I trek the quarter-mile walk from the backdoor of our apartment to the steep set of concrete steps leading up to the Pavilion, where I'll swipe my key card and climb one last set of carpeted stairs to the gym. I'm faster now, on one crutch, and so it doesn't take me that long, but I'm in no hurry so time really doesn't matter. Time, in fact, has loosened its grip on me since this injury, as if severing my tendon temporarily severed me from rushing through life on the hands of a clock. I miss having at least a skeleton of a schedule, but I no longer restlessly tick away the hours of a day like I'm lost in some version of my own Twilight Zone. I lean into my crutch and I lean into the hours that stretch before me in this day, unscheduled and free of anxiety.
Through the gym doors, I enter to one solitary young man, finishing his stretch and watching the news. We acknowledge each other with nods and smiles given to strangers, and after a few moments, he points to my boot and asks, "Achilles?" I'm surprised he knows this - I wouldn't have known this if it hadn't happened to me - and ask if he's injured his before. He says no, but he thought he did last week playing basketball, but it was just a tear in his calf. His ACL, though, he's torn twice in the same leg. Knowing looks pass between us.
We talk about injuries and he comments that he thinks having these types of injuries would be good for all of us at some point. How it gave him a small taste of what it's like to be disabled, and how much more he appreciates what he's taken for granted all his life. I couldn't agree more. Our injuries can be gifts and I will recover, and I no longer treat that as something owed to me, but that, too, is gift. This stranger and I, we bond in a moment over how wounds instruct us and gratitude heals us and we are changed in the tearing and binding and recovering.
And I unstrap my boot and my one tennis shoe, lean my crutch against the equipment and swing up on the seat of the stationary bike. The sensation of socked feet against pedals, pushing in circular motion, of my tight tendon slowly releasing and lengthening, makes my heart dance a little jig. And I say thank you, in this moment, and for all the moments leading up to this one that have taught me to see and how time is not something to fight against but to lean into.
I lean a little more into the pedals and relish the stretch.
*This post is linked up with Just Write, a Tuesday writing exercise.