Walking to the bus after work, I tripped in a pothole. No blood, no guts, not even a rip in my black catering pants. I hobbled to the bus, got home, ate some leftovers from that afternoon’s gig, emailed my Doctor, iced my foot and prayed it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t work.
When I got up to pee in the middle of the night walking wasn’t working so I crawled instead but a day and a half later my foot felt so much better that I thought about cancelling my appointment at the Small Injury Clinic.
Good thing I didn’t. I'd been expecting good news but the x-ray proved otherwise. I was grounded. I had broken my foot and wouldn’t be able to work for a month, maybe two. That bad news was made worse because I work on my feet as a pedicab driver and cater waiter and in America there are no disability benefits for the self-employed. This is no surprising in an America where you get your parking validated at The Cheesecake Factory, but if you're taking your Mom to chemotherapy it can cost you sixty bucks a visit. Drip, drip, drip.
The timing sucked, but bad things don’t usually send you a calendar request, right? I was really, really pissed though, wishing it could have happened in January when pedicabbing is slow. I’d be missing Fleet Week, the busiest weekend of the year, the last week of baseball and eventually some baseball playoff games too. I had to cancel some catering gigs too and while the gaping hole in my cash flow was huge, I thought at least I’d have more time to write and work on a new podcast that launched a month before.
Instead I was paralyzed, not by any bones, but by emotional cracks instead. How could a fractured fifth metatarsal on my right foot – estimated recovery time five to six weeks – send me into a dark and shit encrusted rabbit hole. I’ve seen the shit show before -- wasting, KS, pneumocystis – and despite the declining health of my finances this was an ice cream sundae in comparison.
How Do You Handle A Problem Metatarsal?
How could such one small broken bone in the body of a long-term HIV survivor so deeply upset my world? As anyone who’s read my writing, smoked my weed or shared a bike ride with me knows I’ve grown accustomed to laughing at the randomness of life’s joys and cruelties.
I’ve written bittersweet and funny stories about the challenges of the HDLS (horny and desperately lonely son), taking care of his cancer-ridden mom. I’ve seen friends waste away in weeks, lose their sight and then their minds, changed diapers on my mother in the middle of the night, spread ashes of young friends into the ocean, under some trees and in a Las Vegas black jack room too.
My Body Wants What it Wants When It Wants It
Like a four year old in a high-priced stroller my body is selfish, wants what it wants when it wants it. Too harsh? Maybe. After all I’ve seen friends drop 25 pounds in two weeks, lose their sight and their minds, changed diapers on my mother in the middle of the night and spread the ashes of friends who died young.
But to date my 30 year dance with HIV has has been blessed by both good fortune and a good attitude too. Sure I’ve had bad luck. I got fucked ten times in the 1980’s but still got HIV, lost 25 pounds in a few months, but from IBS not HIV, lost my work, my retirement savings and my house in quick succession. spurred on by the 2008 market collapse.
But aside from the six months with IBS my body has served me well, never told me no you can’t, you need to stop, this is too hard. And even now, while I can’t run for the bus, work for a living, walk down the street or stand on my toes, I can see the light at the end of the hopalong tunnel.
Four weeks along, I’m still cranky and get pissed off for nothing. But as the bone heals in my foot, something x-rays will never show is growing inside too. It's gratitude for the things I didn’t know I took for granted – the strength of my body, the freedom it provides and something else I never saw before.
I’m in awe. In awe of those who struggle every day but don’t get stopped. In awe of the old Chinese lady dragging her enormous bags of cans and bottles, slowly, steadily up the steps of the bus on her way to the recycling center. I’m in awe of my two friends who live with chronic pain, in awe of all those long-term survivors I call friends, many of whom lost their jobs, their homes and more things than I will ever know but still they show up, they still smile and volunteer and persevere. And I’m in awe of my body and of every body really, that pumps and moves and blinks and goes on and on til it doesn’t anymore.
I used to joke that I’m no longer the horny and desperately lonely son with the cancer-ridden mom. I’m just horny and kind of lonely too. Yet thanks to the intervention of a pothole and a foot that went bump in the night I’ve got the power of gratitude to make my legs move, my heart beat.
And sometimes it even makes my brain go WOW along the way.