I’m in the bath staring down at the scar on my knee, the ugly reminder of the tumble I took on the way to my work’s Christmas party in the middle of December. I was running late, I wasn’t really looking where I was going & I was wearing a pair of ridiculous high-heeled shoes, the only pair I own, the only pair I’ve ever owned. I can’t walk in heels, but there seems to be this societal understanding that a girl who can’t walk in high heels is some sort of failure, so I bring them out to make myself a little more camouflaged at unbearable things like work Christmas parties. I didn’t really know where the party was and I guess that the moment I spotted the venue, I stopped watching where I was going, and I caught my foot on an uneven paving slab. For a moment, I’m doing a slow motion dance - I actually feel a little graceful trying to find my balance but I can see people throw out their arms at me & even though I feel like I might find my footing, they obviously see that I’m going down.
I fall on my knees and they instantly sting but I force myself not to think about them. There are five strangers standing over me trying to help me up and I’m embarrassed, not at the humiliation of my fall, but at giving them cause to step outside of their lives to take care of me. I remember that. I remember not being embarrassed at falling, though I was annoyed at myself, for wearing the heels and for not looking where I was going. I thank all the people profusely. I distinctly have the image of the three girls walking towards me just as I begin to fall, their mouths open and the middle of the three diving for me. She grabbed my arms just as my knees hit the ground. I thank them in amazement because there were five strangers near me when I fell and every single one of them stopped to check that I was okay.
I get up quicker than I would have done if there was no one there, hurry inside to the party just as they announce my name to collect my Secret Santa present. I haven’t even had time to take my coat or bag off or greet anyone. My knees are really stinging by this point and I go up to collect the gift, wondering if my right knee is bleeding, whether there’s a hole in my leggings. I take off my coat, ask for directions to the toilets and the chief executive stops me to comment that she likes my shoes. I remember that she said the same thing last year. I remember that I wore the exact same thing last year. I remember that Adam and I ballroom danced on an empty dancefloor to Fairytale in New York last year. I’d already kicked off my shoes and I danced an irish jig around him during the instrumental part in the middle.
When I get to the toilets, I check my knee and it’s bleeding quite badly. I dab at it, but I’m pretty useless, so I wash my face, apply some lipstick and head out and order a double whiskey. The night wears on, I do two rounds of karaoke, singing Fairytale in New York as loudly and obnoxiously as possible, wishing Adam was there to dance an irish jig around, before getting a taxi home, feeling drunk and unfestive.
Almost three months later, the scar is still there and I think about the lack of resilience that my body has, its inability to heal, which spurs me on to check the bruise on the knuckle I trapped in the door last week and the cut on my foot. Next I check how much my fingernails have grown recently, and then think about how long my hair feels, wet and stuck to the middle of my back. It’s the longest it’s ever been in ten years and in terrible condition. I think about how ungainly I feel, how I’m suffering my third bout of flu this winter, even though i’ve been taking multivitamins and cod liver oil. The tips of my fingers are starting to wrinkle from being in the water for too long. I take out the plug and reach for my towel. I stand in front of the mirror and stare at the blurry version of myself in the condensation. I can’t even make out my features no matter how long I stare at my face and the bathroom tiles are cold under my feet.