Saturday, December 10, 2016

Things you learn fast when your leg is broken


1. Breaking your leg doesn't necessarily hurt as much as you think it might. I still can't tell if I saw my ankle twist with my eyes or just watched it with my nerve endings. There's a clear picture in my head that is outlined bright red with sensation. A popping. A wrenching. A numbness. A yelp. An inability to feel my toes, followed by the relief that I could feel my toes. My insistence on narrating all of this aloud to whoever first came to see what was wrong. The pain when they took my skate off. The moments of hilarity in the whole process. The moments when the hilarity was almost too much and I nearly lapsed into hysterical laughter. The calm when the pain subsided and it felt like being in the ER was a waste of time when clearly I just had a bad sprain. I kept saying to my friends -- "This will probably be less annoying if I can go to urgent care when they open tomorrow. I'm sure it's nothing they'll be able to help with." Thankfully, they kept me there.

1.5. The fact that I've seen this happen to at least half a dozen friends and teammates is SUPREMELY comforting. I kind of know the routine. I have a ton of people to ask for advice. I have a sense of what will be mentally and emotionally difficult as I grapple with how much time and work it's going to take to get back to feeling strong and capable in my body and, eventually, on the track.

1.75. Going from identifying as an athlete who measures herself in strength and capability to move really fast and lift really heavy things and ride her bike all over NYC and play a fast-moving aggressive sport to someone who measures herself in how many things she can do before she has to sit down and elevate her leg again is...as eye-opening as I suspected it might be. I've grappled with my own ableism over the years, and still am, but my biggest points of empathy have been with mental disabilities (via depression and anxiety) until now. And I recognize my privilege in being able to know I'll be walking again in XYZ weeks.

2. Putting a cast on hurts more than you think it might. That's all I want to say about that.

2.5. Putting lists in rational chronological order is for suckers.

3. You can't use crutches on stairs. I've been sternly told not to try to crutch on stairs. I've been going up and down on my butt, using my arms to propel me, dragging my crutches down with me every four or five stairs. It feels ridiculous.

3.5. It takes exactly one day to stop caring if you're ridiculous.

4. I am learning so many creative ways to carry things. Sports bras are the best pocket in the world. Draping things on my shoulders also works. So do my teeth. I am the Christmas tree of hobbling humans.

5. In theory I can get places. I took a taxi to the doctor yesterday with exactly 30 minute's notice that they could see me for a referral I really need. In retrospect, that was crazy, but now I have the assurance that I'll be seeing a specialist before it's too late to get surgery. And I got back home without incident, even after having to crutch a block in the cold to meet my ride home. But I'm still learning how to open doors on crutches, and get into cars on crutches, and the entire world has become a giant problem-solving exercise that I, medically speaking, should not be taking too fast. My world is mostly my apartment and I'm learning to be okay with that. Like Rear Window, but for the moon out my bedroom window. Like Rear Window, but for the slow crawl of morning sun up the side of the building next door. Like Rear Window, but for the last few brown leaves clinging to their trees, daring December to strip them down.

6. Asking for help is hard, even when it's offered with great enthusiasm.

6.5. Counting your achievements helps. Yesterday I made myself coffee and washed my breakfast dishes. Today I will feel good if I successfully take a bath. Maybe some day I can get a friend to give me a fresh haircut!

7. I observed this when I first moved, from the hypothetical perspective of a person who could walk, run, skip, bike, etc, wherever she wanted, but: NYC is a terrible place to have any kind of mobility impairment.

8. I have good friends.


Friday, December 9, 2016

2016

John Glenn is dead.

I feel like every death this year is going to ring out like a giant tree, falling, and the name of the year. That's what happens on Facebook now. People say, '2016' and then there's a link to the latest terrible thing. We all know it's a garbage fire. The sun itself is probably a giant trash can, burning.

I know we'll lose people every year. Time doesn't pass without some loss or another. And really,  '2016' is a construct and not a discrete, cursed piece of time. The good and the bad of it extends well before and well after the space on the calendar. And fucking yet.


Monday, December 5, 2016

December


"Let me tell you a story about war. A fisherman's son and his dead brother sat on the shore. 'That is my country and this is your country and the line in the sand is the threshold between them,' said the dead brother. 'Yes,' said the fisherman's son.'
You cannot have an opponent if you keep saying yes.
Bird 1: This is the wrong story.
Bird 2: All stories are the wrong story when you are impatient."
Richard Siken - War of the Foxes

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Postcards: Traffic

1. Sometimes when a train (not my train, this is always something I see while I'm waiting for a different train, a train that sometimes feels like it's never going to get there) is pulling away from the stop, it squeals along the tracks like the first three notes of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," where the lovers sing, "There's a place..." but we never hear the next note or the next word and then the train, the one that isn't my train, is gone. I swear, one out of every five trains plays these notes, in a squeal, but at the true pitches. I'll catch it on video some day.

2. You can't deny that you live in a dystopian landscape. Giant tubes emerge from manholes, smoking like construction-orange cigarettes. The city in the distance (from Brooklyn, from Queens) is almost always under a haze. On my ride to work this morning, a block sealed off due to a smoking construction site. I walk my bike past the fumes and the fire trucks, wondering what I'm inhaling.

3. New York drivers honk at everything. If you don't move fast enough when the light turns green. If you are a pedestrian, jaywalking up to 100 yards in front of them and in danger of slowing their progress. If you are a biker, weaving too erratically between lanes. It's prophylactic, the aural grease on the wheels of a river that no one wants to clog, but especially not for them.

4. It's heady to look down at the road in some parts of Midtown and realize you have four lanes of frantic traffic managing with no markers at all, with bare black asphalt and the best that fluid dynamics can manage. It's never more apparent than here that we are making this system work by sheer force of will.

4a. One fire truck barrels the wrong way up 2nd Avenue, which is a one-way street pointed at downtown Manhattan. This fire truck is going uptown. Somehow, the traffic parts.

5. The subway is always full of musicians. But today, the bridge I bike first over, then under each morning (making a shape like a backwards 4) has a saxophonist stationed under it, playing for the pedestrians and cyclists who stream up and down and past the bridge. Somehow, he's still there, or there again, when I head home for the day.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New York: first postcards

1. Sometimes you will be walking down the street in Queens, or the Village, or Brooklyn (never Midtown, rarely the upper east side) and ahead of you, just at the edge of your understanding, there will be a man's torso seemingly buried in the sidewalk, his head at hip level. It's always on the second glance that you realize he's emerging from a basement, often a grocery store basement, and on either side of him the heavy cellar doors have been flung open to admit a new shipment of something, or to allow this disconcerting halfway-here man to restock an empty shelf. Later the same day, you walk across these same basements, now closed, and the clanging of your shoes on the metal reminds you that there's no truly solid ground to be found here.

2. More than once I've gotten off the subway at a new-to-me stop, and a woman near me with a New York or neutral-to-me accent (not identifiable as a tourist, in other words) has asked me for directions. "Sorry, this is my first time at this stop," I admit. "Oh," she says, "mine too."  

3. This city smells. It is a rippling wonderland of smells. The open doors of a laundromat. Piss. Cherry trees. Sewage. The damp humidity of two dozen sweating bodies in your subway car. Perfume. Garbage. Car exhaust at every bridge and intersection. Piss again. On a good day, rain (petrichor), and the pretzel stand on the corner, and the ice cream truck on the other corner, and dumplings, and garlic, and hot dogs and curry and bike grease. And whatever the cosmic background radiation of the city was before you went nose blind weeks ago -- whatever smell the city has when it doesn't smell like these other things. Surely the buildings themselves have a smell. To be honest, I'd prefer the stink of piss to someone's too-heavy perfume on any day of the week.

4. Small kindnesses. A bus driver lets me get away without paying full fare, my second day here, because I haven't figured out the system yet. A woman in the locker room at the gym offers to help me zip the back of my dress because it's awkward and we all know that struggle. 

5. Bicycling to work. Where the steepest hill in this flatland is the Queensboro Bridge, and the worst you'll find anywhere else is potholes. At best, the bikers have their own lane protected by concrete. At worst, they flit and flow with traffic, not even paint on the road to tell them where to be. The most beautiful sight, in this land of lovely glass towers and dazzling reflections, is the morning commute in Manhattan, when by chance or by physics a dozen or so cyclists synch up and flow together up 2nd Avenue -- flitting past turning cabs, weaving horribly around anything that holds still too long, which is most cars because this is rush hour in Manhattan, dinging our bells at pedestrians who aren't aware we're coming and it's our turn to be here. There is a horrible chaos here on every street: everyone wears headphones even at peak traffic, someone will always be coming at you from the wrong direction, and no one cares whose turn it is or isn't to turn left. No one is ready for you to follow the rules or stop moving when the light turns yellow. But in these moments of synchronicity, the bicycles have an ordered beauty, like a school of small fish darting their collective mass toward safe harbor around seals, sharks, and the lumbering whales of buses.   

6. Why does anyone wear heels here why.