It’s been 38 days since The Accident. I’m not sure when or really why I started referring to it as The Accident. I guess it saves a bit of time – it’s quicker than saying since I broke my leg. It also, I feel, perhaps touches on the trauma a little. The Accident allows people’s minds to temporarily conjure more spectacular visuals – impacts and crashes far grander than the single, slow motion, collision of knee and step. The Accident has more to show than the tiny pink graze that was all there was when my tights were peeled back on that Friday night. The Accident reassures me, and other people, that this was A Big Deal. The words I could use to describe what happened – I missed a step on an escalator and banged my knee – are inadequate, insufficient. They cannot begin to contain or even touch on what they mean, which for me is the very halting of my life. The Accident, with its unspecified referent, with its capital T and A, allows for the possibility of all of the horror that I feel.
I cry an awful lot. I mean, I’ve always cried an awful lot. Crying is something I do. It’s almost one of my identifying characteristics. Iggy’s mum? You know, the one who cries in church. I enjoy crying. I need the release. A single image or thought or chord can drench me immediately in an intolerable intensity of emotion. More than a lump in my throat or a knot in my stomach, I feel the emotion plunge like a feeding tube forced down my gullet and I need to purge immediately before it dissolves me completely. It is not unpleasurable but it is unbearable. I have to push it out.
But the crying I have been doing this past 38 days is not like that. The last time I was traumatized – and I’m assuming that is what I am - I didn’t cry for two years. Back then I decided very quietly to myself that I wouldn’t cry. That’s how I would deal with it. Of course the tears did not disappear, they just waited for me all together in ambush at the end of the two years. A huge ocean of tears in which to drown. And I almost did. This time is different. It is like I have no choice. Sequestered away first on a hospital ward and now in my bedroom, it would be silly not to cry. Stoicism is pointless without an audience. And so the tears fall down my cheeks with alarming regularity. My whole being as fluid and undefined as they are. I feel I AM my tears. They are no longer something I must discharge in order to stay whole, to keep a self. I do not have a self right now. My self is on hold. I am dissolved. Liquid as tears until I am fixed…
My constant, irrepressible tears are the worst sort of tears. They are tears of pure self-pity. I am ashamed of them. I close my eyes. Let the tears roll. I stay silent, shove my hand in my knickers and wait for the thought and the tears to be lost and forgotten on the next wave of OxyContin.
Self-pity is an awful, embarrassing, unattractive emotion and I am riddled with it. I can honestly say I haven’t felt it before. I am horrified. You might expect that the horror of this last 38 days, and I can tell you I do experience it as horror, would be rooted in the current physical state of my body. I mean my leg has 12 long pins and 2 huge fat blue metal rods sticking into it. The ‘pinsites’ are red and raw and crusted. Pinching and insistent. My leg is swollen so that the bars at the back of the cage sometimes dig into the flesh of my calf, making it swell further. The pain is excruciating. The worst is a horrible, worrying pain right at the centre of my knee, an ominous, grown up, serious pain. I clocked it the first night, lying on cushions on the floor of James’ flat, those first silent tears rolling down my face as it dawned on me that I might have done something serious to my leg. I cried all through the night. Unable to sleep. Unsure what to do as my leg seemed to grow with every heartbeat. This bone crunching pain at the centre of my knee, which no longer felt like a knee, more like infinite space with this rolling crunching pain, like someone chewing marbles, crashing around inside.
There are other pains competing. The blistering razor wire pain of a pinsite infection; the constant dull ache in my calf, which feels like someone is kneeling with all their weight on my muscle constantly; the hot itchiness of an opiate allergy all over my body, under my bra straps, inside my elbows, along my spine. When I wake up in the morning I take inventory of my pains, like a gardener checking seedlings – has this one grown? Is this one looking any better? I count and assess and measure and evaluate my pains and then I shove a handful of tablets into my mouth and an hour later I count them again.