“Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved?” that is the quote* I blurted last month when I finally arrived at a friend’s house in London and greeted my musical mentor with a kiss on each of his cheeks. I was so relieved to finally get there! It was truly a miracle as I could barely walk. I had fractured my left ankle in an unexpected tumble less than an hour before.
Yes indeed, I had fallen on some steps made slippery by the afternoon rain. I landed flat on my face. I don’t remember falling; no slow-motion-mind-racing moments to make corrections, no attempts to avoid the inevitable collision with the pavement. I did not hear any inner thoughts of, “Oh no! I am going to fall!” All I knew, all I felt, was the impact. I lay there thinking simply, “REALLY? … REALLY? …” Had I traveled across an ocean only to land on my face?
I wanted to just lay there. I did NOT want to move. I wanted the rain to dissolve me, to melt me into the stone. But then people started rushing over to make sure I was alright, and I thought, “oh, no! people are coming to help me. I will need to get up now. I don’t want to get up yet.” I knew I had blown out my ankle, but I did not know how badly until I tried to stand up. It was not good.
I vaguely recall speaking to one of these good-samaritans, an elderly gray-haired woman. She was urging me sit down, to take care of myself, and suggesting I go back inside my office building, but I told her I needed to be at my friend’s house by 4 o’clock or I would miss the whole reason why I was here in London. I told her I was here to attend jazz concerts, I was on my way to one now. I could have told her my whole life story–it’s a bit of a blur now in retrospect, I rambled on and on, fighting self-pity as I reassured her that I would be okay.
After I thanked her and said goodbye, I did sit down on a cement bench to contemplate what to do next – to give up and go back inside, or to keep limping forward toward what I had been dreaming about for months. I decided to limp forward.I now call that London Tuesday: “Journey to Jazz in Dorking” and there are many little details that I remember now, like memory snapshots, some very personal (won’t be shared here–but they were like little epiphanies for me–they strengthened my character) and then there are these moments:
- the constant rhythmic sound of my Lamaze-style breathing pattern. I had given birth to two daughters, I could breathe through this day too
- sucking on a couple of acetaminophen tablets that were so bitter they made me gag. I had no water to help me swallow them like a normal person
- trying not to cry from relief when there was an open seat for me on the underground (subway)
- the super-sweet taste of water when I was finally able to buy a bottle from a vendor. The water was GBP 1.50, I wanted to keep moving so badly I tried to give him 2 pounds and to walk away. He was calling to me, urging me to come back, refusing the extra .50. He finally gave up and told me he would donate it for me and I nodded, “okay” as I watched him drop my change in a charity bucket next to his cash register.
- trying not to cry from pain when there was no seat on the connecting bus, but then a woman noticed my condition and kindly offered me her seat. I thanked her and I will never forget her face
- the strength it took to remove my sneakers so I could politely enter my friend’s home, and the endurance it took to put them back on when we had to walk to his car about 15 minutes later
- the accomplishment I felt keeping my injury a secret from my teacher and my friend because I knew if they were fully aware of what had happened they would never have let me get into the car, I would have been sent to hospital
- the wonderful “road trip” where I was not required to move for 2-hours (Yes, it was painful, but like child-birth, a pain you “forget”, yeah, right! lol)
- the heavenly concert I had been dreaming about; the music I love; singing with the audience; the amazing musicians; the people I met; and the fun and exciting trip back to London where we accidentally drove into the woods for a short while before we made it back on the highway.
My sacrifice was Wednesday, June 28th. I lost the entire day in a haze of limping through the streets, and pain. I spent over 7 or 8 hours at a local hospital, missing a family-style dinner with my fellow musicians who were blissfully unaware of my drama, just the way I wanted it.
And, thanks to the UK’s NHS which treats foreign visitors like family when they are in an accident, I was fitted with a large to-the-knee “rebound air-walker boot”. It looked like something out of StarWars. The rest of my trip I walked around London hearing Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme in my mind with each step. It made me feel empowered and fearless and ready to conquer!
The last four days of my London trip was spent at the Barry Harris Jazz Workshop with evenings at a little slice of heaven called, “Pizza Express Jazz Club”. Located in the SoHo area of the city, I was blessed to be able to listen to Barry and his Trio surrounded by an adoring audience that contained many of my friends. Jazz with people I love! What an amazing life I have now. I would pinch myself, to make sure it is really me, but I am still healing and I have enough pain to manage right now, *big smile*.
I have fallen before. But, I have decided I am not going to fall again. Inspired by Dr. Seuss, I compiled some of the different places and crazy ways I have fallen in the past, and I have decided…
I won’t be falling up a hill,
I won’t fall when I’m standing still.
I won’t fall from a cliff or bike,
nor down a hill while on a hike.
No more tumbles from a bed,
I must be careful of my head.
No more trips down steps or stairs,
No icy ponds, or flimsy chairs.
I won’t fall laughing at TV
Yes! no more trash cans saving me
from falling headfirst towards a wall.
I will not, no, I will not fall!
(In love I’ve fallen, I’ll admit) but,
No more falls, I’m done, that’s it!
©2017 Laurie Early
* “O SON OF JUSTICE! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved.” -Baha’u’llah