The story starts like this: I do not have a full-length mirror in my bedroom at home. I stand on my bed in order to cheat my half-length body into a full view of myself in a new sweater, step off my bed with great care and grace, and collapse with the weight of my body plus a few feet of momentum onto the side of my right foot. As I walk into the living room to announce, with both humor and gravitas, my injury to my mother and sister, I find that it hurts more to walk than I expected. The next morning, I call in injured to work. That night, I go to the emergency room, and they do not see anything on the X-ray.
The following afternoon, I make a visit to Wesleyan during move-in weekend (to say hello and goodbye before going abroad), during which I hitch rides when possible and forgo footwear, or plant myself in the middle of Fountain when necessary. In the near-week I spend at home, watching E! and tweeting my confusion about watching E!, my foot does not significantly improve. Operating on a hunch and maternal voodoo, my mother takes me back to the emergency room, where I experience my first real tearful reaction to the news that there is indeed a fracture. Most of this time, I have been laughing (with the occasional scrunched face of pain, or, more likely, frustration with my dramatically slowed pace). Now, I laugh through sobs and spread my splinted legs for my OB/GYN, who loves my ovaries but thinks I am a “weird girl” (Dr. Kakossian, Jan. 14, 2014).
Flash forward from the first week of September 2013 to the third week of January 2014, and I am spreading a walking-booted leg for her and she asked, “Is that the same thing as last time?” And yes, it is. I have been in a complicated long-term relationship with my broken foot since the end of August. When people see me with my boot, some ask, “What happened?” which is no sign of a healthy pairing, a fact only deepened by my foot-jerk response of, “It’s been broken for five months.”
Rather than love and hate, I measure the impact of this with laughter and tears, or jokes and an alternation of complaints and wallowing. It is absurd, of course, that such a “stupid” (Mom, Aug. 29, 2013-present) injury would have a daily effect on my life for so many days. It is not fully funny nor is it fully sad, but it has made me lose some never-have-I-evers (first broken bone) and live some ideas about disability that I had once only abstractly understood. Have I arrived at some grand conclusion, reached nirvana, learned to listen to my body and take care of myself, figured out human nature? Maybe nirvana, but I do not know how to check. Otherwise, I remain Elizabeth, who just happens to need garbage bags and duct tape for her occasional showers now.
It is not so much the foot itself, but rather the healing process that exists as an obstacle in my life. The reason it is still broken is that I was determined to not let the pain, discomfort, and general fractured nature of my bone get in the way of my European adventures. Was this stubbornness worth it? I do not know for sure, but when I look back on my trips, say, to Amsterdam, the last thing I remember is sitting by a canal and thinking that my foot might literally explode, and the first thing I remember is cheese. Now that I am back on campus, I feel blessed to have access to The Ride at all times, and I tend to agree when that access is labeled “lucky.” But of course, it is one of those so-called privileges of this disability that is only in place to get me up to speed with the comparatively able-bodied. It has been perhaps too easy to see accommodations as perks, and they will be missed.
There are many ups and downs, and I range from a senseless love of my walking boot and its stylish ability to both show off my fuzzy socks (great conversation starter) and furnish me with a cushy stool of my own at the WesWings register (also a conversation starter, though mostly about what people want to eat), to a burning hatred of the pain, the obstacles, the countless time spent on my ass, and the one-note, non-stop, insincere-sounding apologies about leaving without cleaning, all in the span of one WesWings shift. Despite silly, conflicted feelings about whether I even want to get better (I have a hard time keeping myself from walking around even in my current state, which is naturally counterproductive), I do hope that I return from the depths of my doctor’s office in Brooklyn a free-footed woman on Friday, even if that means breaking up (breaking in? bad? un-breaking up?) with my broken foot right before Valentine’s Day.
I mentioned cheese earlier. Let’s return to that, as I enumerate the people who deserve my thanks in this ordeal: my Mom, for adopting two kittens; my pals who came all the way down to Coney Island to visit during break; The Ride for taking me where I need to go, even though it is questionable that you don’t make sure we wear seat belts and that you use handheld phones to take requests; WesWings for the stool, the tolerance of my leaving early, and the nickname “Das Boot,” which means “boat” in German and should I be offended?; the people who walk with me and the people who walk ahead of me; the people who do not judge and those who react more reasonably to the origin of my injury; those who keep my foot in mind and those who make me feel less whiny by forgetting about it. Thank you to everyone, really, except for that guy on the 4 to Grand Central who looked down at my foot, up into my eyes, and did not offer me his seat. He knows what he did. It was that. He did that. Elizabeth out, damned boot.
Litvitskiy is a member of the class of 2015.