As summer moved on, it was easy to forget that a year had passed since I had stepped through my own personal gauntlet. A year ago, I had traveled across the country from Seattle to Georgia in five days by myself with two dachshunds to be there when Susan passed.
When I woke up this morning, there was a paper reminder of my return passage from the East in the form of a yellow KOA car pass. “Departure date: 8/15,” it read. Exactly a year ago today was when I left Georgia behind me in an exodus to the West. I must have exposed some papers when I cleaned out the Dodge Neon to sell it. Even the car that I drove across the country a year ago had disappeared from my life. So many things had changed since then but even if my mind wasn’t quick to recall the details, my body remembered.
After two months of nearly unbroken heat on the Seattle area, today was the day that the thunderstorms arrived. The clouds made it look like the Seattle I knew and I decided that I was going to take myself for a run. I even brought my roommate’s Carolina dog, Samus, along for the jaunt.
I was about three blocks from home when I picked up the pace. The rain was still holding off but it was time to push a little harder toward the finish line. My toe found an exposed edge of the sidewalk and I stumbled. Samus, the ever-eager, slightly nervous dog, was startled by my movement to catch myself and bolted forward. This only served to carry my momentum forward into a truly spectacular and inevitable fall.
I could have sworn that I was airborne and flying Superman style for a good 3-4 seconds. I didn’t have time to think but my body reacted on its own. Somehow the dog leash was no longer on my wrist, my phone had gone flying to cease the music, and I had arched my back in a bow shape to find myself slamming chest first into the cement and skidding to a halt. My breath had been expelled forcibly and I found myself still trying to understand what had happened.
Once I had gotten over the initial embarrassment of the fall itself, I looked around. I was right outside a hotel lobby and other motorists had been going by, stopped at the light nearby. Samus had run all the way down to the nearby intersection and only by calling her did she return to me and decided not to play in traffic. I was baffled. Why was no one doing anything? Was it possible that no one had seen me fall? I simply knew that wasn’t the case given how populated the area was.
I picked myself up and checked out my skin. Externally everything seemed superficial. A tiny scrape on my right palm, a quarter sized scrape on my left knee, and a foot sized abrasion on my right leg. Landing directly on my chest had saved any scrapes, but I was still having trouble catching my breath. In fact, when I began walking again I still couldn’t breathe very well and the edges of my vision were turning white. It didn’t bode well.
I made a decision to be needy. I hated it. I was almost home, maybe a couple blocks away but I called my roommate, Scott. “I fell.” He didn’t waver or complain. He just asked where I was and got in his car to come fetch Samus and me. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, “I probably could have made it home on my own.” However, that second voice behind it was rebuking, “But you didn’t need to.” I often forget that just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I should.
Recovery was slow the rest of the morning with flashes of light in my vision that seemed to be warning me of a migraine that wanted to surface. Maybe the fall had been hard enough to jar my brain after all as the giant bruises on my breasts seemed to want to attest to.
I thought I was well enough to go into Seattle to do some work but the thunderstorm was making traffic slow going and all I accomplished was driving around in circles. I thought back to last year and the route I plotted out to avoid the thunderstorms in their entirety. Why didn’t I choose to do the same here? What was the point in being out in the middle of this gridlock? I threw in the towel and went home to ice my aching head and neck.
Stiff, sore, aching, and in tears I sat on the couch with my two dogs. My body remembered. Caught up in the cycle of choosing happiness, moving on, and living fully I had been looking away from the grief that still inhabited my brain. Just like a sprained ankle that still hadn’t healed I felt the twinge of the injury still aching on my heart. All I could really do was take more time, and realize when I needed to rest my sore heart.
Tomorrow, I pack up the van with the dogs to play a gig on the peninsula and I think about the catharsis in hitting the road and seeing new scenery to open up my mind just as I did a year ago. However there’s also something special about taking a tumble close to home, being able to call on someone I trust, and having a genuine moment of healing from my own couch.