Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To Amandita

     I rarely answer the question directly, the question that people really want to know. My mother's death, of course, devastated me, but, I am asked constantly..."what happened?" Sometimes people's reaction to my story...isn't good. I am asked outright about lawyers and money, because, everyone has a case. Or I "look so good", which I do. Or "how was I before." That one hurts. Because my philosophy is that anything that happens to me becomes a part of me. And also, because I remember "before." My mother died four months before I was hurt. Her death gave me a lot of excuses to grieve. But what I am only now grasping is how much I grieve for the girl who ran for miles with her ponytail flying. The light girl who found the ridiculousness of every situation. I remember being pain free. And I trusted myself wholeheartedly, because there was just physical fearlessness. There was no fear that I wasn't valuable. Or fear of not being able to work. I remember when being touched was so easy. Life just seems more complicated when you have to reason out how much you can do in a day. I am not a role model, I am not hurt to help people. But if I do, if I can help you see where you can go.... then I will tell my story.
     One night, I was coming home from a party I was working. An event I had done hundreds if not thousands of times. I was coming home on a sleety december day, and was dropped off on 33rd and 3rd. The train was on 34th and Broadway. I was wearing a baby blue peacoat over my tuxedo pants, and was walking. I made it to 34th and Park, right in front of my parents apartment, my old apartment. I may have been hurrying, because of the sleet and because I still couldn't walk by my parents place. It's a bad intersection, really bad. I had seen someone killed there before. I waited in front of the deli, waited for the light. I waited, and looked both ways. As I crossed, I glanced over at the cars waiting for the light. I noticed lights in the row changing. Then I realized it was a car hurtling right at me, a white SUV. In a split second, I heard a voice in my head say "jump". A voice that I listened to. As I jumped straight up, I was tossed over the hood of the car. I still feel it hitting me on the right hip. The car stopped. I was not knocked out. Oddly. But I was furious, angrier than I can ever remember. Pure rage. I yelled at the guy, told him he almost killed me, pull over. He pretended to, then started pulling away. I grabbed my cell and called my voicemail and read the licence plate number, and he saw me. And pulled to the side almost half a block away. I clearly chased him, because I remember sitting there arguing with the woman in the front seat, who told me I was making way too big a fuss and they were late for the babysitter. I told her I was calling the police. You know, all I wanted was for him to get a ticket? Standing there, in the pouring sleet, calling 911 myself. The ambulance didn't come. I saw it where I reported the accident and walked over. Cops were there. I was terrified of the lights, and finally a cop picked me up and carried me to the ambulance. He interviewed the guy who hit me before me. The paramedics were shocked, but told me I protected my head and wasn't sucked under the car. I declined the emergency room. I didn't feel hurt. The next day I felt weird. I went to my regualar doctor. He told me that if I had internal injuries, I wouldn't have made it to his office. I asked about my back. He said rest, it would be fine. Two weeks later, I was back. I couldn't move, literally. He put his hand on my back and immediately sent me for an x-ray. It felt broken. The x rays showed no fracture. But I refused to stop my life, until my entire body had locked up. I started physical therapy. It was the beginning. I did everything I was supposed to do. I worked. I ate well, drank water. And threw up almost everyday. But I kept going because I knew that once the muscles weakened, that would be it. I kept acting. I did about nine plays. My biggest accomplishment was that you couldn't tell I limped. I worked constantly on not appearing hurt. I mean, what parts are there for a girl who can't walk? About a year later, I was working another party at Avery Fisher Hall. I had the head table for a party of a thousand people. I noticed a screen set up badly, but was going to fix it on my way back. I turned to go to my table, when a felt a crack and everything went black. I remember the pain. A waiter caught me. I thank god everyday I didn't hit my head again on the marble. I remember his face and how his ams felt about me. I have no idea what his name is. He apparently sent for my captain who never checked on me. I remember the chefs laughing because it was funny. I remember calling my father and sister who tried to convince me to leave, just leave. I didn't. I couldn't figure out where I was. I talked rationally enough to file an accident report. But I got lost on my way home. I went to sleep. And when I woke up, I couldn't see. At the ER, I was told I was lucky I woke up. I knew I was in trouble. I don't remember much. I don't remember much for several years actually. I was on autopilot. As time went on, I rationalized everything to make it seem like I wasn't devastated. To make my pain invisible. I never limped. At parties, I learned that if you smile, nod, and don't speak, no one realizes you don't know what's going on around you. I cannot say that I was anyone's inspiration. My goal was to just get through each day. About a year after I hit my head, I was switched to my beloved Dr.Lim. He took one look at me, and sent me to Kessler, which is a Rehab hospital in NJ. It is the best of it's kind. I hated every minute. From the second I was greeted by a woman with no legs asking for a cigarrette to each time I was asked if I was a therapist. But that place left me determined. I met patients and I swore to myself I was not going to be one of them. I went to every therapy session. I was eventually switched out of my group and treated separately-which is actually kind've funny. Who gets kicked out of Rehab? But I refused to say in Group that I was a different person than before. Just wouldn't do it. When the therapist asked why, I told him I was the same, just add everything to my collection. After that session, and after every successful rehearsal, my therapists started lighting up every time I walked in. The other patients wondered how they could get better. I eventually gave a presentation to the therapists on modifying my life, because they had never had a patient who could break down her own plan. I never gave up. I never stopped acting, working. I never left the regular world. I wasn't brave enough to invite my fellow patients to my play... I was worried my failure would set them back. And I was right. I gave bad performances. Several. Many. But I knew if I didn't do it, I never would again. And that has been my rule. Just do it. Because I have lost everything....and gained more back. I am a deeper person. I am a more compassionate person. I maintained my presence everywhere. And I was an actress by night, patient by day at Kessler. I wish everyone could have my advantages of will, of drive, of "fuck you". Because right now, I am exactly where I should be. I will never be that girl that doesn't appreciate anything. I won't be. I have too much, and, for the first time, I am not afraid of my future, and my past is behind me. Dr.Lim, who was my confessor for every thing I did, moved to Oregon.On my last visit, he looked at me, and said that I wouldn't have recovered without my personality. I smiled. And cried my entire way home.