Last week I finally fulfilled one of my old childhood fantasies: I broke a bone.
My pinky toe had an unfortunate encounter with a wall and, upon impact, popped. Over the course of my life I’ve had a handful of close-but-no-cigar moments with broken bones, so I knew almost instantly — mostly because of the searing pain — that my time had finally come.
Still, I didn’t want to let my pinky toe or any other digit break my spirit, or, more specifically, my consumption of spirits. So 20 minutes after the collision I put on a brave face and went out as planned for margaritas and Mexican food with some girlfriends. As the night progressed, despite the numbing effects of the tequila, I became increasingly convinced the injury was the real deal. But in the spirit of the pinky toe, I remained classy and (mostly) refrained from discussing it at dinner.
The next morning the unfortunate yet classy pinky toe was X-rayed, and while we waited for the orthopedist to deliver the results, my husband looked at the images on the screen.
“It’s fine. There’s no break,” he said with the authority of someone whose sole medical training was watching forensic experts theorize about Scott Peterson’s guilt to Nancy Grace in 2004.
Consequently, no one was more surprised than he was when the doctor came in and pronounced it broken. And no one was more disappointed than me when I learned that my unfortunate yet classy pinky toe was not worthy of a hard cast, crutches or even a measly cane. I got what can only be described as the ugliest black surgical shoe ever. Showcasing my first break for six weeks during the height of the summer sandal season in an ugly black surgical shoe was not part of the broken-bone fantasy.
I always envied the kids who came to school with their wooden or shiny metal crutches, mighty slings, radiant ace bandages or magnificent hard casts. Having something attached to your body that everyone could sign or play with was the inarguable sign of coolness and the optimal way to get attention without having to misbehave to earn it. It was my dream.
My sister had it all when we were kids. A full leg cast — and traction — to treat some torn ligaments followed by handmade cards from everyone in her entire class. A few years later when she broke her thumb while we were skiing, the doctor made her a special cast so she could still hold the ski pole and get back on the mountain. When she was a baby she was laid up with a burn after hot coffee accidentally spilled on her stomach and another time she got to go to the hospital to have her appendix out (on the day of my birthday party, no less).
Just last year she tore her ACL while playing tennis, requiring an ambulance ride, surgery and a knee brace. She’s always had all the luck. And all the good stories. I might have made up a better story about how I broke my toe, but it’s a pinky toe and I’m not entirely convinced it’s worthy of a better story. Had it been the big toe, maybe.
But I haven’t let the lack of a cast, crutches or cane get me and the ugly black surgical shoe down. I’ve decided to go out and buy one of those silver metallic pens so people can adorn their names to the surgical shoe. And when there’s no space left, I plan to have a stash of Post-Its at the ready for people to sign and stick to my leg. It’s not exactly how I imagined it as a kid, but then again, what ever is?
I’m trying to move on though — albeit at the pace of a snail with a limp — and muddle through all the unsolicited good advice upon which I’ve been showered.
“Maybe you could have avoided this had you been wearing shoes,” my mom suggested helpfully.
“I would caution you next time to look where you’re going,” my dad added kindly.
The thing is I’m not exactly sorry the pinky toe was broken; I just regret that it didn’t make a bigger splash. I’m hobbling around in the ugly black surgical shoe, but still loving every minute of it.
Now if only I can manage to solve a Rubik’s Cube and get Ricky Schroeder to marry me, my childhood fantasy trifecta will be complete.
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