I went out to get the mail yesterday after work, and waited for traffic to cross the street. My street’s the only one in the neighborhood that goes all the way through from one major road to another, so it’s busy. Coast is clear, I step off the curb, but here comes a truck. He’s waiting for me, how nice! But the other side is not clear, and it looks like there’s a few cars, so I don’t want the truck to wait for no reason. I think that I will signal to the truck driver that I intend to wait for traffic by stepping back on to the curb.
Except that doesn’t go so well.
Instead, I don’t have the strength in my legs to make that step back, and so I wind up on my ass on the curb in some very crunchy grass. My neighbors don’t water their lawn any more than I do. I’m not hurt at all, just embarrassed, and I laugh nervously, shake my head, and flash the truck driver a thumbs up. Like, hooray for that! ha ha ha I just fell that’s so funny. But I’m okay! He laughs, and drives away.
I wait for traffic to clear to try to stand up. It takes me a try or two.
And I’m not going to lie, when I got back in to the house, I cried. And felt an irrational anger at the truck driver, even though I know if he had understood why I just fell, he wouldn’t think it was funny at all. And I was laughing, too, and he has no idea that it’s a nervous habit I’ve had all my life. When I’m angry, I laugh, and then I cry. When I’m hurt, I laugh. When I’m being insulted, I smile. Until I’m alone. And then I cry. But still I’m a little angry that he didn’t understand it wasn’t my fault I fell. It wasn’t clumsiness. It wasn’t. fucking. funny.
This is the fourth fall. It’s not the worst. The worst one, thankfully, didn’t have any witnesses and was just scraped up palms. It was the day of my diagnosis and my mind was elsewhere so it’s hardly surprising I didn’t quite make the curb. They’ve all been the result of trying to step up and not quite making it, and then not having the strength to correct my balance. So I just kind of sit down. Or kneel. I’ve never been actually hurt, they’re gentle falls.
But they’re a precursor of things to come. A sign that things are going to get worse. Hateful little reminders that my time on my own two feet is limited. The fall itself is frustrating, of course, and humiliating, but they echo of disability and impending loss. There’s no outward injury, just a cringing inside and fear and future loss.
There will be more. Worse ones, too, I wager. And in public, I’ll fall with grace and good humor, and joke about it, and feel like dying just a little, and never let on that I’m not actually okay.
“Nothing bruised but my ego,” I joke. But that bruise hurts like hell.