People gawking at you. Children tapping the window with their sticky fingers. Everyone shouting at you to look his or her way. “Do something interesting for Christ’s sake.” Animals can’t understand English. But I can.
“Jesus! Did you see that girl? She just fell!”
Why thank you, sir, yes, I did just fall and really, I was completely unawares that that’s what that was.
It’s snowing and I don’t care because I’m sick of being locked up in my apartment. I’ve been on crutches for six weeks. My left foot hasn’t been in a shoe in more than five months.
I live on the third floor, walk up. The palms of my hands ache. The innards of my upper arms are speckled with popped blood vessels. My knees are kissed with bruised strawberries. My right leg is twice the size of its partner. My left foot is purple, swollen and scarred. It’s no longer the foot I was born with. A metal plate and four screws will outlive me.
“Can we go see a movie?” I ask my boyfriend. “There’s a theatre right down on 62nd and 1st.”
I live on 71st and 1st. Nine streets away, totally negotiable. No avenues required. I’m sick of paying for cabs. I’m tired of going from one inside to another to another. I want to feel air.
“You think you’re up for it?” he asks.
I say yes even though I mean no. I’m exhausted. The day before I had crutched downstairs to get the mail and had trouble breathing because my heart was in my throat the entire trip. I like my teeth. I don’t want to loose them. I liked my foot too.
I broke the metatarsal of my second left toe in September. I don’t know how. I still don’t know what’s worse—not knowing how I broke my foot so I can tell people when they ask or the pain I suffered after I had to get surgery because it never healed.
“What happened?” If I had a quarter for every time a stranger uttered these words I’d be able to pay off my medical bills, my school loans and buy a new house in the Hamptons—beachfront, helicopter pad. When I tell them I don’t know they look at me like I’m stupid. How could I not know, right? Well I don’t.
Everyone stares. I’m assuming they can’t resist—like a ten car pile up. Like a sexually-charged reality TV show. As if they’ve never seen someone use crutches. As if they’ve never seen someone with a cast. I have four legs, two and a quarter of which are not natural. You’d think it’d make me stronger. I feel like I should get paid to walk around the streets for the entertainment value I provide.
Children don’t leave behind candy-coated palm prints, but they talk as if I can’t hear them.
“Mommy, did you see that girl? What’s wrong with her?”
“Where’s her leg?”
Grown-ups also pepper my excursions with their running commentary.
“Amen to you girl.”
“Whoa, that looks difficult.”
“Should you be outside?”
“Did you have to kick him that hard?”
“Look at you go.”
“That’s pathetic. Hah.”
“Can I carry you?”
My thoughts stay inside as well:
If there was a God, He wouldn’t have cursed me with this.
It is fuck stick.
Go fuck yourself.
Fuck you too buddy.
You’re an embarrassment to yourself for suggesting that.
I will cut you sir.
I’d like to see you try.
I’ve been to the Central Park Zoo, once. I liked it. I felt badly then about liking it. I feel worse now. But the penguins were so damn cute. And the frogs—I’d never seen those colors on real, live, breathing things. I took pictures with my phone’s camera and used one of a puffin as my cell’s wallpaper for months. It made me smile. I called him my friend.
But our relationship was nothing of the sort. That puffin didn’t do anything to merit the stares, the comments, the entrapment. And till death does its part, it won’t be able to escape any of those excruciating forms of torture. It can’t hide. It can’t push itself to its limit and go for a swim outside. It can’t tell the little kids to beat it. It can’t tell the adults to go fly a kite. I can do all of these things, and yet I don’t. I endure it with silence, frustration and tears.
And by having the human luxury of being able to tell myself, “It’ll be over soon. It’ll be over soon.”
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