a trapdoor. “They called him,” he said, and Mom tried to angle him over to a corner, out of earshot. “It’s her leg,” he said and came to my side. “They called this asshole hours ago,” he told me, his face red with anger, but the hand that rested on my arm was gentle. “Probably out playing golf,” he said to my mom. “But don’t worry. Someone else is coming. We’re getting you some drugs.” And he did. Within minutes, some teenager in a lab coat came in, took one look at my leg, said, “That is one broken leg,” and left.

The next person to come in was a nurse with an IV and something that made me feel much better. So much better I fell asleep for the three more hours it took for the surgeon to get there.

I woke up out of my pleasant, drug-induced sleep to the smell of a bender. An old man with a half-circle of gray hair leaned over me. His eyes were white and his breath was minty, but the smell of old alcohol came off him like steam. He pulled and pushed until I cried. Mom had a restraining hold on Nick’s arm.

“We’ll get an x-ray,” he said. “But you better plan on staying the night.” And he left.

“An x-ray,” Nick spat. “Oh, good. Because we needed a fucking surgeon to think of getting an x-ray.” He walked to the door and leaned out, his fist propping it open. “Yeah, we couldn’t have bothered getting a fucking x-ray BEFORE, could we?”

“I think he’s drunk,” I told my mom, while Nick ranted in the doorway.

“Oh, no, honey; he’s just upset.”

“No, the doctor.”

“No, doctors don’t drink,” she half-laughed. “They have to be on-call.”

“I smelled it.”

“Rubbing alcohol,” she said like I was 5. “They use rubbing alcohol to keep everything clean and sterile.”

“I know the difference,” I said, but I wasn’t sure I did, so I didn’t push it.

I don’t remember the surgery, which is certainly the way it’s supposed to work. What I do remember is how much the cast itched, the flowers Dolly drew all over it and Paul Walker knocking my crutches out from under me because who needed crutches if broken bones don’t hurt. I remember the half-sock I wore over the end of the cast to keep my toes warm. I remember all the attention I got the next day when all my friends came to visit. I remember the porcelain egg Tony gave me and the Teddy bear Jason left by my bed (Victor had gone back to Gabbs but gave Jason a card for me). My sister did all my laundry and fluffed my pillows. Mom made me grilled cheese and soup whenever I wanted. Nick brought my Teen Beat and Tiger Beat without a condescending word. I sat on my bed like a doped-up princess, receiving my subjects, absolutely in my element.

I also remember how I found a note from one of my friends, written to another, about how the first thought I was faking the pain. And I didn’t confront her. Instead, I worked doctor-sounding information into conversation whenever I could (“You know, 4 out of 5 doctors agree that broken legs really do hurt. In fact 67 percent of patients report the pain lasting well past their release from the hospital.”) and left my prescription pain pills out in the open for her to see. I even left a particularly eloquent and dramatic diary entry open on my dresser. And I stopped whining around my friends. I took more pain pills until the dosage made me throw up and then dialed it back. Back at school, I checked in the library and found out broken legs really weren’t supposed to hurt that bad.

Flash forward to this past Monday, when I got surgery to fix the botched-up job of that long-ago doctor. It was a simple outpatient surgery. No cast this time. I’ve got a brace and crutches and antibiotics and Percocet, and Jason hovers to make sure I have whatever I need. My rebuilt ligaments feel tight and kind of fiery, my stitches itch already, but I can put weight on the ankle just fine. I bet I’ll be done with the crutches later today.

And you know what? It really doesn’t hurt that bad.

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3 Responses
  1. Des says:

    Yikes! So glad you are recovery so swiftyl!

  2. I broke my ankle at 40. In emergency the surgeon on deck seemed more involved with computer games them with me. He sent me home with a sprained ankle. Several days later as I lay swelling I made an appointment with a bone man. He took one look at the x-ray and turned to me and said you need surgery…and now. A plate, long screw and six short screws.

    There was pain but more like a ache. After the surgery…plenty

    feel better

    • Cindie says:

      Ow! Did he make you walk on it? Because that’s brutal. But, yeah, that’s how everyone describes a broken leg. That is not what I felt, which makes sense now.

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Cindie Geddes

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