If my leg was the Roman Empire then it had a fall. I ought to have used a more commonplace metaphor, especially considering I do tend to fall off beds. This time I did not. I was walking with what might be an autumn in my stride, the feet felt like they were crushing crisp brown leaves; they ambled from the balcony towards the bedroom and near the bottom corner of the bed a protrusion, a hook that had come off and hung loose with vicious intent, stalled movement. As it grazed my left ankle, the floor, smooth as a lover’s skin, dragged me down. I was on my left knee, in half a prayer pose, my hands akimbo – a bit like an opera singer and a bit like a bat in flight. The right leg had by then turned and my foot had twisted.
I screamed, as though the scream would untwist the foot, get me up from my knee. I was only slipping further, the foot twisting even more. I had nothing to hold on to except the bed. I tugged at the blanket like an urchin tugging at someone’s sleeve. I finally managed to sit on the floor, legs stretched out. With a great deal of effort I got to the edge of the bed and slowly slid up and wept into the pillow.
It felt strange. Just minutes ago I had opened my shopping bag and was admiring my new pair of shoes. When I had tried them they fit like a dream and I walked on air. Is this irony? Co-incidence? Or just another fall?
I know people fall. And this is hardly the stuff of Greek tragedies, pardon the mixing up of nations and metaphors. I had been on a high the past few days. I was treadmilling, bicycling, walking, sweating the hell out of myself, and I deserved those new shoes. An Iranian lady had helped me select them with facial expressions and delicate movement of hands. Our unspoken language made me feel good as she pointed me out to her whole family and they all smiled as though I looked like a bottle of Shiraz.
Minutes later, I was fragile glass. I had to manage the night with Deep Heat, which comes in spray form. Its sensual warmth penetrated my feet that ached uncharacteristically for the cold comfort of numbness.
Next morning brought a new pain, the pain of realisation of pain. Feeling pain is one thing. Realising that pain exists outside of feeling is quite another. Pain becomes an entity. It has its own dynamics, its own reason, and it chooses its victims carefully.
X-rays showed two broken bones. “Femur?” I asked the doctor, trying to sound knowledgeable about my body. “No, this is another bone.” He did not name it. There were two – they could be twins or they might be different. He did not think my bones needed names. The nameless bones were cracked. I imagined some fine piece of crystal on a mantelpiece with two cracks. Fractured feet. I needed a cast.
Before we could get to it, I asked the ortho if it would hurt. “Just a little,” he said. I either like a lot or nothing. I said, “Why must it hurt?” He smiled quizzically. I told him to give me local anaethesia for putting on a plaster. He was not amused. The new-fangled things are neat. He just kept winding what looked like an ordinary bandage, the soles touching his chest; for a while my soles could hear his heartbeats – I think on my feet! He was touching the wound gauze with water, pat-pat-pat, and the wetness set the plaster. I was amazed at how a simple bandage got so fixed to my feet. Now I can knock on it and it won't open any door. It is shut so tightly that no air can enter. It’s upto my calf because the pain travels. It must have chalked up quite a few qualifier miles.
I was out in a wheelchair and it felt like a stretch limo. If only I had a gown with a fur stole and a hat with ostrich feathers, I might have been in quite another age. The momentary charade of the imagination has now been replaced with a walker as I limp my way within the four walls. I see images on the walls, picture windows, the river, a beautiful table set for fine dining and the scent of jasmines as white as the cast on my leg. I think of sheesha, cinnamon flavoured, the smoke rings creating a haze, and I think how walls have doors and windows and yet we can see pictures on them without looking out. And I thank such moments for thoughts, for people, for strangers who make all this possible.
I don’t need glass slippers; my feet are glass.