December 5, 2009
The Facebook convention of referring to oneself in the third person is endlessly amusing to me. Last night, at 6:07, I noted in my status that “Margaret Yakimoff DeAngelis has on a sparkly sweater and Christmas tree earrings and is headed to Lancaster for shopping and the presentation of a friend’s play. She will sing alone in her car to Sting’s new album, but she does not expect this Dec. 4 gallivant to change her life.”
The friend is Mitch Sommers, a Lancaster-area attorney who also has an MFA in fiction writing. We met at a writers’ workshop in 2002, and he probably read some of the earliest jottings that became the novel I am (still) working on. He was profiled recently in Lancaster Online as well as at Beth Fish Reads, where you can see a video of him reading a now-published story that I was privileged to read and remark on in draft in 2008. Last night, as part of Lancaster Arts First Friday celebration, a one-act play he has written was going to be treated to a staged reading.
My plan was to arrive in downtown Lancaster about 7:00, shop in some of the galleries that are open late on First Fridays, and then attend the reading, set to begin at 9:00. I posted the status noted above, packed up my computer, shut off the lights, and descended from my Aerie.
At the bottom of the second flight I missed a step and stumbled. I was leading with my right leg, the one with the bad knee and the less robust hip. As my right foot landed hard eight inches or so lower than it should have, my left ankle turned under me, and I heard it crack.
I sat at the bottom of the steps for a while and let the initial pain and shock subside. I picked myself up and very gingerly put my full weight down evenly distributed on both feet. That left ankle hurt, but, as a veteran of two breaks to the right ankle, one of which required surgery, I was confident that I had sustained merely a bad sprain. With some difficulty (and a determined effort of the will), I got out to my car and left for Lancaster. I even stopped for gas. And I did indeed sing along with Sting’s new album, If On a Winter’s Night . . . : “What’s left of the day is close drawn in/I speak your name as if you’d answer me,” a wistful song about loss and change.
I parked in the Central Parking Garage on Vine Street. Tha ankle had swollen some and was aching. The descent down a steep incline from the entrance between the parking garage and the Pressroom Restaurant was daunting, and I should have turned back then and there. The walk up Prince Street to King reminded me how old a city Lancaster is. When you’re not nursing a freshly-sprained ankle, you don’t mind, you really don’t notice, the uneven terrain of the brick walkways, the undulations that you have to pay close attention to lest you fall again.
It was a perfect night to be out and about in downtown Lancaster. The air was crisp but with no wind, and the energy that swirled around me was so youthful and forward-moving that I almost forgot that I was actually dragging my left foot like some mad scientist’s assistant in a horror movie. Some teenagers passed me, about a dozen of them, all of them wearing balloon antlers. That made me smile. I went into one of my favorite shops, directly across from the Pressroom. But I was disappointed and disheartened to find absolutely nothing new since I’d been there in 2007.
I wanted very much to go to a shop just a little farther up the street from the play venue called the Irish Gypsy. I’d never been there, so even if their wares had not changed in two years, they’d be new to me. I had plenty of time.
As I made my way (with difficulty, although I was trying to ignore the sensations that I was now defining as discomfort rather than pain) along King Street back to Prince, I became aware of some people coming up behind me. A man pushing a baby stroller passed me on the left, then a woman holding the hand of a boy about five. On my right I heard what would turn out to be a girl about six or seven. She was moving swiftly, skipping, actually, singing to herself and dragging the zipper of her jacket along the iron staves of the fence that enclosed a surface parking area. Clank! Clank! Clank!
I was walking close to the fence. I wanted people who were moving at a normal pace to be able to get past me. I knew that the child coming up behind me could not pass between me and the fence, and that she was probably not capable of understanding that she should slow down and move around me on the left. I started to try to move a little to the left to give her some room, but as she tried to pass me on the right she jostled me and I took another stumble, twisting further the ankle that was now throbbing. Involuntarily, I cried out.
The mother, a few steps ahead, whirled. “Catherine!” she said sharply, and drew the little girl to her side. The child looked back at me. I tried to smile. I’m sure my face looked distorted not with discomfort but with something more akin to anger.
I sat down on a bench at the corner of King and Prince. The antlered youngsters passed me again. I remembered the last time I’d been to the Pressroom, that time in 2007 when I bought silver worry bead rings at the gallery across the street. I’d been with a friend who lived in Lancaster then, two or three blocks east on King Street. We’d meet at his apartment, where I could park on the street for free. We’d walk to the places where we had lunch or dinner, and I always felt on those occasions that I was in an episode of Sex and the City. Tonight, hobbling along and scaring children, I was afraid it was more like an episode of Six Feet Under, and I should be the character about to be put “under.”
I did make one last effort to get to Mitch’s play. I walked up Prince to the Fulton Theater. The venue was in a clubhouse “just down the alley” from the Fulton. The alley by which one would reach the stage door was steeper than the ramp down from the parking garage, and I was uncertain if the staging area was down that alley or the next one. By this time I was weary, defeated, and starting to run through my mental list of people in Lancaster who could come and get me, because I didn’t think I could take another step.
I turned and started back along Prince Street to the parking garage. The gate rose for me just as the curtain was rising on the play readings.
At home I treated the sprained ankle with the usual remedies — ice and compression. I was having “reactive pain” rather than “constant pain,” confirming my diagnosis of a sprain rather than a break. (Yeah, I know. If I were playing Dr. Mom to Lynn, I’d have had her to the hospital for x-rays. All I wanted for myself was to be at home.)
Today I suffered great fatigue and depression. Positive self-talk — give this time, it will heal with rest, you have all the time in the world — is as exhausting as all the decorating and gift-wrapping and cooking that was on my agenda for today.
I signed out on Facebook last night feeling festive. The December 4 gallivant that changed my life is outlined in the piece out of the archives I’ve chosen to highlight below. Yesterday’s gave me things to think about that I had not counted on. Instead of a fabulous gift from some funky unusual shop and an opportunity to hear a fellow writer’s work in a genre I’ve never tackled, I was forced to consider the limits of my own physical abilities and ponder the ways in which my life could change. I will not say, glibly, that this one night — two hours really in which I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, followed by a day lost to the things I wanted to do — taught me anything really about what it is to be disabled, to be older and slower and out of the mainstream of life.
But it did make me think about how much living I have yet to do.
From the Archives
December 5, 2006 — The Beginning of a Great Career: The Snapper [Millersville University's student newspaper] is a typical college weekly. It covers campus events and sports, has interviews with faculty and staff, runs movie and music reviews, and letters to the editor, often from students complaining about the parking situation or the difficulty of scheduling classes. It also has staff-written opinion pieces.
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