All Things

Day Five of Thirty Days of Writing

Art by Kenneth Patchen

I lay on the mat, unable to shake the sharp sound my ankle made as all of my weight fell upon it. That snap. It echoes in my head. I’ve heard it before. I know what it means. It means I am to be enfeebled for an extended period of time. It means I am now on the IR, not only mentally unstable, but physically as well. It means I cannot walk nor run nor climb. How will I work? How can I be out in the world? Am I just yawping?

Doubled over and clutching my injury, I wonder why no one comes to my aid. Of course, how could they know the shape I am in? What could be done anyhow? I crawl off the mat and limp to the cubes. I remove my left shoe. My ankle is the size of a baseball. It was expected of course. I lay back and my eyes rest on the ceiling. In this position I always imagine that I can walk upside-down.

Kenneth Patchen’s play, Don’t Look Now comes to mind. The scene is a tall, conventional room, filled with furniture, tapestries, appliances, draped windows, and an exit-door. The cast: a couple, their daughter, a young man, an old man, a far out cat, and Aunt Cleobel. The place is any large city. It is evening. And to repeat: the room is upside down. Tables on the ceiling, lightbulbs under foot, the exit-door handle out of reach, etc., etc. The play opens up in silence, another unnerving characteristic, the actors move their lips but are voiceless. Suddenly the scene is unmuted and we enter the fray midsentence. The actors are at a loss for their situation. They attempt to explain their circumstance logically but are ridden by anxiety and suspicion. Eventually, these suspicions fall on Aunt Cleobel, a known eccentric.

Absurdity at its height! I find it magical. In my world, an inverted world, anything can happen and I have made it this way simply by flipping my vision. In this world I can tip-toe from star to star or straddle the sun. Why should the actors run around in such dismay, flippantly tossing around erroneous accusations? Then again, when life has been altered drastically, is it unusual to seek and place blame? Who desires to carry the yoke? Who can we drop this ten-ton anvil upon?

This is not what I was thinking at the moment. This is merely an aside from the future. I think that I want to throw up. I can’t tell if It’s because the pain or because I know what it all means for my near future.

A climber approaches me in my prostrate state and asks if I would like some ice. Yes please. She leaves and an employee brings me a crumpled ice pack. I’ve seen her many times but have never learned her name. I always smile and say hey. She sits behind the tall counter where all I can see is her head and shoulders and her long brown hair descending beyond my vision. Now I am looking up into her caring eyes. She offers me the icepack and some water which I decline. She tells me she must make an incident report. Incident. What an appropriate word to use. Instead of accident, injury, debacle, or foolish act, incident somehow lessons the situation. Defuses it. She leaves for a while.

I watch the other climbers with envy. In earnest, I had decided to attempt the pink route to impress some young kids who were climbing nearby. They were struggling and had no idea how to approach this little pink dino. But I knew, in all my confidence and brief months of climbing experience. After all, I had completed the route several times. It was easy.

This event is like anything else. Like a bathroom door that bumps a poorly placed porcelain sink with every swing, or the ants that become entangled in the hair on my legs that I swiftly and unsympathetically brush away. I place a great deal of meaning on my experiences because they happen to me, they affect me inside and out, but it is hard to believe there is much of a story here. Perhaps placed in a larger context, in which the momentum builds up: a turbulent life spirals out of control, a mind on the brink of collapse, and this is the last straw, the deprivation of a simple joy like climbing, the immobilization of a leg.

It all seems a little mundane. Like so what? You call this conflict?

A heavy thud resounds in the empty house. Dust falls lightly from the white ceiling. A long silent pause fills the space. It is evening. Any large city. The cast is a young man, an unseen brute, a warm lamp, a buzzing refrigerator, rabbits in the yard, people in their comfortable homes, people on the street wiping their faces with their sleeves, soggy ground beneath their feet, rain softly slapping grass and sidewalks and shoulders and rooftops.