Slight Return

This is a continuation of Fall, which is a memoir.

The manager of the restaurant I worked at before my accident is sitting across from me in an old church pew, cut down and re-purposed as a dining booth; I want to smack the smug look off this entitled prick’s face. I can’t because I am basically interviewing to get my old job back.  He studies the scrawled note clearing me for work; it’s four lines long but he acts like he’s reading a freaking novel. He casually tosses the note off to his right, right and explains how he is concerned about my knee “blowing out” while I’m working and that the other guys have “stepped up their game” since I’ve been gone. I know this is bullshit, ,if these guys were capable of stepping up enough to replace me even after four months of practice we would not be having this conversation.

“I got you, and don’t worry the bone’s knitted back together already, I’m pretty sure that can’t happen.” I unthinkingly run my hand along my right thigh, that leg is still half the size of the left. I know it’s not going to re-break, but I don’t tell him about my uncertainty about how long I can stand on it before the muscles and tendons give out, and my knee buckles from fatigue. “I just don’t have full flexibility back yet, so I shouldn’t work the line right away. I’ll need to start back on pizzas or the salad station.”I’m not trying to knock anyone out of position; besides it’ll be a while before I am able to work enough for that to even be issue.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking man.” he says, all I can think about is how likely it would be that he’d be my boss if he wasn’t the son of one of the owners. “Cool bro, tell you what, check back next Wednesday. I’ll see where I can fit you on the schedule.”

I’m pretty sure there is a special fate in store for people who use the word Bro, if there isn’t we should make one up.

I leave through the empty kitchen, the cooks won’t be in for another hour. They’ve got the busiest weekend of the year coming up and he’s trying to play it cool like he can do it without me. It’s possible, but I know that my career longevity to date has been based on ensuring that the job sucks just sightly more without me there than it does with me.

Later, that night I track down Danny, the sous-chef, at the bar down the street after his shift. Through a haze of smoke, cheap beer and shitty bands I manage to confirm that my replacements haven’t quite matured the way needed to me and adding to the staff a quite likeable, but functionally illiterate hill billy has not improved things in my absence. I leave the bar dunk and self-satisfied.

The week crawls by and I show up for my first shift back, an insulting short waste of one, but I’ll take what I can get. Chef is sitting out back playing some idiotic game when I roll up.

“Welcome back, you drinking again?” Since most people haven’t bothered to visit me they’ve had to rely on social media to keep track of my life. I haven’t made a public matter of my slip back into the world of my vices yet.

“Yep, cigarettes too.”

“Thank God.” He breathes, clicking off his iPhone. He’d make hell of a support group sponsor; good thing I’m not looking to join one.

“Hey Doug!” Luke yells as I walk in the back door. They promoted him out of the pit and onto the oven in my absence, not sure on what merit; kids basically a snot nosed turd with delusions of wit. “How was your vacation?” I’m fairly certain he thinks that shit eating grin on his face make him look clever.

“Tell you what, I’ll go ahead and break your knee. Then, I’ll drop a three-year old off at your house and you can tell me how much of a vacation it is, asshole.” So this is how we’re gonna start it off. Fine we’ll play it hard.

I spend the two and a half hours allotted to my schedule doing menial prep work, verbally sparring with my coworkers who missed how good I am at it, and telling these guys, who’ve obviously stepped it up oh so much, what they were forgetting to do; what with us planning on doing tens of thousands of dollars in business this weekend and all. As I’m wrapping everything up we’re looking good going into tomorrow.

The manager comes up and asks, “So you think you got your bearings back?”

What an ass bag. “I broke my knee, not my skull. I could do this type of work with on arm.” It’s true, I once worked the grill with my arm in a sling for more than a week. “I could have done it from home, except it’s not legal.”

He laughs nervously and I clock out. I return to the comfort of my front stoop where I ice both my knee and several glasses of scotch and water. Tomorrow starts the main event and I need to make sure I’m properly hung over for it.

In a sick, sad way, it feels good to be back.

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Cut Loose

This is a continuation of Fall, which is a Memoir.

It has been, at this point, close to four months since my injury and I am tired. Tired of using my cane, and wearing the brace to hobble my way through this socioeconomic blight of a neighborhood, down to the convenience store that is five blocks away, bright and early, and fully hung, over three mornings a week to catch the bus out to my physical therapy and then to hurry across several lanes of traffic to make it to the bus back when I am done. I am sorely tired of leaning on my daughter’s stroller as I limp a mile and a half each way, several times a week to the grocery store to pick up what limited provisions I can carry on my back. I am tired of being the one waiting up for my significant other to get home from work; even the slight hint of irony to our role reversals just pisses me off more.

Therapy for my knee has become more aggravating. One recent pool session involved playing race the clock as the water slowly drained out so they could fix the aquatic treadmill; the device that is supposed to be an integral part of my treatment and yet has been out of service since the day before my first appointment. Upon my arrival for what has turned out to my final encounter with Jude and the pool the treadmill was working but, it turns out to be almost unnecessary due to how far along I am in my recovery anyway. What is perhaps even more annoying, my last land appointment my therapist was absent and so I was left in the care of someone who actually listened to my concerns and made an attempt to involve himself as I did my exercises, all while handling two other patients and never once fidgeting with his fancy new smart phone nor going and hanging out at the desk in the middle of the gym. This only reinforces my opinion that my regular guy is an irreparable douche with a bush broom attached to his upper lip. All of this while my anxiety is growing over the tiny little fact that my limited insurance is about to top out on how many of these oh so extremely therapeutic appointments are going to be paid for.

With all of these things in mind I go to my evaluation at the orthopedic clinic that is handling my case. The same as always Physicians Assistant scowls at me because I am still using my cane which I was presented with the last time I saw him. On that previous visit he tried to ream me because I could barely flex my knee at all despite having been to therapy a grand total of once, and now I have to show how far I have come since. Standing with my back to the wall and holding on to the back of a chair for balance I slowly raise my emaciated leg, I force my foot farther and farther back towards the wall despite the stiffness and pain. My weeks in the vice like contraptions in the physical therapy room have paid off as I manage to eek out the ninety degrees that is required for the PA’s satisfaction. He tells me I can sit down and he scampers off with my latest set of x-rays to go see his master, the actual doctor in charge of my case.

It seems it is another busy day for the clinic and my attendant doesn’t return for half an hour. When he returns I am told the good news, the thing I have wanted the most since I started coming to this building. I am getting out of the brace. I can hardly believe it at all. I find myself excitedly asking about how much longer before I can stop using the cane and get back to my job at the restaurant.

He says, “Right away, you can take that brace and cane home and burn them, Dr. Vlasic says to cut you loose.”

And just like that I am ticked off all over again. “Cut me loose.” This phrase should have been a great relief to me. Instead, I what I hear is that some jackhole of a doctor whose name sounds like a brand of pickles and hasn’t talked to me or even looked at me once since the second or third day after I woke up in the hospital, who may have a piece of paper in his files that lists my occupation as a cook is letting his testy little minion tell me that I have been dismissed from their collective presence and I am free to figure out on my own how I am supposed to return to work with what limited mobility I have. I am not their problem anymore, that is what is really be explained here in not so many words. I am a poor person, with the type of insurance that poor people have and that is not going to last very much longer so I am being “cut loose” before they are stuck trying to squeeze money from my limited personal finances instead.

At the end of the day I am left with a certifying that I am fit to return to my job that hastily scrawled by someone who’s probably closest experience to what I do for a living is that the have at one point eaten in a restaurant, and the kind of deep seeded anger and depression that could almost be mistaken like optimism from the outside. I manage to shove the accursed and by this time foul-smelling brace into my back pack and then, out of habit, lean on my cane as I make my way past the reception desk to the elevators. I have a bus to catch and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a one way ride this time.

Therapy : What are your goals for treatment?

This is a continuation of Fall.

I arrive at physical therapy, enter the locker room, take off my shoes and socks, unstrap my brace, and change into my swim trunks; a time consuming process with little a knee that bends like there is a steel rod running through it. I enter the pool room and see that Jude, the PTA in charge of the pool, is still occupied with the older woman with the bad dye job and entirely too vocal opinions about things she little informed of; the cupric hue of her hair and the abrasive drone of her voice confirms that it is Monday morning. I have started drinking again and despite my efforts to conceal it I know the smell of cheap stale beer is escaping through my pores; I can’t really bring myself to care. Jude begins the usual assortment of questions by asking if I have taken any pain killers and what my pain level is. I like Jude, he’s a good guy who really likes people or if nothing else good at pretending that he really likes people; either way it makes him well suited for his job. We’ve gotten to know each other fairly well over the past few weeks, his family is from Haiti, but he grew up largely here in Florida, his dad is a chef, etc. I think he likes me, even if only due to the fact that I am not one of the regular remnants of the baby boom he has as clients, who always seem to know more about what they should be doing for treatment than someone who clearly has studied it professionally. I have, however, grown tired of these particular questions; I have repeatedly explained to him that I stop using any medications at least four hours prior to therapy so I can take some right after we’re through to fight the inflammation that results. I find the second question always perplexing. I am supposed to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, I always feel like I am playing some sort of  guessing game as I have only three levels of pain on my own yardstick:

  1. No pain.
  2. Pain I can tolerate.
  3. Get me to a god damned hospital!

Today I arbitrarily pick three out of ten, I haven’t really noticed him change my routine based on my answer.

I am early today, as directed by the mustache called Brent, or Trent, or whatever, in charge of my treatment. I am now supposed to start off every therapy session by using The Flexinator for at least fifteen minutes. This medieval contraption is essentially a vise that pushes my foot up towards my hip forcing the knee to bend, breaking up the internal scar tissue left over from surgery; the best part is that I have to manually crank it up there with a lever, instilling the illusion of control of how fast I might regain normal motion in my joint, increasing the likely hood that someone like myself would push their level of discomfort further and further in the naive hope that is was doing them good. Torquemada would be proud . I wonder why they never ask me about pain after I spend my time with this machine?

The water in the pool is just below body temperature and helps soothe the ache the torturous device has conjured in my knee; the underwater treadmill is still broken, as it has been since the day before I started my pool sessions. So, instead, I walk the length of it first forward and then backwards, the furious headache and sore muscles from the hangover I have makes keeping my balance a tough challenge. Today I am practicing standing on one leg with my eyes closed. Jude finds it amusing that when I attempt to do this with my uninjured left leg that I manage to spin a full three hundred sixty  degrees while attempting to maintain my balance without knowing. While I am concentrating on my exercises Jude asks, “What are your goals for treatment?”

So it’s going to be this kind of day. I have reached a point of dealing my knee where keeping a positive a positive frame of mind is just to exhausting and now I can only hope that my attempts at paying lip service to questions such as these aren’t as transparent as they sound. To be honest I don’t even hear the answers that I give the therapists, nurses, and physician’s assistants that ask them anymore. It doesn’t help approach that I haven’t seen anyone with the letters MD after their name since I left the hospital, if they can’t be bothered to care why should I. So, in lieu of my actual verbal response to this tired old query I only hear my internal dialogue.

“I want to jump up out of this god damned pool, grab my cane, beat you to death with it and then be able to leg it, full speed away before the cops get here. I want to walk, I want to run, I want to jump. I look out of the floor to ceiling windows on the other side of the pool at the land therapy room and see all these other jack assed, shit bags on treadmills and stationary bikes and I want to be them, instead of dicking around in this piss warm water like a god damned little kid. I want to never have to strap on that fucking ugly, sweaty, and cumbersome articulated contraption of a brace ever again! I want to kick that relic of The Inquisition that I am killing myself on three times weekly, until it is smashed in a million pieces! I want to never have to hobble on in here again, or watch that mustachioed douche bag fiddle fuck around with his iPhone! That, my friend, are my goals for treatment!”

I don’t say any of this to Jude, because I like him and he is good at his job, and none of this is his fault.

What I Read While Recuperating | A supplemental post of Fall

When you can’t get around very well on your own, hopefully, you spend quite a bit of your time reading. In my case most of it was role-playing game stuff as I am a very much a geek. I avoided reading news papers and magazines as I wanted little to do with the current events of a world that it felt like I could interact with so seldom at the time. I would like to talk a little bit about  the other reading I engaged in while I was recovering from my broken knee, a lot of which was done while I traveled the bus back and forth to, and in the waiting rooms of, my various medical appointments.

I greatly enjoyed reading All Tomorrows Parties  and Pattern Recognition, both by William Gibson. Gibson’s novel Count Zero was my introduction into the dystopian, corporation dominated, futurist world of literature known as Cyberpunk as a teenager; a genre that my budding gamer mind latched on to and had a lot of fun with throughout the years. His works are well crafted with a good blend of just enough technical jargon to set the background of his world and rich character development. During this time I also started once again to read The Difference Engine, a book that Gibson co-authored with Bruce Sterling. I enjoy my attempts at reading this particular work but for some reason I always seem to put it down about halfway through and forget about it until the library sends me an overdue notice.

I managed to get through a short story collection by Richard Matheson, which included I am Legend, It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t that great either  I think I liked the other less well-known stories; perhaps that is because they seemed a bit less tired, since there haven’t been film adaptations of them.

I, for some inexplicable reason, actually read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson. By the end of that book I decided that, where he not already dead, I would have organized a posse to fly to Sweden and lynch him for ever putting pen to paper.The real puzzler about it is that he managed to publish two more books with the same characters. Seriously I spent the entire novel waiting for it to engage me, or get me to even remotely care about his dispassionate and irreparably dysfunctional characters; and it never did, it was even boring when the protagonists lives were in peril yet some how all three of the books in this series spent weeks, nay months on the best seller lists. I suspect it has something to do because he tied it into Nazis, sexual deviance, and computer hacking. The first installment was such a chore to read that I can’t fathom making an attempt at the others. But that is just my opinion and I am allowed to be wrong.

I reread several of the Discworld novels, a series which will never get old for me. I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett and if you haven’t been reading his work then you are missing out on some of the  greatest satirical fantasy literature. I especially recommend any of the books that involve the characters of Samuel Vimes and the Ankh Morpork city watch. 

The worst book for me to read while going through something like this is Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. First off despite the narrator staring off being a less than moral person that spends the better part of the book convincing you of what a giant turd he is, he is suffering an injury and a resulting ordeal that was so much worse than mine it made me even more angry when I was trying to properly feeling sorry for myself. Second My timing of reading this book is that every time he mentions anything about physical therapy or recovery, it managed to be the very thing that I wound dealing with either later the same day or the following one, immediately after I read it; this resulted in some very disconcerting feelings of deja vu and mild paranoia that was made worse by opiate pain killers. And third it is a smarmy story of love that can never be physically consummated and is told through a series of mildly aggravating asides involving past lives. Setting aside the fact that this is basically just a romance novel with a twist, it is very well written; especially the very rich and detailed descriptive in the opening chapter. I firmly, will file this book under one that was a guilty pleasure to read.

There were others to be sure but these stick out in my memory after the past couple of years.

Therapy : One On Land, Two On Water

This is a continuation of Fall.

I wake up, I pry the three year old off of me; she has insisted on co-sleeping with us, again. This would be fine right now as it’s winter and this apartment has more holes in it than a colander, the extra body heat is welcome. The shit part of this arrangement isn’t the lack of privacy it’s the fact that my right leg is still extra sensitive from being fresh out of the cast that has shielded it for the last couple of months, and she manages to kick me in the knee several times a night; the one with the screws in it.

This morning my left leg has a sharp pain running up and down it, I assume that it’s just a cramp and force my way up and out of bed. Fumbling for one the damned crutches I make my way out of the bedroom and travel to the other end of the domestic hallway. Calling where I emerge a living room would be funny except I keep getting told the same joke everyday, It is more like having a foyer attached to your bathroom. My wife is in the section of this area best described as a kitchen, making breakfast for all of us. Today I am going to need my strength.

It’s my first day of physical therapy today. I am nervous. I haven’t walked without my leg in some sort of contrivance since I fell in January. I know that today I am going to have to lose the brace for at least part of it. This is a hard thing for me to imagine at this point; on the few times since that day that I have seen my naked leg it is remarkable how emaciated it looks, it is only a third of the size of the left leg and that is probably a kind estimate. When I move it in the limited capacity that I am able it still feels awkward and alien, not at all like it is really any part of me; it’s more like another being willing to do what I ask but it just doesn’t speak the local language. I have my doubts that it will support my weight and I am terrified to find out.

I have my choice of bus routes to the sports medicine facility that I have been approved for. I have My choice of either a long, contrived and winding way through the unknown areas of a college campus with several transfers or a shorter more direct path that only requires use of two buses but includes hobbling  my way across four lanes of traffic and a strip mall’s parking lot to get to the second stop. Both have the potential to be a huge pain in the ass. I opt to leave early for the shorter route, in case I miss the transfer bus this will give me an extra half hour to catch the next one. I took the longer one for my last orthopedic appointment and it just made me mad by the time I got there.

I manage to arrive early for my appointment and try to fill the time with the out of date magazines supplied to me. Mostly old copies of The New Yorker, I’m not really reading them just fidgeting. I make mental note to bring a book next time. Eventually I am buzzed back into the gym like cavern behind the solid wood doors where I am greeted by a man with a mustache that reminds me of Officer Dangle, if someone forced him to wear cargo pants. I explain my concerns about my knee and confess to being more than a little nervous about using my leg without the brace, he makes a lame joke about wanting me to climb a tree. I climb onto one of the tables and he takes a measurement of my ability to bend my knee, I am not sure if appalling is a number but it should be in this case.

The remainder of the session is him giving me brief instruction on stretches and isometric exercises, intermingled with him running off to dick around with his iPhone at the main desk while I attempt them not quite sure if it’s right or not. I think about saying something but given the level of interest his coworkers are exhibiting in his fancy new gizmo I doubt it will do any good. The exercises leave me tired and sore, I wonder if this is a positive sign.

My knee is iced while he prints out blurry copies of instructions for stretches to do at home. I am told that I would be a good candidate for therapy in the pool, and he introduces me to the guy who does this. I read this as, “Let me make you someone else’s problem.” The therapist tells me it is probably best if I still use both crutches for now. I am sent on my way to catch my bus stop and am told to stop back to get my full therapy schedule when I come in for my follow-up with the orthopedist.

Later that week I am berated by the Physicians Assistant in the clinic for still using my crutches and for not being able to bend my knee back far enough. Apparently one therapy session should have been enough to go from zero to ninety degrees. After realizing that I actually have some sort of insurance that is paying for all of this he calms down and provides me with a shiny new cane.

Downstairs I meet with Physical Therapist Dangle, I think his real name is Trent and am fairly certain I am not going start liking him anytime soon, I know for sure that his mustache is annoying the crap out of me. He tells me that I will need three therapy sessions a week for the next eight weeks. One on land, and Two on water. Two more months of my life being on hold. Two whole months of looking at his stupid ass mustache. Life is peachy.

Awkward Steps

This is a continuation of Fall.

The buzzing of the saw sends cruel, teasing vibrations up and down my whole body. The cutters banter back and forth about who operates the saw the fastest. I am not sure of their consensus but who ever it is must have the day off, this is taking forever. This marks the second time I have been in the cutting room since my surgery and I hope it to be my last.

With a soft cracking sound, and a blast of cool air, I can see it now. The white, atrophied thing with the clumsy scar running through the middle, taking up most of my vision. It is my leg or what my leg has rotted into over the past months.After this long I feel a highly disassociated from it, I’ve come to know it more as a useless turd, wrapped in a dark blue fiberglass shell that I was forced to drag around whenever I need to be somewhere. If I was poetically inclined I might think of this in terms of cocoons and moths and other shit like that but, I’m not.

My emaciated limb now rests in the back half of the cast supported by a stirrup. The front half lays next to me propped in the corner with the crutches. Those fucking things again, they’ve long since stopped hurting when I use them, but just looking at the exhausts me. Unconsciously, I flex my ankle and accomplish no movement but, manage to experience excruciating pain as I attempt to use long immobilized tendons. The absence of the upper portion of the cast makes me very aware of the air conditioning. The Physicians Assistant walks into the cutting room.

He’s friendly enough in that rushed professional sort of way that lets you know that he has dozens of cases to see to in the next hour and if he could just get you taken care of he’ll be more than happy to tick off the box next to your name and you can get on with whatever it is that you do when his presence is not required. He asks me how I’ve been? How’s my pain level? How I’m doing on my meds.

I am very specific when I explain; I have been in a cast that makes most activity uncomfortable and sitting on the toilet an acrobatic stunt, I’ve been in a lot of pain obviously, but I am managing it well, and that I’m fine on my painkillers that I have been using  as little as possible because; they fuck with my mood, make me unable to concentrate, and they keep me from being able to shit, which is no good for anyone’s mood. I believe using in total honesty when it comes to dealing with these medical types.

He just nods and scribbles something on his clipboard and tells me he is going to go ahead prescribe me more pain medicine anyway. Just Lortabs this time, a bit of a step down from the usual seemingly endless supply of Oxycodone. Also he wants me to switch from ibuprofen to acetaminophen for inflammation for some bullshit reason that I gather has something to do with my liver.

Great, more pills I don’t want to take, good thing I’m an honest man I know a lot of people who would shit solid gold bricks if they knew the mountain of pharmaceuticals I am sitting on. It’s a tempting idea, given my lack of income at the moment, but doing time for a felony of that magnitude is not the way I want this to go. My leg is strapped to the newly sawn-in-half cast with an ACE bandage and I am instructed to crutch my way through the labyrinthine halls of the orthopedic clinic to the X-ray room.

It strikes me as odd, how a place that treats people who can’t walk isn’t designed with them in mind. Several films are taken while the elderly radiologist babbles on about how she is just getting over a cold and her daughters school/wedding/funeral or whatever the hell she’s saying. I don’t think she realizes that I can’t hear her when she is behind the glass window where the controls to the camera are. I don’t care enough to follow along at any rate but, I nod and smile at her any way. When we are through she helps me off the table and I am sent hobbling on my way to wait outside the cutting room until the PA catches up with his workload. When he finally scurries by he gets someone lower down on the ladder to get me moved into a small consultation room. Here I wait some more.

Eventually he figures out what room I am in, and shows me one of the films they took of my knee. A couple of wires and a screw. That’s it, that’s what all of this is about.

 I fracture my patella in three places and that’s what I’ve got for a memento. A couple of wires and a screw. Well two screws actually, He lets me know that I can’t see the other one in this film. Good news though, I’m staying out of the cast this time.

They order me fitted for a brace, and write me up for some physical therapy appointments. They take a few notes on how much mobility I have in my joint, it turns out to be basically none. They strap the brace on me and bring me my shoes and discharge papers. The PA walks out with a definite air of one who has fulfilled his obligations and shuts the door with a gentle click. I am left alone.

Sometime later the door opens and, much to the surprise of one of the clinic workers, I am still in there, crying. I can’t bend my knee far enough to get my shoe on, and trying to do it is causing me unbearable pain. She brings me some tissues, puts my shoe on for me. As she helps me stand up, I get a gentle reminder to try and walk heel to toe, it’ll take some time to remember how to do it. I get myself under control and head to the reception desk for checkout. I never did manage to thank her for helping me.

A brief elevator ride later I am out the front doors.  I am running late so I’ll have to set up my therapy appointments over the phone after I get home. Using only one of the accursed crutches for support  I use short, awkward steps to  cross the street in time to catch the last bus home. It’s not much but I am walking under my own power again and it makes me feel better than I have in months.

Convalescence

This is a continuation of Fall.

I am sitting in a rocking chair with my leg, in a cast from my ankle to my hip, propped on a milk crate.  I am angry as I look around at the glorified hallway of an apartment that I am stuck in. This cramped, dilapidated set of rooms, with the uneven floors and the bars on the windows in a lousy neighborhood. The last four weeks have been a string of disappointments, one after another. Four weeks of finding out that I could not cook properly while on crutches. Four weeks not being able to go where I want, when I want. Four weeks of pain, and pills for pain and inflammation, and blood thinners. Four weeks of no booze, no cigarettes, no real company other than a three-year-old who doesn’t speak well, and really has no idea what is going on. And after those four weeks the doctor tells me that I have, at the very least, four more weeks of the same to look forward to. It feels like I am always angry.

I didn’t pick out this apartment, my wife did. She had to pick it out herself because I had to go and break my knee. We have just moved in. That is to say my wife and my best friend moved us in, it is a bit hard to do any heavy lifting with only one usable leg. This apartment is too expensive for its condition and area, but it is what we can afford. Especially now that I am not working. My wife has taken work as a dishwasher in the restaurant where I worked to help with the bills. She is almost never home now. There is so much for her to do now, shopping, paying bills, work, and taking our daughter to her speech therapy. I feel like she is avoiding me. I’d be avoiding me if I was able to leave.

I make attempts to unpack our belongings from time to time. This is a bit scary as I have to lower myself to the ground and hope I can engineer a way of getting back up again each time I inspect a boxes contents to figure out where things should go. Attempting to move furniture by myself is dangerous, my daughter scampers about wanting to “help”, and leaving a trail of toys in her wake. I do not have to do this myself but the clutter and my inactivity infuriates me. I manage to accomplish close to nothing except irritating myself further. It will have to wait until my wife’s day off. My only other available distractions are either, sitting in my chair staring through the barred window at the brick wall and closed blinds of the house across the driveway, or laying in bed watching television. I have had my fill of the latter and am quickly growing tired of the former.

I do get to take a few outings, when my wife has time to escort me, to the coffee shop. I use these opportunities to access the internet and realize the gap of distance and time between myself and most of the people I know. When I am there it can be hit or miss whether I meet up with any of my friends. When I do they always seem have to go back to work or leave for appointments far too soon, still it is good to see them even just for a minute. There are not many of these trips though, as they are time-consuming, exhausting, and painful.

Eventually, I get adept enough at using crutches, that I can manage small trips by myself. I can make it down the road to the ice cream shop to use their WiFi, but carrying the laptop proves to be awkward and it throws me off balance. I can go to the corner store to grab a snack, but the things I want always seem to be on a lower shelf, just out of reach of someone in a full leg cast, so I need to ask for help. From the edge of the store’s parking lot I can see the  overflowing parking lot of the restaurant I worked at before my injury and find myself longing for the stress and confusion of the kitchen, something I never thought I would miss. I look down the road and sense how far away my friends houses are on the other side of town. My friends who can walk and ride and drive, with their own lives, their own schedules, that never quite seem to have time to visit me or even call. Sooner or later I wind up hobbling my way back to my confinement and stare through the bars at the fading sunlight.

The most painful and frustrating part to all of this is pretending that none of this bothers me. Keeping this to myself because it is already hard enough on everyone else. Bottling everything up this much leads to moments of explosive rage, and numbing depression without much ground in between. My next appointment with the orthopedist is marked on the calendar and I find myself dreaming that this cast will come off then. I don’t want to just walk. I want to run away.

Horrible things on the TV

This is a continuation of Fall.

Laying in a hospital bed in a full leg cast watching horrible things on the TV. My left leg is in some kind of electric, vibrating sock to prevent blood clots. Horrible things on the TV I can’t tell what they are but they are horrible. There is morphine dripping into me. I can’t tell what is on the TV. I haven’t eaten all day in the off-chance that they can get me into surgery. My wife comes into the room

She is pissed. Then she sees my face. Apparently it is scabbed and bruised. She is worried. Things were going so well too. Of course they were going well that’s why I went out bar hopping with the guys from work. Everything was starting to look up, why not celebrate.

She has to go. Her mom is watching our little girl. Her mom is pissed at me too, I know she won’t say so when I see her she’s too nice. My wife leaves the room. A nurse gives me something for the pain. I float on the edge of unconsciousness without really touching it. There’s something horrible on the TV but I can’t tell what it is. I want some coffee. I think it’s close to midnight, not sure. If I could figure out when the horrible things began and ended I could tell how much time had passed. No surgery today. Someone brings me a coffee. Is it my wife? I drink and  it fills my mouth with muddy, lukewarm grounds and it’s all I can do not to vomit.

Laying in a hospital bed. I manage to turn the TV off. It’s a different day. Surgery day. I saw a doctor this morning, I think he’s my surgeon. My wife is in the room while I’m waiting to be taken to the Operating Room.

A social worker comes in. She is concerned about what my blood alcohol was when they brought me in. She tells me it was a point two eight. She wants to know if I normally drink that much. I lie, and she leaves the room. It’s a private room. There is a man here. He wants to help me pay for my room and my surgery, the morphine. He wants to help me pay for the horrible things on the TV. Is the TV on again. I fucking hate that TV. He gives me paper work, I set it aside and it is lost and forget where I put as I watch him leave. Psychologist is in the room. She wants to know if I want to talk about anything. I do want to talk but they have come to get me. I am wheeled away feeling confused and worried.

I pretend to be in a good mood on the way to get prepped. The trip goes by fast. I’m hooked up to a new IV and some weird box thing. The staff is joking around with me. I start to feel really good about things. One of the staff asks, “when are you going to start the anesthesia?”

“I already did.” The other says.

“What… ?” And then, a sudden, darkness.

“I need coffee.” Mumbles a voice, that turns out to be my own. Two men in scrubs seem to find this amusing. I am in a room, it is very large and white. There are empty beds and only the two men in scrubs in here with me. Post Op, making sure I come out of anesthesia okay. After an hour or more I am taken back to my room. My wife is there but she has to leave again to take care of our girl. I am laying in bed in a brand new full leg cast. There are horrible things on the TV.

I know they are horrible because they are on the TV. That’s  the only type of thing that is on this particular TV. The sounds it makes, those awful murmurs and shrieks, serve as constant reminders of its existence. I can turn it off but then I am alone. My wife can not break away from her responsibilities of motherhood for very long, my friends and co workers do not visit, the nurses will only come every four hours to give me pain medicine. I am left with this television this miserable annoyance that portrays every possible reason I might have for hating humankind all together. Cheating spouses and lie detectors, or is it delinquent dad’s and DNA tests? Crass, foul mouthed cartoons trying to point out how screwed up the media is. I think that’s called irony, or at least what passes for it anymore. I itch all over and keep nodding out, but not sleeping. I know time passes because there is always some new dreadfulness on the screen when I open my eyes. Every now and then someone comes in to stick me with something, I hope they work here.

It’s morning again and I see the doctor again, he has an entourage this time. He asks me if I am ready to go home. No thank you, I’d much rather stay here and be tortured with more boredom, loneliness, and bad cable TV. At least my laptop is here with me, so I can check social media and be reminded of how many people I know that are currently not in this room trying to keep my spirits up. I think the morphine is starting to get to me. Opiates always put me in a pissy mood, but hey they gave me this button in case I want more. Surprisingly I have an appetite, the food isn’t as bad as all that, again that might be the drugs talking. The woman who takes my requests doesn’t seem to believe that I want coffee with every meal. It goes on like this. Each day I see my wife for a few minutes. Every morning the doctor and his cohorts come in and tease me about going home. Every four hours some pills. Always that fucking television.

One day someone came in to show me how to use the crutches I was going to be saddled with for at least two months after I get discharged. I make him help me to the toilet so that I can avoid pissing in a fucking jar again. Apparently I am a natural at walking on crutches because I never see him again either.

Finally, an eternity must have passed because, I am told I can leave. I tell them to start the paperwork and call my wife. A total cluster fuck of scheduling and parking nightmares ensues in the four hours it takes for my discharge papers to arrive. My after care is ever so briefly run through by the most slack-jawed ass ever be employed in the healthcare field, his eyes are glassed over as he drawls his way in stops and starts over the details on the page in his hands. The television laughs a menacing goodbye, as I am wheeled downstairs where I wait for the person who is to pick me up to figure out where the entrance to the hospital actually is. Once this is accomplished I must figure out how to properly stand up and fit into the car without bending my knee or letting my leg drop suddenly to the ground. The end result is very uncomfortable but gets me to the pharmacy to pick up a ridiculous amount of pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and some baby aspirin to fight blood clots.

At last I am away from the clutches of that damned hospital and safe at my mother-in-law’s house. Where I lay on a bed, in a cast from my ankle to my hip, with horrible things on the TV to keep me company. I realize that there is no escaping your own personal hell.

Fall

I fall.

I am stumbling drunk down the street and there is this sickening, grinding crunch, I come to the immediate conclusion that the sound is my knee and then I fall. The ground is so very far away.

My eyes open I am facing a brick sidewalk. Now, I am up on my hands, my right leg doesn’t work. I don’t feel any real pain, I’m too drunk to feel. Gotta get up, gotta get home. I can do this. I just gotta get moving, it will be alright once i get on my feet. There is a railing.

I am dragging myself. I am bleeding. I make it to the railing. Hand over hand I pull myself up. I am standing, breathing, exhausted. I have a few miles to get home, but I am on my feet. I got this. Deep breath and I step away from the railing.

I fall.

My eyes open. Damn it, I’m not gonna make it home. I am crawling again. Where the fuck do I think I am going? I roll onto my back. Didn’t I have a backpack? There it is, how did it end up all the way over there? That is quite a lot of blood. I can’t walk.

“I can’t fucking walk! Help! Someone help!” The streets are empty. The bars closed hours ago. No one is listening.

I am laying on the sidewalk below a set of condos screaming and no one cares. How long have I been here? Seems like a while. Probably wind up being here until dawn. I really should buy a cellphone for myself.

Someone is standing over me. Tony, it’s Tony, and James, and Matt. They found me. There asking me questions. Tony wants to know what he should do.

“Call fucking nine-one-one!” Am I yelling? Am I laughing? I’m pretty sure I’m laughing. Maybe I’m crying. I can’t tell. Oh good here come the police.

More questions. Was I in a vehicle? Was I riding a bike? I’m not asking, the cop is. Have I been drinking? Is this guy serious. I feel amazingly sharp for being this drunk though. Oh here’s an ambulance. More questions some of them are the same. No I don’t want any opiates, thank you.

My eyes open. White light, a noise like someone mumbling through a bullhorn and I’m floating. Why is everything so bright? Hallway, hospital hallway, X-rays, my leg and my head. Some kind of scan on my skull looking for some other reason than too much to drink. My kneecap is broken. Can’t walk without one of those it turns out.  Stitches in my chin, guys too young to be a real doctor, probably still in Med School. I give him shit about this being my first time ever getting stitches, which is good because seems like it’s his first time giving them. Yeah I’m being a jack ass, but he’s the one decided to try small talk while he has that god damned spotlight in my eyes and that needle in my face. He finishes and leaves I think I pissed him off. I gotta fucking broken knee, and he’s worried about five god damned stitches.

My eyes open. Two doctors are in my little curtained off cubbyhole that I was placed in. It’s dark, I think they’re doctors. Talking about waiting to get off shift. One tells the other that it’s almost ten in the morning.
“Shit, I need to call my wife. Needless to say she’s more than pissed at me. She was waiting up for me most of the night and was trying to get our daughter ready for her appointment when I call.

This is your sign you drunk asshole.

Continued…