I loved that sound the soft pad of my finger made on the smooth glass of my device. I used to tap the send button on a text with gusto. I remember enjoying the sound design of Facebook. No one had better notification sounds than Facebook. It was like friendliness and effervescence with every notification from Messenger. Twitter did its best as well though not as friendly it managed to be important. It managed to be as close to the Ministry of Truth(#fn:1) but with a better reputation, would not have come close to describing it. I had stopped to get a few groceries before the storm hit. The constant stream of simulacrum was interrupted by the cast iron grate in the parking lot and the sudden nostalgia. I remembered a simpler time one where I was young and loved. I enjoyed the Ninja Turtles(#fn:2). They were just the right amount of weird to keep my attention and they were hero’s and so I desperately wanted them to be real. Honestly I wanted to be a mutant. I remember my parents being so delighted in me when I hopped on a storm drain’s grate and yelled into the cistern, “Ninja Turtles! Are you there?!” I was alone in that parking lot. Sure there were a few people milling about but it was late on a Thursday. So I acted a fool stood on the grate and hopped up and down letting that kid enjoy the Ninja Turtles again if just for a few minutes. Then a sound I had never heard before and the sense of falling.
It’s broke, okay it’s broke. Deep breaths, I exhaled but instead of the calm I had hoped for it came out in a agonized whimper. The broken grate laid in two pieces to either side of me. My broken leg lay underneath the foot and a half of dirty water at the bottom of the drain. It sat at an unnatural angle below my knee. I had never broken a bone before. I had made it a full thirty three years with out a broken bone. It did not hurt as bad as I had thought it would. The sky above was the grey green color of an impending downpour. “Help!” I yelled. I knew it was worthless. I had parked so far away from everyone and I could still imagine the almost empty parking lot. I groped under the water for my phone. The silt and dead leaves in the bottom of the drain spread between my fingers. I fondled them beginning to feel some distant panic suggest that I would not find it. Then its reassuring edges met my hand. I flipped the device over and realized that the grate, my leg, and the phone screen made a trio of bad circumstance. Then that grayish green threat became grayish green reality as a peel of thunder rumbled above and down into the drain and the rain began. I marveled at the oubliette that I was in. I did not know they made storm drains this deep. I stared at the grate it did not seem worn or rusted it just gave way. I watched the swirling clouds above, I observed the rain beginning to trickle in. I finally stopped ignoring my broken leg and inspected it. It was defiantly broken, but the bone had not come through the skin. A bruise was already beginning to spread out from the point of the fracture. The leg let its own peel of pain loose in a threatening throb. A threat that meant it was going to hurt much worse soon.
I held down the power button on my phone hoping that it might respond with its satisfying apple logo but I knew better. A cracked screen and water do not mix. So I yelled. I thought it might take just one person walking by. Just one person to look down and see me here and then I would be on my way to the hospital before the pain and reality of it all set in. I tried to yell over the thunder. I tried to yell over the rain. Then my leg yelled its own kind of cry. I yelled more. I yelled long enough to become aware of my own voice. I could hear the desperation in it. How long had I been yelling for help? It could not have been very long but it was long enough to realize that the only person that was going to get me out was me. The rain intensified. The sky darkened its gray green hue and I decided to call for help some more. Even though I could hear it in my voice and was repulsed by it I yelled all the louder. The rain intensified. I yelled louder. The waters spilled over the edges of the pit and I yelled louder. I yelled so loud that I could fell the hoarseness that I knew would set in a few hours from now. Then a new realization came to visit me. I looked around at this concrete cubical. Dirt, leaves, oil slick, a used diaper and various plastic bits floated along side me. I was ashamed. I knew that I was going to be the only one to get me out of here. At least anytime soon. Yet I still thought “maybe I should yell some more?”
I swallowed that shame. Maybe for the first time since I was young, much younger and less concerned with everything(#fn:3). I gathered my wits and mustered a small shred of determination. It as a dusty shred that was past its expiration date but it was mine and I stood up. For the first time since I had found myself injured I felt the injury, I mean really felt it. I felt the edged of the bone rub against muscle as gravity gently and slower than I would have liked snapped my shin back into alignment. Red pain bloomed across my nervous system, I nearly passed out. I wavered and swayed dizzily, asking God to keep me from having to catch my balance on the broken leg. I Steadied my self and waited for that fantastic pain to subside. It did not. It quit climbing in intensity but it did not descend from the peak. Oddly enough I found I had a little prick of pride in the fact that I was indeed standing. I had trouble willing myself off the couch to go to bed and yet here I was standing with a broke leg. Now what?
You really don’t realize how deep one of these cisterns are until you are standing at the bottom of one and considering getting out. The edge was not that far away. A simple hop and I would easily have my fingers on the edge. I played over in my head all the times that scoffed at my high-school classmates as they chided me for not being able to do a single pull up. They stood by and watched me, slowly shaking their head knowing that I could not pull myself out of that hole. They stood there in the shadows and watched. I weighed the situation again in my mind. Each thought was punctuated by the pain in my leg. The muscles swelled around the break. I held my phone like a totem of some world I had left behind. It was just as cold and broken as I was. The rain seemed to respond to this action by intensifying again. The sky responded with the indifference of night.
I felt ill. A whole night in this inhuman place. I was ashamed at my fear, my class mates mocked me from the walls, my leg throbbing with the pain of cold and injury, and now the most innocent(#fn:4) thought of all crept into my mind, I might die here. I jumped, I became the words saddest middle aged pogo stick and I jumped for that cursed ledge. My fingers touched the edge! Hope found its cosmic fusion in between my fingers and the pavement above. Despair was in the rain and years of physical passivity. It was only a couple of inches, but the fall was enough to topple my one good leg. I fell backward into the water. White hot, essential pain sprung from my leg and out of my mouth. It rattled my ribs and I gave way to the water. Laying there I found the water filthier than I had realized. It was not even clear. The rain did not dilute its dark olive color. The oil slick on top tried its best with its rainbow swirl but it only succeeded in further repulsion. I was this water, I was this filth. What else could I have been? I was lonely. I even glanced at my phone again(#fn:5). I was hungry but had no food. I shivered with cold and pain. I pleaded with the deep gray sky and got no reply. I rested in this disconnect and for once in many years I accepted it. I ceased to be.
The sun rose, the sky cleared, and I laid at the bottom of that pit dead. My glassy eyes were turned towards the sky, towards a promise I would never partake in again. I breathed, yes, but it was shallow and hopeless. Then in that morning sunrise the face of a fifty something man, white beard glistening along the edges as the light of morning caught his face. He looked like a man who had seen more than he had ever wanted to but had some how retained his kind eyes. His nose was too big for his face yet, it only went to enhance that present kindness. Blessed concern was written into his expression. My humanity solidified. “Hold on son we are going to get you out of there.”
* * *
1. Surely you have read 1984.[↩](#fnref:1)
2. The child, and the teenager never really leave you. They are always still there remembering the things they loved.[↩](#fnref:2)
3. You know everything. It’s the mortgage, bills, job, kids, what your parents think of you, does your breath smell .…[↩](#fnref:3)
4. There is no malice, hate, love, erotism, light, dark, good, or evil in this thought. It is as benign and placid as gravity.[↩](#fnref:4)
5. I am just as ashamed as you are.[↩](#fnref:5)