As any of you who have seen me on FB or in person of late know, I took a fairly bad fall a couple of weeks ago–hiked into a gorgeous Tennessee waterfall while on vacation–over roots and rocks and wildly uneven steps for a not-exactly-impressive 3/4 of a mile (wimped out and skipped the steep part down to the fall itself–I’m not stupid and my husband’s ankles are not all that reliable) and back out without incident and with much pleasure. Used walking sticks for the first time and loved them. Three steps from the parking lot, I went face-first into one of the railroad ties parks use to make steps. A really lovely (sounded local) family ran up with a box of tissues and a cold pack, blessed my heart several times (I used to find it ickily sweet when Southerners do that; I have concluded that I need to revisit my attitude. And not just because of the nice tissue-weilding family…), opined in a manner that sounded strangely authoritative that I might need 2-3 stitches on the nasty upside-down-smile cut on the bridge of my nose, and expressed honest astonishment at my not being unconscious, weepy, or worse. They really were darling. I really was hurt. I have no idea whether I fractured either my nose or my skull–I opted for self-applied butterfly bandages and a fresh tube of Neosporin, so no x-rays were ever taken. I have a moderate amount of experience of things-that-need-stitches and how to care for them, I didn’t pass out or get dizzy or shocky, and we were headed to Knoxville the next day, where they have some major medical centers where I was fairly sure I could find competent plastic surgeons if I decided the thing needed stitches. One of the blisses of being 60 is that another minor scar is kind of no big deal–just blends in. As it happened, the clean and well-appointed bathroom in the Tennessee State Park provided soap and hot water, there was only a little gravel stuck in my forehead that swept away easily, and there was no sign of infection the following morning. I heal well for a diabetic–one of the things that keeps me relatively cheerful about my general prognosis.
None of which has bubkus to do with fat, except insofar as the nice family was maybe particularly surprised at how well I dealt with the whole thing (a joke about how boring I’ve always found my nose, anyway) because they had any preconceptions about how heavy folk who’ve fallen heavily are likely to behave –but that is 99.99% likely me being hypersensitive. They were probably more surprised about a Yankee being polite…
So i spent the next several days sporting variations of awkward bandaging configurations and trying to get my glasses to stay up. I managed not to bleed on any hotel linens–a fact of which I am mildly proud. And the thing got more and more colorful. By the time we got home, I had two serious black eyes, an ugly scab on my nose, and a really goofy swollen lip. I made a joke to one of my daughters about hoping no one tried to say anything inappropriate to their father, and she accused me of going to the darkest possible place–a frequent fuss from both of them. I’ve always had a fairly dark imagination, but several years running that have included some fairly bumpy times (as well as a number of beyond-wonderful gifts) have maybe left me darker than usual.
Anyway, no one said anything. Neither in the polite South, nor in the blunt North. Except for folks who actually know me, no one even really looked at the mess straight on. I was initially really happy about that, though a straight-up “What the heck happened to you?” would have allowed me to indulge my narrative inclinations.
As time has passed and the mess has healed almost before my eyes (I’ll barely be yellowish for the first day of classes at Pretty Good U tomorrow–won’t even get to use my “Fight Club” line, probably…), though, I’ve thought about the fact that, out of dozens and dozens of people who’ve seen me and my temporarily spectacular face over the past couple of weeks, no stranger has asked whether I was okay. No cashier, no server, no passer-by, or desk clerk. No one. And even though it is a dark place to go, the fact is that I was doing a pretty plausible impression of a battered woman. And no one asked. I’m not sure this is a good thing. Statistics suggest that we ought to be asking–gently and carefully, for certain, but we ought to be asking women and children and (in my sad experience, young gay men) if they need help of any sort when they appear in public with banged-up faces. If I’d gone to an ER, someone probably would have–I think it’s kind of the law there, isn’t it? That’s certainly not why I opted out (didn’t even think of it until just now), and I’ve no doubt that there are cases in which systems kick into place with unnecessary force and invasiveness in ERs, just as I strongly suspect any experienced emergency medical practitioner could have told the difference between my bumps and those inflicted intentionally (the grit in the knees of my pants might have helped), but non-professionals don’t necessarily, or even likely, know how to tell the difference. Maybe someone should have asked me. Maybe we should be willing to risk offending someone. I don’t know. Maybe doing it the wrong way could put the bruised person in more danger. Maybe someone would have asked if I’d been alone–though I was often enough. I don’t know. But my gut says that someone should have asked.