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Falling Down

As I lay on my back on that cold Christmas night, I watched the stars turn, a great wheel dancing and spinning, greater than I would ever be. This comforted me to no end.

I was numb, not daring to move at all. The fall I'd taken had been particularly hard, and the sharp ice that was pushing into my back no longer caused pain. I couldn't tell if it had gone through the jacket and into my back or not, and I couldn't remember where the pain had been exactly.

I only knew it had been somewhere in the center of my lower back.

I wasn't afraid to move . . . I simply watched the stars and realized that there was a chance that I wouldn't be able to. The ice was sharp, I knew, and the probable location of the ice shard was right around my spine.

So I lay there, quietly watching the stars, delaying the inevitable. Still, no fear ran through me, but I understood that this was because my toes and legs were like Schrodinger's ill-fated cats: neither alive nor dead. Until observation, neither and both were simultaneously true.

My head was resting on a sharp point of ice, and one hand began burning from where it scraped the ice when I tried to stop my fall. As feeling returned to various upper-body-parts, I waited for some signal from below my waist. Nothing came, and still there was no feeling from the shard of ice I knew I was laying on.

I looked at the stars, finally realizing that I had to move soon. Sometimes, looking into the cosmos places you more surely than looking around.

I'd fallen in the middle of an icy road.

The road wasn't busy, and I knew I probably had more time if I wanted to take that chance, but I also knew it was dark, and with the icy conditions, the moment a car comes is not the time to discover that you are totally helpless.

I took a moment and wiggled my fingers. It hurt, but everything worked. I turned my head to the left and right, checking for traffic in earnest for the first time.

Still, I did not move my legs or toes. Still, there was no fear, just realization that this would all finally collapse into one reality when I did.

There was a prayer. Silent, short, and simple.

And my toes moved.

I was exuberant, but with the joy and pleasure came a tremendous pain. I rolled over and felt my back. The jacket was not torn, but I knew now where the ice shard had hit me, and I wasn't sure if I was bleeding under my coat or not.

I reached up under and prodded my skin. Pain, but no wetness was felt. No stinging of an open wound. I felt around some more, and found a second spot that radiated the same pain. I compared these spots with my spine.

I'd landed on the ice less than an inch from my spine.

I turned to look at the offending shard, and I gasped. It hadn't been merely a small shard, broad-bladed or dully broken. It was a spike. A spike of 4 inches that was sharp, as if it had been waiting for me to fall on it. Next to it was its brother, shorter but no less sharp. I still lay in the street, staring at these spikes and feeling the pain they'd caused me, thinking about how close they had come to cracking open my spine.

A lighter jacket. An inch to the right. Holding a hot drink in my right hand. Any of these things could have done far worse to me.

I kicked both spikes down, not out of spite (I like things that remind me of my mortality in a sick, twisted way), but because someone else might have stepped in the same place, perhaps less well-dressed for the weather, perhaps during a busier time on that street, and the may never have gotten up again.

Yesterday, I lifted my shirt to show Tina the bruises. She gasped at them, and shuddered a bit. I can't see them very well, myself, but I know what they look like. I can feel them, and that gives me an amazing idea of what they look like.

And now, it hurts to sit or lie down, and it hurts to stand.

But the pain isn't that much.

It's better than not being able to feel it.

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