broken wrist

When I was 10 I fell.

Broke my wrist.

Ice skating, a class field trip. The teacher, the field-trip-parent, my classmates: We didn’t know I had broken anything at the time, because I made a big show of acting OK.

I docilely stood up, red-faced and hot and smiling the foolish don’t-hit-me smile of adolescent rejects. (My brain screaming: I don’t know how to ice skate! I hate this field trip! I hate stepping from the rubberized concrete to the edge of ice, where my ignorance will betray me, make me fall down! And that border is grey like a rotten tooth).

Nearby classmates laughed. Even the nerds using the safety bars laughed. Mrs. Cole, a field-trip mother (red hair, a scolding voice, a nose like a penis) asked if I was OK. I protested that I was OK. Insisted. (Leave me alone, naggy old penis-nose!) She believed me. Everyone lost interest and skated away, shhk shhk shhk.

I teetered to the bathroom on my dumb skates, ankles folding half-way over as I tried to hurry. My arm was aching. I sat on a toilet in a stall, hating the world. Pain throbbed. Eventually I vomited.

I was aware for the first time in my sheltered life that things could happen to me. To my body. Pain could happen. It could make me puke.

I was soft: a chicken nugget-eater, a crayon-drawer, a reader, a weeper. Insults made me writhe in shame; it did wonders for me to wobble out of the bathroom and sit in the lobby of the rec-centre, waiting for the field trip to be over and cradling my (unknown-to-me) broken wrist in my hand. Patiently, idiotically waiting while lumps of self-pity burned like coals in my wrist and behind my eyes.

Later on my mother took me for an x-ray, and the doctor said I had a broken wrist. He asked me, Wasn’t it hurting? I said something like Um. Too stupid to say Ouch.
He put on a plaster cast (that would smell heinous when it was trimmed off a few weeks later) and told me now I could learn to write with my left hand.
What came of this was I understood I had to speak up when anything hurt me.

No one could tell I had a broken bone just by looking at me, by seeing me hold my limp arm, smiling like a useless martyr.  

Despite the stories we’d been told in Religion class (8:30-9:15 each morning. Glossy, illustrated Bibles. A workbook we filled in. It was a Catholic school) suffering brought no exaltation, no glory, no automatic knowing on the part of other people.

Open up your damn mouth, kid! That’s what I learned.

Try telling somebody something, if it’s on your mind.

So, now I’m a writer…

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