Them’s the Breaks.
Thursday night, 30th June, I was meant to go to the launch of Koraly Dimitriadis’s chap book, Love and Fuck Poems, with my work-partner and friend Blaise van Hecke.
In the ten days preceding that night, we were definite to go. Most days we’d check if we were still good to go, and we were. But come that Thursday, we were both drained from our respective jobs, and begrudgingly decided to give it a miss.
With that out of the way, I decided to have a walk that evening. I have an exercise regime which alternates swimming, punching bag, a really long walk, a shorter walk, and occasional cycling. On days I swam or punched the bag, I took my shorter walk in the evening. Since that hadn’t happened this Thursday, I was meant to take my really long walk – about six kilometres.
But I was finalising an edit, which took longer than expected as I to’ed and fro’ed with the author in email. So it was that when I left my house, I decided I had only the time (and energy) for my shorter walk, which was about three and a half kilometres.
Every time I leave my house for my walk, I turn left. Then I take this route around several blocks. It’s about forty-five minutes. There’s little deviation, other than for some of the initial side-streets I use, although they all knit back into the same main road, and from then on the course is always the same.
This time, I decided to be novel, and turned right, so would do the course in reverse. This is the first time I’d ever done my walk this way.
About half an hour into the walk, I reached a busy intersection. I was feeling good. I’ve had chronic back and neck problems for about eighteen months, which probably comes from sitting at a computer all day. Regular appointments with an acupuncturist, osteo, and physio had offered small improvement, but nothing marked or lasting. My GP thought I must have fibromyalgia, given my symptoms weren’t commensurate with the problems in my back, (a slightly deteriorated disc in my neck, and a slightly bulging disc in my back). Since nothing else had worked to that point, my response in the last fortnight was to up my exercise regime, and I’m sure my back was actually responding.
I pushed the button for WALK at the intersection. I didn’t have to wait long. The light changed. The little green man told me to walk, as did the ticking tempo which accompanies the changing of the signal.
It’s amazing the things you accept on faith in the world, where you rely on unspoken, unverified etiquette.
There are a lot of clichés about dramatic moments in life – that they’re a jumble, that time slows down, that you black out, all that sort of stuff. But clichés usually derive from some form of truth. As was the case here.
Something unyielding hit me in the buttock and lower back. My foot and ankle were trapped under a tire. I realised then that I was in the process of a car running me down and, in that instant, the possibility terrified me about the scope of damage which could be done.
This was a car. It sounds stupid. But you see them every day and think nothing of their destructive potential, like the family dog who’s friendly and loving to all until it snaps unexpectedly and mauls somebody. We forget a car’s weight, a car’s size, that at any real velocity it’s an unstoppable weapon and you’re basically a house of cards.
I remember a crunch, although maybe my memory has imposed that retrospectively. But the one thing I was aware of as I spun from the car was that I suddenly had no awareness where my right leg ended. It was like my right foot had been severed. In a way it had. Now it flopped at the end of my leg, like a fish on a riverbank asphyxiating.
I hit the road and instinct took over. The car had turned from the intersection, coming from behind me, and run me over. Now I had to get off the road before another car finished the job. Clutching my ankle – I could feel the bone bulging from the sock – I crawled onto the nature strip and sat there. I knew my leg was broken. It was just a case now of how badly it was broken.
Dread filled me – the sort that fills you when you’re a kid, when you’ve done something wrong, you know you’re going to be in big trouble, and it can’t be undone.
Here was the alternative to not going to a book launch, to not taking my longer walk, to taking the course of my standard walk in reverse.
I was now in a circumstance which couldn’t be undone.