Pushing myself away from the concrete, I stand on two wobbly legs, assessing the damage of my person. My left hand has fared the worst, the skin peeled back like the coagulated surface of untouched gravy in a pan, little red specks of disturbed fresh surrounding the wound in a shrapnel-like formation. The right hand’s gouge is smaller, but darker, living in the place that connects palm to wrist. Then there’s my scuffed elbow, my bloody ankle, my pink shoulder and right collarbone. Out off twenty-year-old habit, I check my knees, making sure I haven’t torn of ten years worth of old softball scars. They seem to be okay. Shaky and humbled, I begin to walk home.
All of this from tripping over a lip in the sidewalk.
Once in my apartment, I realize I do not have any of the medical supplies my mother would have had when I was a child, which was the last time I spayed myself across concrete in such a manner. That instance was in kindergarten, when I went “boogie boarding on cement” – an ill-conceived contact sport that landed me in the hospital and put ten stitches in my chin.
With no hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, I hop into the shower and begin to gingerly clean the raw bits of flesh with Mr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in classic Peppermint. It stings with a horrible menthol burn and I laugh a crazy laugh that bounces against the white tile of my bathroom walls. All I want to do is have someone take care of me, patch me up, send me to bed. And it is here that I begin to feel positively sorry for myself.
Learning to be alone is a skill set everyone should have. To be able to sit with your thoughts, confront the person you are, tune out the numbing properties of other people, of fun, of chemical diversions – these are important to the true experience of you in the world. Being alone, however, presents challenges when you need help. I can champion the benefits of being single until the cows come home, but from a practical standpoint, life is easier with another person when you are in a jam, or when you’ve stupidly tripped while running and have now lost unencumbered use of your hands.
Not one to leave an idle thought untended, my brain spirals into lonely doomsday prophecies, where the rest of my life unfolds in such a manner – 80 years old and alone, taking care of myself with increasing difficulty. The wounds bigger, the illnesses more severe. It is for this reason that I will never understand the George Clooneys of the world, those perpetual bachelors who refuse to settle down. They incorrectly envision themselves handsome and debonair in perpetuity, incapable of seeing their inevitable decay, how they will one day – no matter how rich or handsome or charming – just simply be old. Even the most staunchly independent of people will one day be dependent, whether they like it or not. If we’re lucky, we’ve conned someone into loving us before that happens.
For now, I tell myself to stop being such a wuss and, instead of lamenting the hazards of a single girl life, consider people who are suffering legitimate pain elsewhere in the world. I dress my inconsequential scuff marks with too-small bandaids and a tube of expired Neosporin. And then I call my mommy.