When I was a child, I frequently had a collage of bruises and cuts on my legs and arms. This is not a confession of abusive parents, but rather a statement of a ruffian childhood. I enjoyed running around barefoot (no matter what the terrain), climbing trees, wrestling with my brother and dad, and whatever else tomfoolery wild little girls engage in. Not to mention, I bruise easily.
So it wasn’t unusual for my legs to be polka-dotted in bruises and my arms to have scrapes on the elbows.
However, there was one occurrence that I specifically recall as being the worst abuse.
My mother, father, and I took a trip to Home Depot when I was about seven years old. (Oh, there have been many trips; this was just one of the times.) Father was trying to bore my mother and me to tears (a more discreet brand of abuse) by taking us through aisle after aisle of towering tool racks, searching for Kanye knows what. A light fixture? Paint rollers? A washing machine? Random boards of wood? Screwdrivers? Light bulbs? A toilet? All my prison sentences in Home Depot blend together until they make a brown canvas of mush. Regardless, we were traipsing around Home Depot until Dad loaded up the cart with some undetermined object or objects and Mom and I saw a glimpse of hope for leaving.
Naturally, there was an issue at the check out. The cashier couldn’t find a price for the thing and a search to discover the magic number ensued. (Personally, I think she was in cohorts with my father. Tortuous.) Finally, the confusion was ironed out and she allowed my dad to hand her all his money and we were free! Oh sweet liberty.
And of course then, I was thrilled to be exiting this store. And being seven years old, I was keen on physical displays of excitement. So you bet your ass I was running towards the car, running away from the beastly establishment that gobbles up happiness, running with ecstasy–until that running was suddenly interrupted.
My feet, which had previously been kicking along the pavement, were suddenly airborne behind me, and my legs, which were previously fairly vertical, were now fairly horizontal. It was a very slow moment, one of the few times the Earth has actually hesitated its rotation. The entire world waited with suspended breath for what would gradually occur, as I slowly descended, hands out, towards the parking lot ground, gravity greedily urging me to come nearer.
About ten years later, I finally hit the pavement, and my parents came running to me, careful not to make the same tripping mistake. I had landed on my hands and knees, and my parents opened the van door and helped me to sit on the floor of the van with my legs dangling from the vehicle.
“Are you okay?” “Do you need ice?” But I was numb. Both of my knees were skinned and bleeding, and the palms of my hands were red and sore. “What pain?” I asked with a snarl, and Mom and Dad looked at each other, confused, as if to communicate, “Uhh what?” My knees looked pretty gruesome, their entire surfaces now a meaty pink and red.
At that point the culprit caught my eyes: an asphalt lump in the ground with the stunted base of a pole. Perhaps a handicap sign had been there previously, but all it was now was a tripping hazard. I should have seen it, I should have known better, but it came out of nowhere, as quick and darting as a firmly planted trunk.
My dad was livid. “Why is this even here? Why didn’t they take care of this? Agh!” My mom was weeping. “I almost lost my babyyyy,” as she smothered my head with a hug. But I was stoic. The parking lot tried to bring me down today, but it couldn’t keep me down. I spit and pulled out a candy cigarette, flexing my temporary pirate tattoo on my left forearm. I could actually hear “Bad to the Bone” playing in the background, probably from another car’s radio.
Then my dad went back into the eye of the storm, Home Depot. Mom had a first aid kit in the car, so she started dabbing my knees with disinfectant. Sure, it stung, but it didn’t phase me beyond a few tears. I was rock solid.
After about ten minutes, my dad came back out to the car. “They kept apologizing, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry, sir, we didn’t know about this.’ They said they’re going to take care of it right away.” Then he asked me if I was okay, which obviously I was, but I gave a dramatic sniff and puffed out my lips a little bit. “Actually, umm… Can we go to Toys R Us?” I asked, and they knew they had to oblige, giving each other a defeated look that was well aware they were about to be played. I went home that day with a new Imaginex action figure.
A few weeks later, we returned to that dreadful Home Depot, with all my detest for it, and the asphalt lump had been obliterated, now flat pavement. We were content. Had it been someone else that tripped on it, they might not have fared so well as I did. The world is lucky I took the hit for it, and not some weak sap. I almost died that day, but death couldn’t stop me from getting the toy I wanted.