I am clumsy. I have no problem admitting this. Alex often grins and shakes his head at me, wondering aloud how I ,”always manage to do these things that other people couldn´t do if they tried.”…not in a good way! On the less severe end of my clumsiness are bruises from running into things with sharp corners, like coffee tables and countertops.
´When we build our own house,´I say, éverything will have rounded corners.’ Alex chuckles, shakes his head.
This category also includes silly things, like the time I got my long hair stuck in the track of a sliding door on a Kenyan bus. It also includes the time I incurred road rash while trying to one-up Alex on a bike by riding with my hands crossed to the opposite handlebars.
Sidenote; both of these things happened when at the age of 21, and I wasn´t drunk either…though it´d be less embarassing if I were.
Lastly, on the far end of my clumsiness spectrum are things that are more often called accidents (instead of dumb mistakes). These include swinging willy-nilly off of the monkey bars at my childhood home and smashing my face into the adjoining wooden play deck, as well as breaking my first rib a little bit while snowboarding and a lot more the next day while going down a twisty waterslide.
But what happened yesterday cannot really be in the accident category because, although it resulted in fairly serious injury, it was just plain dumb and had nothing to do with extreme sport-ness (like monkey barring) and everything to do with clumsiness.
It was in my ever-clumsy body that I walked the streets of southern Ecuador´s city of Cuenca. We arrived under the quietude of a Sunday afternoon, in a city where most things are closed on Sunday. As we walked, looking for a hostel, we reveled in the peace of this clean, colonial city.
We settled on a hostel, put our things down in the room, and went across the street to reception to give them our information (name, date, country, etc.). A few scribbles later we waved goodbye to the smiling attendent, Wilson, and stepped out onto the sidewalk.
Alex was a couple strides in front of me and he looked both ways to cross. I did the same and stepped haphazardly off a curb I didn´t notice, seeing my ankle turn and hearing it pop once.
‘Ow…fuck!’ I muttered under my breath, sucking air between my teeth as I stooped.
I tried to take a step once and pain, like none my clumsy body has felt before, consumed my foot and ankle. On my stable foot I reeled back toward the menacing curb, grappling at the cobblestones for a seat.
‘It was the yellow line,’ I fervently explained to Alex, referring to a yellow line that is often painted on the edge of curbs in the US, but is apparently painted on the street, two inches from the curb here in Cuenca.
‘I think my brain saw it and thought that´s when I was supposed to step down.’
This, followed by many ‘Ow…fuck,’ statements. Alex was chuckling, assuming, I´m sure,that this incident would just fall into the first severity level on my clumsiness scale…maybe the second. As tears welled, I sucked breath and laughed a little too.
A few teenage boys watching from across the street promptly scuttled away as we began to make moves toward our hostel door. In the entryway, a man walked in behind us and turned and left as soon as he realized my sobbing. Hopping on one foot up 2 flights of stairs, I winced and sucked breath, and muttered ‘Ow..fuck´ all the way.
In the room there was a quick removal of shoe and sock, confirmation of swelling, propping on pillows, and Alex´s quick exit to go find ice. He returned sweating from his [endearing] run to the store. We took a few breaths, culled our initial panic, and decided to wait until the next day to see about a doctor.
The rest of the evening and all of the next morning, I ate, slept, and read…and iced…while Alex was in and out on errands regarding food, insurance, and a hopeful but unsuccessful search for whiskey on a sleepy Sunday.
Now, after visiting the cleanest, cheapest, and most efficient hospital I´ve been to, I know that nothing is broken, as I initially feared. Sixty three dollars and an X-ray later and we heard the diagnosis. I tore multiple ligaments in my ankle.
‘Ten to 15 days to heal,’ the doc said, smiling while I realized that in 15 days exactly we will be back in Colorado. ‘Ice and…como se dice…wrap it up to be more stable. You can put weight on it, but if it hurts…just don´t.’
And finally, with a smile and a shrug, ‘If you visit nearby Cajas National Park, just stick it in a lake.´With the universal thumb-to-forefinger gesture for ‘ok’ he adds, ‘Muy frio!’
A little more than 24 hours after the incident I sit on the bed in our room, staring at the sherbert and sky-blue walls, and I make vows to myself. I vow to do ankle-strengthening excercises as soon as I can. Although I consider myself a ‘body-aware’ person, I vow to make moves to be aware of where my body is in its surroundings.
And I vow to always look where I am going, especially if curbs are lurking nearby.