In the fifth chapter of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, THAT WAS REALLY GROSS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Trigger Warning: Just in case, I’m telling a story about a weird thing I once had pulled out of my body, so this is probably a bit gross. Medical stuff, a bit of body horror, talk of blood… I swear the end result is actually kind of cool and funny. But I’d rather be safe!
I was on tour with my hardcore band during the summer of 2006, and we happened to be playing my first – and what would be my only – hometown show. We packed into a gymnasium that had bouncy floors that was used by a local school or PE, and spent the day goofing off with friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. A couple hours before the first band went on, I decided I wanted to skateboard down to the grocery store to pick up some necessary supplies for the next leg of the trip we were facing, which started the following day. I was vegan at the time, so I took advantage of access to fresh fruits and vegetables and bulk bins when I could, so I was eager to get my hands on some food that wasn’t found in truck stop Subways.
I started skating when I was thirteen or fourteen, I’m not sure. I never got that good at it, but due to the inhuman cardio endurance I developed running cross country and track, I was always quite good at skating very, very long distances. Still, I picked up a few tricks and techniques from my much-better friends, and one of those was a defensive maneuver. Sometimes, when you’re trying a trick or to land a stairset, you know that what you’ve started is a disaster, and your best bet is to fall as safely as possible. Given that I fell a lot in high school, I learned how to bail fairly well.
However, on this blistering summer day in Riverside, I forgot that I hadn’t bailed off a board in years, and I assumed I was still good at it. Just a few minutes after leaving the venue, I was nearly hit by a woman in an SUV who clearly didn’t see me on the sidewalk. As she barreled towards me right as I crossed over a driveway, I chose to bail rather than risk getting hit by her. However, I misjudged where my leg was in space, and my knee collided directly with the edge of the curb. To date, it’s probably the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. I don’t know if y’all have ever knocked your knee or a table or something, but magnify that times a trillion, and THAT’S STILL NOT CLOSE. So I’m laying on the sidewalk, the woman doesn’t even stop to see if I’m okay or apologize for not breaking at all, and all I can think of is the fact that my cell phone is sitting on top of my guitar cab back at the venue.
It took me an hour to walk back about three blocks maximum, and when I finally showed up without any groceries, my friends and bandmates were concerned. But I felt better, the show must go on, and so I performed that night in a chair. I took a couple extra strength ibuprofen, and hoped that I could sleep it off. I truly thought that was true as we all got out our sleeping bags and fell asleep in the gym. (Hey, we were a tiny band no one knew, so we slept wherever we could.)
I woke up the next morning and couldn’t move my leg.
I don’t mean to imply that it was painful to move or that it was stiff. I could not move it at all. Now, what I’m about to tell you is foolish. I am aware of this. No one is more aware of it than I. But I had no insurance, we had a show in Bakersfield 12 hours later, and we had more dates after that. This tour was already the best thing ever, and I couldn’t bail on it. So I pressed on.
FOR THREE MORE DAYS. When I couldn’t wiggle my toes anymore, I kind of suspected that I’d made a poor decision when I had not gone to the hospital immediately. Of course, I was also literally poor, with maybe a couple hundred dollars to my name, so I figured that, like all medical decisions I’d made in the past, I would just wait it out. My bandmates forced me to go to the hospital, and to be honest, I don’t even remember what city we were in. I just remember despising the place the second I walked in. I hated the way the receptionist rolled his eyes at me when I said I didn’t have insurance. When I told him that I needed a wheelchair or crutches because the paralysis or stiffness or whatever the fuck it was had gotten to the point where I couldn’t walk, he replied with – I am not kidding – a very snappy, “Well, you can just walk down the hall and get your own if you want.”
NO I LITERALLY CANNOT, THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.
It took two hours for someone to see me, and it was unbearable waiting that long, not knowing how screwed I was and how much I was going to regret going there or regret not going to the hospital initially. So when I was finally called back for an X-ray, I was more relieved than anything else. I just wanted this to be over with. The doctors shuffled in and out, getting the wrong room, saying they needed to consult other doctors, but before long, a stuffy man in an overcoat that had a weird blue stain near the bottom shuffled in, holding my X-rays, pointing here and there, talking about my broken patella, and how I needed surgery right then and there and –
A second man burst into the room, flinging the door aside and ignoring that it slammed heavily against the wall, and his glasses were on crooked, and he raised an X-ray sheet to the sky, and the only way I could describe his face was that I was certain he had been waiting his entire career to make a dramatic entrance like this, and it was finally happening, and he shouted:
“DO NOT DO THAT SURGERY!”
Of course, no surgery had actually happened or even started to happen, and it was just me and the doctor in the room. He deflated for a second before he rushed to throw the X-ray up and point frantically at what I assumed was my knee.
“That,” he said, taking breaths in between words, “is… not… your… bone.”
Now he had me intrigued. Excuse me?
“That’s not bone in his leg. It’s something else.”
Both doctors turned to look at me with accusatory glares. What the fuck? I said. I don’t know what it is! Just get it out of me!
Have you ever had a very public exploratory surgery? Because I have. For some reason, whatever goddamn hospital thought it was great to invite half the staff and a bunch of interns into that room while they shot my leg up with lidocaine and then cut it open. While I was awake! STARING AT THE HOLE BELOW MY KNEECAP. Actually, that part was fucking cool as hell. I just wish there hadn’t been fifteen other people watching it.
So, my knee. Are you ready for this shit? When I bailed on my skateboard, I had not actually hit the curb. No, my own body traveled at such a high rate of speed that when my knee hit a tiny piece of asphalt, it became lodged in that small soft, fleshy spot below my kneecap AND MY SKIN CLOSED AROUND IT. The stiffness/paralysis? Yeah, my body started CALCIFYING AROUND THE PIECE OF ASPHALT AND ASSIMILATING IT INTO MY KNEECAP. My body is metal as fuck, y’all.
That being said, this chapter STILL IS NOT OKAY AT ALL.
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