My face hit the pavement on Clark Street where Chinese elders were practicing tai chi. One of them stopped to help me. My earphones had skidded across the street, and I thanked him as I limped over to pick them up.
I assessed the damage: most of the skin was missing from my right elbow and my right knee was turning an unnatural shade of violet. I couldn’t see my cheek, but I picked some gravel out of it.
My only thought: How am I going to hide this from my therapist?
He’d grown quite un-fond of my running. He called it an obsession; I called it a hobby. Tomato, Tam-ah-to. I was training for my second marathon of the year, and he seemed to think I was trying to outrun demons or avoid my issues. I thought he should shut the Freud up about the running and treat my “deeper” issues.
But I’d started falling. Skinned knees. A bruised tailbone. It was getting hard to defend my “hobby” when it was costing me my epidermis. I started going through a Costco-sized box of Band-aids on a bi-monthly basis.
My tai chi fall was the worst. I actually thought I’d broken my hand, but I figured I could hide that. I’ll just stop gesturing during therapy, and he’ll never notice. The tai chi fall was also terrible timing: I was running to therapy when it happened.
When I walked in, I saw him glance at my mangled body, and then we played chicken.
I wasn’t going to bring it up. Was he? I didn’t schlep my ass to therapy to discuss flesh wounds. I wanted to talk about the deeper stuff. Like how to find my life partner and have a family before my unused eggs rotted in my body.
He, however, wanted to talk about my knee. And my elbow. When my hand started to swell up, he wanted to talk about that too.
“Are we going to talk about it?” He asked in that calm therapist-y way. Asshole.
“What?” I said, hoping that playing dumb would be a smart move.
It wasn’t. He seemed to think that something self-destructive was obviously going on. I told him he should ask for a refund from Yale Medical School because he was so off base he might get sued for mal-practice. You know, from another patient who didn’t have the tolerance for bullsh*t that I did.
“I’m not here to learn how to keep from skinning my knee,” I said. Around we went, until I looked down and saw a trail of blood snaking from my knee to my ankle, where it was absorbed into my cotton sock. Finally, I let the tears fall because I was ridiculous and I knew it. So did he.
“No more running alone. You run with other people or you don’t run at all. Period.” I knew he understood the connection between running, falling and my chronic aloneness. I didn’t. Maybe I never would. I agreed but I was fuming. I hated running with other people. I run alone.
But I started begging people to run with me. I made running dates with people I hated. I woke up at 5 AM to run with the hardcore running psychos.
I cursed my therapist every step of the way.