After six weeks of increasing knee issues, I just knew crutches were in my immediate future, just dreaded it every second. I’ve been grinding my teeth and trying not to think about it, while walking carefully and avoiding sudden moves. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is the worst.
So this is how the knee drama arrived in spectacular fashion, and this is how it unfolded:
Election Day, 2012.
8 a.m -5:00 p.m.: everyone in the country nail-biting at their respective desks, playing the electoral college guessing game, guessing guessing guessing.
5:00 p.m.: I step outside to head for dinner and election returns with a crowd at Fullsteam, realize that I will perish in the sudden wintery blistering cold in my current skirt-and-tights outfit and go home to change. Rendering me late leaving Raleigh.
5:27 p.m.: I am 100% sure that, if I do not consume an ice-cold Coke, in a can, I will perish of exhaustion before I reach Durham. I pull off at the Wilco/Hess station on Capital Boulevard and am immediately ensnared in a cluster$*#$ of tangled cars. I wind my way to the back corner of the lot towards the lone parking space, and a black cat runs across my path. Shudder.
5:35 p.m.: I stop at the ATM on the way down Wade Avenue so I can pay for election beer at Fullsteam, pull out my wallet, and realize I have neither ATM card nor license, as they are both still in my jacket pocket from the Dr. Dog show last night. I have spent all but the 37 cents rattling around my car. I am also running ever-later. I decide that my friends love me enough to float me an election beer. I don’t turn around.
5:36-5:55 p.m.: It takes me this long to drive the half mile in traffic to reach I40 at rush hour on election day. I am at just over 1/4 tank. I know from experience that this will get me to Durham and back. But only just. Phone is half charged.
6:10-6:30 p.m.: I am in the wrong lane on I40 and get wedged off on Miami Boulevard. Vivid cursing. I smartphone my way there. I arrive disheveled, broke, ID-less, and 30 minutes late. Thank heavens my friends love me anyway.
6:30-8:30 p.m.: dinner and drinks with Betty, Tucker, Willow, and Julia. We are all full of news from the last few days; cancelled marathons and bandit running and misleading messages from men and housebuilding in Mexico and crazy bosses and pregnancy progress and everything else that goes on around here.
6:30-8:30 p.m.: nobody is talking about the election. Nobody can talk about the election. It is too close to call. Polls are closing. Nobody can look.
8:30 p.m.: we decide It Is Time. We walk over as a group to Fullsteam, where we will bite our nails and wring our hands and await results with the rest of the world.
8:40-9:40 p.m.: electoral college vote tallies show Romney ahead. We’re not panicked. They’ve only called a handful of states at this point; all the big ones are still a tossup; it’s just that nobody likes to see Romney ahead on anything. At least, none of the thousand-plus people packed into Fullsteam on election night in Durham.
9:40 p.m.: Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Mississippi go Romney. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, Minnesota, and New Hampshire go to Obama.
10:00 p.m.: Obama edges ahead in Florida, but it is too close to call. Obama is ahead in Ohio, and it looks solid, but nobody’s willing to call it yet. Virginia’s still a tossup.
11:00 p.m.: North Carolina falls to Romney. Booing at Fullsteam. Phone is 1/4 charged.
11:30 p.m.: The election is suddenly called for Obama. The cheers are lovely and deafening. There is screaming and embracing. Everyone is recording the moment for posterity.
11:32 p.m.: Willow climbs up on a bench to take a picture of the crowd. As soon as she takes a step up, she turns pale and says, “MY KNEE.”
11:32 p.m.: Oh have mercy. The expected knee catastrophe has arrived. Only it’s not mine. It’s Willow’s.
11:32-11:50 p.m.: We extract Willow from Fullsteam. She can’t put any weight on her knee and the situation is rapidly devolving.
11:50 p.m -2:15 a.m.: We get Willow into the back seat. Thank heavens there is always camping gear in my car, mostly because I am too lazy to make a place for it in my house. We lean her on a squishy sleeping bag, and prop her knee up with a sleeping roll, abandon her car in Durham, and Willow and I head back for Raleigh. We go back and forth about ER/no ER. By the time we get to Wade Avenue, my gas light is flashing and we are increasingly sure that ER is the best plan. They are super nice to us at the ER. Everyone in the world was watching the election, so we have a record wait of like 6 minutes before Willow is checked in and on a hospital bed. You never ever want to see your friends on a hospital bed. Unbelievably, Willow is just as cheerful on a hospital bed as she was at Fullsteam. She is unflappable.
2:25 a.m.: Willow navigates the stairs to her apartment as if she has trained on crutches. We have no keys. Nobody can find the keys. We empty her purse. We use my smartphone flashlight . No keys. It is cold. It is dark. Phone is 10% charged.
2:30 a.m.: lightbulb moment, the keys may be wedged somewhere in the back seat of my car. I investigate. They are.
2:36 a.m.: We get Willow settled but realize she has no ice. “I’ll be back in 10!” I tell her. “I have to get gas anyway.”
2:40 a.m.: I stop at the BP station and reach for my………eff it, of course I have no cash, no card, nothing that will help me get middle-of-the-night gas and a bag of ice. I inform Willow of the slight delay and go home to get my card. I begin offering prayers for all downhill travel and magic gasoline mileage extension. You can not run out of gas while someone who has just left the ER is waiting for ice.
2:50-3:00 a.m.: I ransack my house. My card is not in my jacket pocket. My card is not in my jeans. My card is not in my kitchen. My card is not in my record album bag. My card is not in my giant fringe bag. My card is not in my car.
3:05 am: I check all of those places again. Like you do.
3:07 am: cursing.
3:09 am: I check all the coats I have ever worn anywhere. Empty. And then: lightbulb again. I remember which jacket I was wearing at Dr. Dog. Which is in the other closet.
3:16 a.m.: I get two minutes’ worth of gas and ring the bell at the all-night BP window. It all looks sketchy. The clerk does not ask why I have a desperate need for middle-of-the-night ice. Phone is almost dead.
3:30 a.m.: We get Willow iced down, medicated, hydrated, and horizontal.
3:45 a.m: I am back on my own couch, blinking and dazed, contemplating that we are really never more than one tiny lost item away from complete and total failure of adulthood. Think you have it all together? Or are you one careless jacket pocket away from destitution and breakdown after an emergency room visit in the middle of the night with no ice?
3:47 a.m.: I crawl in to bed with the overriding thought: It is all going to be ok. Willow’s knee, and everyone else’s knees, and my constant state of not-enough-gas-in-the-tank-and-no-hidden-cash-in-the-glove-compartment-because-there-is-no-extra-cash-to-hide, and running behind and black cats and traffic jams and feeling rushed and late and lost.
Obama won, America. Obama won.