Friday, September 15, 2006

if you're a medium and you know it, clap your hands

I twisted my ankles this week -- both of them. The left one first, because I still have a distressing tendency to suddenly lose my balance and just imitate a rug at any given time. It happened at the beginning of the week, while walking my youngest son into his classroom. Someone ran out into the hallway to assist but by then I'd regained my composure (and my sense of resistance against gravity) and gotten back upright again. I felt like a fool, face burning, etc., etc.

I only noticed later that I'd twisted my left ankle in the process. But, I reasoned, I got out of there in record time with a minimum of comment -- and that's the important thing.

The second time, I fell again. Also at the school, and the teachers came running. (Keep this up and they might imagine I'm a drinker.) The way I fell (face first) my right ankle turned in a very unnatural way -- like a cartoon character, with the foot turning in on itself, toes toward shin. As if I'm double-jointed -- except, not.

This is what I say when I fall: "Sorry." Then I duck my head and saunter away, as if I've done something indiscreet. People aren't supposed to walk around falling down all the time. It disrupts everyone else's sense of equilbrium. Unless there's an earthquake going on at the exact same moment, which never seems to happen. Shout "earthquake" when you've gone down and we come back to the drinking rumors again. ("Earthquake," or even "Incoming!" -- that would be equally effective.) So it's best to just walk off and pretend it never happened. Denial is a beautiful thing.

This was what, Wednesday. Here it is Friday and my right foot especially has a creaselike bruise the color of a rotting banana across the top of the arch. I'm fixing up my "studio" right now -- my own, honest to gosh work space. And the limp was sort of getting in the way. So I got this brilliant idea: put an Ace bandage on it. That's because in my illustrious childhood everything could be cured by
  1. toast and tea
  2. a warm bath
  3. a bowel movement
  4. brushed teeth or (failing all other options)
  5. Ace bandages.
We only had one Ace bandage in the house in my youth. It was about as long as two winter scarves sewn together end to end and the metal clip at the tail had long since fallen away in the vast legions of minor injuries to befall us. My mother kept it in the first drawer of her bureau along with her slips and pantyhose so it wouldn't get lost.

And then if you sprained your ankle or hurt your wrist she would go into her bedroom and come out with this flaccid Band-Aid colored medic's banner and wrap the offending limb with it joint to joint, tamping it securely with an overlarge safety pin (sometimes a yellow-plastic tipped one left over from my little brother's diaper days). A sprained ankle could leave you looking like a burn victim when she was done with you. No matter, Ace bandages worked. They worked, or we forsook them and endured the unbridled pain as the lesser of two embarassments, one or the other.

Nonetheless, when I got to the pharmacy today I didn't buy an Ace bandage, that panacea I look upon with such mixed emotion. I bought an Ace ankle wrap because it seemed so much neater and efficient, a minimum of fabric and no clasps or pins, please. Also, given my predilection to obsessive compulsive rechecking it's more likely, given a whole rolled Ace bandage, I'd wrap and rewrap my foot until I tied it into a tourniquet and choked it right off the leg altogether. So let's stick with the premade sheaths, please. Yes, I like the sound of that.

Only Ace ankle wraps come in sizes. Since when? Society got so sophisticated when I wasn't looking. I blithely bought an XL without realizing and then tried it on in the car and realized that not only is it an XL and it does not fit, but it made me look like I was wearing spats. Like Donald Duck's uncle, the rich one with spectacles and the velvet smoking jacket.

Dammit, I thought. Because I do swear in my head sometimes. I took off the ankle wrap and put it back in the box and took it back and exchanged it for its exact opposite, a small, looking at my feet doubtfully as I did so wondering if my leg really does measure seven to ten inches in circumference from ankle to heel as suggested on the illustration on the box. I mean, dear God, I hope not, because seven to ten inches in circumference sounds so mighty. As if the Jolly Green Giant and I ought to be campaigning together to eat more vegetables.

I put it on. With some confusion. Because an Ace ankle wrap is really very ambiguously shaped and it's hard to tell which opening your foot is actually supposed to slide into. It's not like underwear or socks. You could hand me haggis and it would probably be much easier to interpret than an Ace ankle wrap, in terms of figuring out where it ends and where it begins. Though if you're sliding your foot into a plate of haggis, it might be your alcoholic tendencies I have to call into question, not mine.

After some grunting and complicated negotiation I got it on and it hurt like holy hell after about ten minutes and I peeled it off wincing and threw it, not in my bureau drawer, not somewhere that it could remain easily accessible, but into the computer hutch on top of a stack of school papers from the children. There it lies yet, gaping at me sadly even as we speak, as if the great enormity of my swollen foot has shocked it into a sort of defeated silence.

It could be worse. I could be a ballet dancer, which, fortunately, I'm not. No one cares if the artist is shuffling along. I could even work it up into some kind of political statement if I tried really hard. Just like Brad Pitt claiming he'll marry Angelina Jolie once everyone who wants to get married, can. I'll say I'll walk (and stay!) upright when all God's children can have the right sized Ace bandages.

Me and my great, big, fat feet, and my medium-sized Ace ankle wraps. One for each foot, because I'm clumsy, or prone to method acting and I'm playing a carpet in my next performance, or I'm a drinker (but I'm not), whatever.