Monday, November 26, 2012

The Run

My feet hit the gravel filled pavement, kicking small pebbles up behind me. The thought of a stone- filled truck driving on the freeway comes to mind, the ones that are uncovered slinging debris at your windshield as you try hopelessly to dodge the next oncoming crack. I quickly glance over my shoulder hoping no one is behind me, especially someone wearing glasses. My legs are swift and strong, and I run for miles without stopping to catch my breath. And then it comes over me...what I've been waiting for - the sensation of pure ecstasy. I'm not sure if everyone who runs avidly gets that rush once they reach a certain distance. But for me, it is like a bolus of some opiod they might use in a hospital ER. It had reached it's pique in my system, and my anger, frustration, and worries melted away like an inexpensive wax votive. I feel a smile creep over my face as the surge of a second wind infuses me. My body was made for this. In some moments, in my more graceful hours while gliding across smoother terrain, I would sometimes catch a rush of wind that left me with the sensation that I was flying. Those small moments were ones of perfection. The next moment was not one of those. I saw it coming ahead, but not quickly enough to change my course - a pothole about two feet in diameter (if you could call it that, looking at its amorphous shape). I quickly veered to the left, but my right foot lagged behind, catching its sharp corner, leaving me defenseless.  My brain slowed, as if retaining each millisecond of the next few moments the path this pothole had predetermined for me.

It was then I realized I was falling.

And with a mighty thunk, my body hit the ground. I took a moment to catch my breath. My sheets managed to catch the brunt of the force, though they twisted in a way that awkwardly fused my thigh to my abdomen.

Another dream, I swallowed hard to catch my breath, as if I actually had been running. I lay there a few moments wanting nothing more than to escape back to that place of ecstasy. I held hard to the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement, the way the cool wind swept across my plum face, the feeling of freedom and absolute surrender.

My eyes were burning now, tears flowing, the realization stinging me; I would never return to that place. I was in a different place of surrender, now. I traced the knotted sheets down my thigh, and clenched my jaw when my fingers ended their journey, right above where my knee once lay. No matter how many times I traced and retraced, no matter how many dreams, my leg was never coming back. I had to surrender to that fact.

AHH! the agony was like a blade ripping through my skin. I grabbed at my right leg, for the pain to stop, only to discover . . . air.

There is an irony in the phrase phantom pain. I honestly never gave two thoughts about my legs before the accident, self-righteously assuming they would always be there -- until one wasn't . After that, the phantom was a daily reminder of what I now couldn't do so easily, what I had once taken for granted, and what I would give for a sense of normalcy.

I paused a moment, before untangling the sheets that connected me to that other world. Before, calling my mother for help back into my bed. Before I had to succumb to a long arduous morning routine, that had replaced the eager simplicity of jumping out of bed, I wanted to remember the simplicity of running.  

I held onto that sheet like a lifeline for what seemed like hours. I replayed every little league game, every school dance -- roller skating, jumping on trampolines, swimming at the local pool . . . guys looking at me like I was an object of affection and beauty. . . not someone who needed pitying. I went through every memory, every stupid stunt that could have gotten me killed . . . my accident.

I don't remember much about that night:

I was about six weeks in to my freshman year of a Division III school on a merit scholarship for track and field. I was the first leg runner (I realize the irony, now) in the 4x400. We placed first that night, and decided to have a bit of a rager. It was my first college party, so, believe me, I took full advantage of the opportunity.
Then things started getting a bit fuzzy. The cops got called, and everyone started scattering like cockroaches in the light. Me and another guy escaped to the roof. I remember a cop's voice, thundering  inside the bedroom. The only way out was down. So, we both agreed to jump on three. I can still hear his voice inside my head.
One! I looked over the edge. Two! "Here, I'll hold your hand!" Three! . . .
They kept repeating how lucky I was to be alive.
I kept asking about the other guy, but nobody ever answered . . .
I had conveniently forgotten about him.
It's funny how people choose to remember the past and how that, in turn, effects their view of the present.

At that moment, I took my 4 pound, 400 thread count umbilical chord, and let go. I untwisted the knots that gagged my body, and gawkily forced all my weight up onto my left leg. Then, I fumbled through the darkness, feeling thankful for once when my hands reached the right leg's cold, hard replacement.
I then propped myself back onto my bed, ineptly preparing my right leg for the first time I would handle this morning's routine.
My mother popped her head in and turned on the light, shocked at what she saw.
I'll do that. she interrupted.
I've got it! I recanted, pushing her away.
That's my job. What are you doing? Her eyes and mouth contorted.
I stopped for a moment, and looked her square in the eyes.
I'm going for a run. 


Flashbacks haunted
Memory daunted
The iron lung won't let me move.
Pressure's falling
Lungs in need of outside rescue
Air flows
An artificial breath inflates me.
Short lived
Breath expelled
In need of another quick jolt
Allowing the process to continue
Knowing I can breathe . . .
On my own
If only I make the choice
To open the chamber.