It takes a month for packages to get here. I learned this yesterday when I went to retrieve a package that I had asked Dennis to send me. A month ago, almost to the day. In it, I had asked him to put my teaching materials, poetry books, climbing shoes, and anything else he thought would be appropriate for my first care package here. So yesterday, clutching my little receipt saying I had a package to pick up, I made my way by taxi down into Centro to the main post office.
While I was thrilled to finally get this package, I was not thrilled that I had to pay for it. And it’s not like it would be ten or fifteen bucks. It was three hundred and twenty-eight bucks, the equivalent of US$160. And Dennis had already paid tons of money to send it anyway, so my paying extra for this was not fun. But definitely, I thought, worth it since I was finally getting my books and a little unexpected love from the States.
The central post office is something like a warehouse in which tons of people wait for their number to be called. In my broken Portuguese and with many apologies to the people helping me, I made my way up two flights of stairs to the area where I would pick up my package. While there, I realized that maybe the post office didn’t accept credit cards or checks, in which case I was screwed since how often do I carry around R$328 in my purse? That meant that if they only accepted cash, I would need to go back to my house, grab my money, and try to make it back by five o’clock, which I wasn’t sure was possible since it looked, as I stood in the small waiting room where chairs were set up and filled, like it would be possible.
But nonetheless, I got my package and wrote out a check for the amount required. I didn’t bother asking why I needed to pay since I was sure I wouldn’t be able to understand and also because I was just eager to find out what things Dennis had put inside for me that would constitute surprises.
The box weighed forty pounds. It was huge and cumbersome and the post office woman, who had a huge rainbow-colored tattoo of a woman on her forearm, asked me if I would be walking or going by car. When I told her I was walking and that it was only five or six blocks back to my apartment, she kind of looked at me side-long. I promised her I’d be okay.
Down the two flights of stairs I went and out onto the main street, Francisco Glicerio. Major street. Probably the equivalent of a Fifth Avenue. Loaded with people, loaded with cars, street vendors. Lots of activity. I stood on the corner and asked one of the street vendors which way the street was that I was looking for and he pointed me in the direction I was already headed. When the signal to walk changed to green, I proceeded to cross this major street. Probably a bad idea to carry a forty-pound box across a busy street because when I had crossed almost to the other side, my foot freaked out in its shoe and decided that it wanted out, that it no longer wanted to be confined in its flip-flop enclosure and that it was now or never. So, out of my shoe my foot flew, to the side, as I walked. I dropped my package, fell forward, and yelled one, loud, choice word in English that many people around the world are able to recognize.
As I fell forward, I heard my foot snap. A little crackle. A little pop, if you will. I could barely stand up, except for the fact that I knew if I didn’t, cars would hit me. Lots of people jumped to my aid, surprisingly. They started peppering me with questions, but of course I couldn’t understand them and I also couldn’t hear through the pain that was now throbbing in my foot. Embarrassment colored my face and tears welled in my eyes. Two older folks, one gentleman and one lady rushed to my side and asked me questions that I could begin to understand once I felt the eyes of most other people leave the scene. The man lifted the box and when he felt how heavy it was, asked where I was going. I told him I was going home and he shook his head “no.”
“I don’t know how to call a taxi here,” I said. The woman rubbed my arm and I stood on one foot.
“I’ll go get one for you,” he said. “If you can walk to the corner, we’ll get one there.” He carried the box to the corner, a block away, and the woman let me lean on her as we walked slowly behind the man. We talked a little bit, but because I was both embarrassed and in pain, I didn’t feel like communicating much. When we got to the corner, the man put the box down and the woman stood with me. Out of nowhere, another woman approached me and asked if I wanted water. I shook my head no and told her thank you, and then she reappeared with a stool for me to sit on while waiting for the taxi.
This whole time, even though I didn’t really care to look up or around, I was thinking how lucky I was to get help from these strangers. And thankful that I could communicate enough with them. But then I thought, when there is an emergency, when people need help, words kind of don’t matter. Actions, in this case, definitely spoke louder than words.
It continued like this all afternoon. The taxi driver brought me to my house and we entered through the ramp instead of the stairs. One of the porteros helped me walk to the elevator, and the other brought the box upstairs for me. I was so embarrassed, crying in the elevator and telling him how sorry I was. (In retrospect, I didn’t really know the words I wanted to say and couldn’t find them, which only made the situation worse.) I called my stepfather as soon as I got in. And of course, he told me that I should go to the hospital because my foot could very well be broken.
I have always wanted to break something. I know that sounds weird. But never in my life have I broken a bone. I guess my bones are pretty strong. I have also never put myself in crazy situations in which I might run the chance of breaking bones, so maybe I am just overly cautious. (I never did think, though, that simply walking across a street would be considered dangerous. But that’s just like me, I guess. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it in the dumbest possible way.) I was always jealous of the kids who got to hobble through the hallways at school, and who got people to sign their casts. My best friend, Kristie, broke both her arms when we were little and I was always so jealous of her casts. I wanted people to write on me! I always wanted the attention they got from their friends, the cool stories of how it happened–so sudden! so extreme! so painful! so full of adventure! Well, folks, it looks like Christmas came early this year.
After I called my friend, Alberto, who has a car and speaks enough English to translate for me at the hospital, he rushed me to the emergency room, in which I was the only person. You’d think, or at least I thought, that the hospital situation would be a nightmare outside of the States. It’s a nightmare IN the States, but maybe it would be worse in Brazil. Listen. When I say I was the only person there, I mean the lights were off, no television on, no music playing, janitors coming through…I was the only person there. That meant that in the matter of forty-five minutes, one hour tops, I had seen the doctor, had x-rays taken, had my cast ON, and was sitting in the wheelchair (my first time for real!!!) ready to go home.
I was also roughly R$800 less in my bank account, but that’s beside the point.
So, it turns out I’d fractured one of the “Side Foot Bones” (its precise scientific name, of course). When the doctor showed me my x-rays, instead looking for the fracture, I was thinking about which color matte and frame would coordinate best with my new orange couch to display the slides. Silver, right?
The doctor who treated me is the wife of another teacher at school. By the time Alberto arrived at my house to pick me up, my two bosses had already called him to tell him where to bring me and which doctor to see. They called while I was in the hospital itself to check in on me and one of my bosses asked if I wanted him to come down and bring money to pay for everything. When I left, I talked to my boss again, who had called to check in, and who told me that they would get me a substitute for Monday. I was home in the matter of two hours after Alberto brought me to pick up my medicine, rent a movie, and get something to eat.
My foot started to hurt after we picked out the movie. From all the hopping around I was doing, my other leg was in pain probably more than the broken foot. I couldn’t wait to get home and take the pain killer the doctor had prescribed for me. As I waited in the car for Alberto to pick up the sandwich I’d asked for, I called out to him that I wanted a beer, too. My hip throbbed. When I got home, I ripped open the box of pills and popped one in my mouth and took it with a glass of water. “I hope these drugs are strong,” I thought, and followed it with half a can of beer and my sandwich. After an hour or so, I didn’t feel much of anything since I had crashed on the couch with a movie and my computer.
My crutches were an entirely different matter, however. By the time I was done with the hospital, the place where I had to go to rent my crutches (is that even normal? to rent crutches?) was closed. So that meant I had to spend an evening sem crutches. “Fine,” I thought. “Hopping won’t be that bad.”
YO. HOPPING IS BAD. Suffice it to say, I have a newfound appreciation for three-legged dogs. Even now, after I have had my crutches for a day (I had to return the next morning to the store to rent them) my normal leg hurts from all the hopping. My gimpy leg hurts from dangling and the other one hurts from standing on it. By the time this is all said and done, I am going to have one fine half of an ass.
Showering, my doctor said, would be another matter also. I can’t get my cast wet. But we already know the issues with my shower–small, shoots water everywhere, won’t drain, basically sucks, etc. So she told me that I need to wrap it in a garbage bag. Trying to think if I have any garbage bags in my house and looking down at my thick right foot and leg, I responded, “I don’t think they make garbage bags that big here.” All the garbage bags in my house are actually just shopping bags that range in size from a pint glass to a normal plastic bag that you’d get at Stop & Shop.
But, lo and behold, I found a stash of bright blue plastic bags that I’d bought when I first moved in. They are the perfect size. So when I took my first shower on Saturday afternoon, I wrapped my leg up carefully, topped it off with Saran Wrap, and showered with my shower door open and my leg resting on top of the toilet.
Did I mention how hot I look now? Did I mention, also, that in two weeks I am going on a beach trip with the other teachers? And can you IMAGINE how hot I am going to look in a little Brazilian bikini AND with a huge stumpy right leg? Oh, baby. Look out. I will be a Hot Brazilian Guy Magnet. In fact, and no, I’m not even kidding about this, the editors from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (Swimsuit Edition, folks) have already contacted me to pose for a potential cover shot. They think the cast is the next hottest “thing” to have and in fact, I am the new “It” girl.
Listen, Michael Jackson wore the brace on his arm. Who’s to say the Thick Beige Cast isn’t the next trend in fashion?