I've Fallen For You

By Mike Johnson

I didn’t slam my head on the pavement to write this story, but never let a crisis go to waste.

72 hours later, I can look back through my impressive black eye and smile. But then my smile tweaks the scabbed-over facial scrapes, reminding me more healing is needed.

I took a bad step in the pre-dawn dark at an unfamiliar Airbnb. Margie had an early flight east to visit sisters and I had a 500-mile drive home. We’d tidied up the dwelling and just had to drop the trash bag in the alley container.

I opened the courtyard gate, saw the dark silhouette of the trash containers and stepped to their right.

Wham! I felt the concussion of slamming the side of my head on the pavement.

It turns out the driveway just outside the gate was sloped downward and my right foot stepped off a two-foot high curb.

I never felt the misstep or any sensation of falling. Just the sudden slam to my right temple.

My head, already six feet high, fell all of that plus two feet more, with no arms or hands breaking the fall.

I yelled “Margie!” which unexpected, from the dark, while trying to be tip-toe quiet at 5am, must’ve sounded twice as loud as it was delivered.

Sprawled on the ground, face pressed against the pavement, I must’ve taken a year off her life.

In any accident, the most surreal time is between the shock of pain and the evaluation of the injuries. I wasn’t rushing it. That driveway was as good as my bed. The world shrunk to the size of my body. Laying still felt good.

My brain inventoried body systems. But what if it was damaged? Could I trust it?

I sat up. Vision was restricted in my right eye. I felt blood on my face. My glasses were toast. It was still dark.

Margie walked me to the room. I went right to the bathroom mirror and saw the problem. I had Rocky Balboa eye. The swelling on the brow was so large it was covering half my eye.
My first thought was “Cut me, Mick.”

Margie steeled herself and walked in to look. “Oh God! OH GOD!”

This was sweet music because if you’ve already gone through the pain of injury, you certainly want it to be visually impressive.

The entire side of my face was scraped and raw. Blood was dripping from my ear. And the knot at my eyebrow was the size of a golf ball.

Now we were late. Margie drove to the airport as I applied ice and gained equilibrium. Other than the renovation to my appearance, I felt good enough to drive. An eye and a half, amplified by the now-MacGyvered glasses, was safe enough. She caught her flight and I hit the road home.

I soon learned a humorous benefit to any shocking facial injury. People give you space. Not because they are being kind, but because they are scared. You look like you just beat a dozen guards, escaped Shawshank and are looking for a car to jack.

I walked into McDonald’s. A big black guy and I approached the lone cashier at the same time.

“Go ahead,” I said.

“No. YOU go ahead!”

As a skinny old guy, I found that deliciously funny. That black eye gave me street cred. So this is what life would’ve been like if I'd been big and muscular.

I arrived safely back in Wapiti. Our kids called to check in -- and coyly ask lucidity questions. I was mentally intact, but worried if I muffed an answer, they might put me in a home. Then they cajoled me to go to the emergency room for scans to look for any hidden injuries. I humored them and reported the clear results.

I also told them my brain scan required linking two imagers together to capture the entire organ. They still don't get the big brain thing.

The most disconcerting part of this entire accident is the missing second. The incident went from normal to faceplant with nothing in between.

As I reflect, I realize people can die from such falls.

Maybe a guardian angel stepped in. Maybe she slowed me just enough. Maybe that one second memory had to be erased to hide her actions.

I choose to think so.


Update: Two weeks later, after wrist pain never improved, the doctor found a small wrist fracture. The removable cast isolates and immobalizes my left thumb. It's amazing how many simple tasks require both thumbs!


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