I found this on my computer recently and I figured rather than let it die there I’d let it at least see the dim light of a Tumblr day.
The Best Time I Broke My Leg
I broke my leg during a coed indoor soccer game on a Monday night in August. I was playing defense, and a guy on the other team had the ball. I ran at him full force, but instead of giving me the ball the way he was supposed to, he just stood there, mountainous. As I crashed into him, I heard a crack that, at the time, I thought was the sound of our shin guards colliding, and I went flying. I remember being airborne – fully aloft – as I shouted fuuuuuuuuuuck. Then I landed.
I rolled around on the floor, clutching my leg and saying fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. The feeling in my leg was not exactly recognizable as pain. It was more like an intense tingling absence, a gap with the promise of pain on its way. My teammates gathered around me, and one of them, Michael, encouraged me in his soothing Irish accent, to stop saying fuck and to start breathing again, which helped. The referee informed me that I probably had a bone bruise and told me to get off the field. Not wanting to seem like a wimp, I tried to stand up, but when that wasn’t going to happen, Michael and another guy on my team lifted me up and carried me to the sidelines. On the way, I felt a scraping sensation deep in my leg, as though had something inside it had shifted into a place it wasn’t supposed to be.
Once I was settled on a bench, I discovered that if Michael held my foot in exactly the right position, the pain in my leg was bearable. I was 90% sure I had broken something, but because my leg looked fine and the pain, though bad, could have been worse, I was afraid that calling an ambulance would seem melodramatic. Plus, my boyfriend and I were supposed to fly to New Orleans for our one-year anniversary on Thursday, and I didn’t want to have injured myself so badly that I couldn’t get on the plane. I asked Michael to refresh my memory on the anatomy of the leg, and he told me that there were two bones in the lower part of the leg, the big shin bone (the tibia) and a smaller, non-weight bearing bone, the fibula. I decided, entirely on the basis that it was what I wanted to be true, that I must have broken my fibula. A broken fibula, I imagined, was dramatic enough to necessitate calling an ambulance, but not so bad that it would keep me from going on vacation. In retrospect, I may not have been thinking as clearly as I thought I was, but at the time, I was proud of my snap decision-making. “I think I’ve broken my fibula,” I said. “Call the ambulance.”
When the EMTs arrived, they cut my shoe off, put my leg in a splint, and piled on the icepacks. The guy I’d run into came over and awkwardly apologized, but the collision had been so manifestly my fault that I had a hard time blaming him. In fact, the whole production was kind of embarrassing. “I’m fine! I’m fine!” I said. “Probably just the fibula!” As the EMTs prepared to carry me away on the stretcher, there was a fluster of activity as I realized that I had left my wallet, my cell phone, and my keys back at my house. Smooth move! Two of my teammates promised to locate my boyfriend and my things and to follow me to the hospital. The rest of them went back to playing, and, just FYI, we ended up winning the game.
In the ambulance, one of the EMTs started hitting on me. Or maybe I was hitting on him. All I remember is that I was grinning from ear to ear and my voice kept getting chirpier and chirpier as I asked him questions about his life. “Oh, wow!” I kept saying. “Man!” “That’s so cool!” “Wow!” By the end of the ride, my face hurt from grinning, and he had written his phone number down on a bandage wrapper and promised to give me guitar lessons. They hadn’t given me any drugs yet, so I’m not entirely sure what was going on. Maybe I thought that if the EMT liked me, he’d be less likely to drop my stretcher in the parking lot? Anyway, my other memory of that ride is that the edges of my vision were blurry and that the colors were very, very bright, so things in both my body and my head were definitely getting weird.
When we arrived at the hospital, the gigantic grin on my face did not give credence to my assertion that I had broken my leg. I was told several times that it was very unlikely that I could have broken a bone in the way I’d described. Still, I was packed off almost immediately to X-ray. Even now, my hatred of that fucking X-ray technician is still incandescent. When I told him that I thought I’d broken my leg running into someone, he sniffed, said, “That’s unlikely,” and promptly shifted my foot in a way that caused my leg to explode into pain. “Could you PLEASE not move my foot like that?” I said, with a politeness that he did not deserve. “It really, really hurts.” He just shrugged and said, “I have to take these films,” and walked out of the room.
The abashed look on his face when came back carrying my X-ray flooded me with such sweet satisfaction that I almost forgot, for a second, that it didn’t look like I’d be headed to New Orleans anytime soon. Both of the bones in my leg, the tibia and the fibula, were completely broken, shorn all the way through. The X-Ray tech was much more careful with my foot on our trip back to the ER, and the moment when a bunch of doctors and nurses crowded around my x-ray and one of them said, “Can you believe that this leg belongs to that smiling face?” ranks as one of the proudest moments of my life. If I’d had my cell phone on me right then, I would have called all my friends and announced “I broke my leg and I didn’t even cry. I’m so tough, you guys!”
Since this essay is called “The Best Time I Broke My Leg,” I’ll end the story there, as my teammates arrived and I relaxed into a painkiller-induced haze. Because it turned out that actually breaking my leg was the least awful part of the whole process. While I was in the hospital, my friend Lesley sent me a copy of the Babysitter’s Club book, Claudia and the Bad Joke, in which Claudia breaks her leg after some brat messes with her swing as a prank. The book was fun but misleading, because breaking your leg is a lot easier when you’re twelve, and your parents are accustomed to doing everything for you anyway. For a while, I couldn’t even get food from the fridge without holding both of my crutches in my hand while balancing on one leg, a trick that’s considerably easier to pull off when you’re not doped up on Vicodin.
As soon as the adrenaline wore off and I faced a couple of months of bedridden recovery, I turned into a miserable, sniveling, not-tough-at-all mess. The real hero of the rest of this broken-leg story is my boyfriend, who heroically took care of me despite the fact that I acted like whiny little shit pretty much the whole time. “The Best Time I Waited Hand-And-Foot on My Girlfriend For Six Months And She Repaid Me By Trying to Break Up With Me, The Jerk, But Luckily It Worked Out In The End,” is an essay he is qualified –but probably too gracious – to write.