When I first moved to this small town trap in Michigan at the ripe age of ten, my first thought was, "where's all the black people?" This is not a particularly PC statement but it is true and to be honest, I have since concluded that they were smart enough to realize a place where six months are spent basically hibernating is not suitable for habitation. White people are well known for their general stupidity.
Other than the utter lack of diversity, I was apprehensive of STT (Small Town Trap), for several other reasons. The white out conditions on the highway that forced us to drive 10mph with the hazards on when we first arrived in the wee hours of the morning gave me a pretty piss poor first impression on it. I had come to visit my grandparents during two summers previously but I was oblivious of the lakeside city's vicious winter storms.
Having just left California of course made me pretty spoiled. Being able to walk to school in your uniform skort in the middle of February was fantastic.
I had absolutely no interest in going outside. Sometime shortly after moving in, I tried it at my grandparent's urging but could only be entertained by throwing snowballs at a tree for so long. Most of my time, I spent writing a novel on some family member's laptop; I had lost the notebook where my parallel dream universe story had been written so to fill the writing void I began a similar story where instead a small group of people awoke as prisoners in a different world. Bored and most likely tired of me using the laptop, my brother tried to bribe to go sledding on the hill behind our grandparent's house.
"I'll give you a quarter if you go sledding with me," he offered.
Typing away, I thought about how there was no cheap corner store for me to blow change on. "I'm writing."
"Fifty cents," he said, upping the stakes.
I stopped typing. I could always just come back to writing later. Money has always been a pretty strong motivator for me.
"Seventy five," I countered, eyeing him warily. "And just five minutes."
Tyler smiled, the grin making him actually appear his age for once and not like someone who was forced to grow up too fast. "Deal."
I had never been sledding before. To me, the whole ordeal seemed like it had a low reward/work ratio. You spend two minutes trudging up a hill to enjoy ten seconds of zipping down it. The fact that we had a water tower directly behind our house did make the whole process a lot easier.
I found that I actually really liked sledding. Most of it probably had to do with the fact that my brother seemed happier than he had in months, gleefully laughing as he pushed me down the hill, giving me a wicked running start. The adrenaline was insane, I was going faster than I ever had before and even when you fell out into a face full of snow you couldn't help but cackle wildly.
Five minutes turned into ten, then fifteen. After a while though, Tyler told me he had to go to the library. I pleaded with him to stay, "Just one more go!"
He would oblige me the first few times I asked but eventually insisted he go. When I came back inside with him, I asked my mother if I could stay out by myself for another five minutes. Just a few more slides down the hill. She judged me and looked at my brother who shrugged and left for the library.
"Fine. But come inside soon," she told me.
Thrilled, I ran back outside and climbed the hill. Three more times, I figured, and I'll go back in.
The first slide was great. Something about the wind tearing my gold hair out of my hat, the sting of the cold against my face exhilarated me like nothing else.
The second trip down the hill, I realized I had gone too close to the double fence that separated the water tower property from our neighbor's yard. I bailed out just in time to watch the little round plastic sled slam into it.
"That was close," I whispered to myself.
But I had to have one more go. I couldn't end it on a near-crash experience. This would be the slide down to top all the other slides of the day.
When I pushed off of the cold ground, I knew immediately that I shouldn't have pushed this direction. It was just like the time before except I was going much faster and as soon as I realized I was going to hit the fences and tried to bail out, it was too late.
The pain is a blur to me now. Though I can't recall the sensation exactly, I do know that nothing has ever hurt as bad before or since then in my life. It was over in maybe a minute as my brain shut it out and a stupid amount of endorphins raced through me. I would not allow myself to pass out, however, as I was out here in the cold alone.
Sending your leg through a wooden fence immediately followed by a chain link fence tops slamming my thumb in a truck door, though I have to admit the two are in the same ballpark. I screamed bloody murder, praying that someone would be walking by in the middle of winter and be curious enough to investigate.
"Help!! I think I broke my leg!!" I screeched at first. Since I was incapable of moving without blinding, searing pain tearing through me, I was pretty sure I was right. Too afraid that the ordeal of dragging myself to the house would make me pass out, I was relying on fate.
After a few minutes, my sobbing turned into a pathetic cry of, "Mommy! Please!"
I was just far away enough from the house that I doubted she could hear me but I couldn't help trying.
What was most likely five minutes but felt like an eternity made me crumble into the old, "Fire!" scream. My mother being a reasonably cynical person had once told me that people will ignore someone screaming for "help" since it might mean they'll get hurt but everyone always wants to check out a fire.
Finally, an old woman bundled up to the nines with a newspaper bag at her side discovered me. I had never been so grateful that people still read the newspaper despite the invention of the Internet. Just after she went to get my mother from the house, a group of three teenage girls crossed the hill and yelled to ask if I was okay. I told them my mother was coming and thanked them. My faith in humanity was slightly restored.
My mother had been quick to get to me. When she discovered me in my feeble state, sprawled out on the snow, she told me, "I just knew. I was already dressed, with my boots on at the door when the paper woman knocked."
"I called an ambulance already," she told me, trying to remain calm. Tyler had the van and who knows if either of my grandparents even drove. "We have to get you over by the house."
This seemed like a terrible idea to me. I protested immediately, "No. No, I can't move, I broke it. I tried."
"You have to try again, I'll help you," she choked out. She was trying not to cry, I could tell, as she looped her arm under me and helped me stand up on my good leg.
My sobbing started again as we slowly limped in the direction of the house. My mother tried so hard to be strong and optimistic, a trait I've always admired and often emulated.
"Maybe it's just a sprain," she suggested half-heartedly.
"No," I cried, the pain so intense that I could barely see. "It's not, I know it's broken."
My mother later told me she was borderline going to throw up during this whole situation. I have inherited it, the stomach churning aversion to my loved ones ever being in pain. Though I must admit, she did a pretty great job of keeping it inside.
I have no idea how long we waited outside for the ambulance or if they were waiting for us. The EMTs were very soothing and I even vaguely remember one of them cracking a joke. The oxygen mask they gave me made me calm and the pain wasn't even that bad. It was my first ambulance ride and my last since then. I can't say I've wanted one since - as fun as a $500 taxi ride sounds on paper.
When I got to the ER, we discovered that my leg was indeed broken in three places - so badly that I nearly shattered the bone in one section. I was surprised by the location of the third one - way up by my knee where I had felt no pain. The two near my ankle had been the source of all my anguish.
Disappointed by the fact that they had no red casts, I picked a purple one. The only thing that upset me more was the fact that they had cut one of my two pairs of jeans. Truth be told, though, the pain killers had really made the whole experience not so bad.
I haven't gone sledding since. The whole laying out in the freezing cold alone for somewhere between five and fifteen minutes in excruciating pain is likely the explanation for why I can't stand winter. About once a winter, I have to remind friends when they ask if I want to go sledding that breaking your leg so badly that you're stuck in a wheelchair for over a month tends to make you never want to do the thing that caused it ever again.
My mother later told me she blamed herself for what happened. She shouldn't have let me go out there alone, she should have gone with me, she should have enrolled me in school so I wouldn't have been out there in the first place. We had only moved to Michigan the week before.
So it took landing in a wheelchair to make me officially decide I didn't care for STT. It had made a terrible impression on me. In return, I made a curious impression on the students of the elementary school I started the next week thanks to the chair. My first true friend from the town once told me she could always remember the moment I wheeled into the classroom. If nothing else had come out of breaking my leg, at least I had attracted the attention of one of the nicest, smartest and best people I have ever met. Nothing is ever truly all bad.