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A Brief Meditation on Falling

Contrary to what higher-minded readers may have thought on glimpsing this post’s title, it is not about falling into Love or Crippling Depression or the Hole in the Space-Time Continuum.  No, this post is about nothing more or less than actually, physically, bodily falling down.

Like all great ideas, this post came to me through a stupidly simple human experience: on a run around my development’s bike path this afternoon, I tripped over an upgrown root in the pavement and totally ate shit.  Okay, so it’s not Newton and the apple, but you get my gist.

While icing my elbow, I began thinking back on the fall as only the over-analytical can.  Isn’t it strange how time slows to a snail’s pace in the split moment between being vertical and horizontal?  Herewith, a thought-by-thought breakdown of my split moment.

We’ll start a little ahead of the event.  Today was a rare day off from both jobs for me, as well as being gloriously warm and sunny.  Since I’d already spent 12 hours of the day sleeping and about 4 playing minesweeper and trolling Pinterest, I decided to get my butt up and go for a run.  With my sneakers laced and my limbs loosened, I headed up my street and made a crucial error in judgment: instead of taking the path to the right, as I invariably always do, I decided to mix things up a bit and go left.  This involved running headlong up an enormous hill, which made me feel very proud of myself but also likely turned my legs to the unreliable noodles they turned out to be.

Toward the end of my run, I reached one last valley and hill before my house, and decided to end strong on a sprint.  I crested down the hill and pushed my way up, ekeing out the last few strides to the pink flowery bush I’d decided would be my landmark to begin walking.  Literally two steps before reaching this bush, and no more than 20 yards from home, I passed a tree whose roots have long since created an unassuming but distinct fissure in the pavement.

Still at a full run, my foot caught this root and stole my balance.  I knew with absolute certainty that I would fall, and now had only to contend with that.  First, I took exactly two recovery steps, hoping I could regain my balance, or at least soften the blow by slowing myself down or something.  After the second step, though, it was clear my distance from the ground was shrinking, and since I remained the same size, this could mean only one thing: Defeat.

So now that the earth’s gravitational force had taken hold of me, there was need for damage control.  Many things ran through my head all at once.  Fact: I had once fallen in a pothole crossing the street in Hell’s Kitchen, taking a similar but very public fall on pavement; my hands had taken the brunt and had bled profusely, leaving me rather less than dexterous for weeks after, and looking like a suicide-watch cutter with bandages wrapped around my palms and wrists.  Another fact: Another time I had broken both bones in my left wrist, and though I think I once heard that broken bones mend stronger, I did not want to test that theory; the left wrist would be another bad one to land on.  More facts: The closer one’s face gets to pavement, the worse things are bound to get; Also, to my left was a hill that led down into a retention pond – gross.  SO, through process of elimination, and in astoundingly rapid fashion, I figured that my best bet would be to tuck and roll to the right, hoping I could get most of my body onto the grass by the moment of impact.

Once you hit, that’s when time catches back up with you.  Where everything before was extremely clear and sensical, now it all happens simultaneously in what can only be described as a jumble.  Based on my injuries, I can infer that my left hand just grazed the pavement as I pushed myself to the right, rolling onto my side and then my back.  My right leg wasn’t so lucky to make it, and scraped spectacularly from ankle to knee.  By far the majority of my bodily force came down on the side of my right elbow, based on the egg-sized purple tumor growing out of it.  Luckily (?) that portion of my body was able to catch the soil and spare me a world of hurt trying to disembed gravel from my skin.

But falling isn’t done once you fall.  Then there is the aftermath.  When I fell in the crosswalk that time, there was a huge element of visibility (Also, I suppose, danger.  One cannot afford the luxury of resting a moment in the middle of 53rd Street.)  I rapidly popped up and shouted to no one in particular that I was fine, letting out an awkward laugh to prove it.  Today, I had the good fortune to fall not on one of the many sections of the path that border the road, but on one that happens to fall among people’s backyards: so, relative obscurity.  There was at least enough solitude to lay a moment on a stranger’s lawn clutching my arm and groaning through my clenched teeth.

Now, here is a part I wonder about.  Is this something that comes with age, or is it particular to my own individual brand of heartless anti-sentimentality?  Like I said, I laughed things off when I tripped stupidly in my heels in the city.  After snapping both bones in my arm, I internalized to the point that one onlooker merely thought I was doing an impression of a hypchondriac we knew.  When I fell today, I did not cry or wail the way I might have as a child, though surely this fall hurt at least as much as those many childhood predecessors; instead I took perhaps a minute to breathe deeply before acknowledging that staying still would make me no better, picking myself up, and walking home without pomp.

Oh, and as a parting thought, let me not forget to mention that after I fell, I heard a nearby gate open, from which a neighbor undoubtedly saw me laying in the fetal position in the grass.  He said and did nothing.  When I got up and walked on, he turned unceremoniously back into his patio and closed the gate.

Don’t mind me, just enjoying this fine weather!


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