Grumpy Old Man

Colonia Carmen is becoming my bad luck village. It’s a small community halfway between my village of Amatlan and the town of Tepoztlan, and I’ve often made it my target-point for a morning’s hike. It takes a little under an hour to get there, depending on which route I use, then I catch the combi into town. Take that, slack waistline! Thou shalt not expand; verily, thou shalt diminish, and I shall feel strong, and also smug. I have once again marched to the metalworking shop at the intersection.

Now, two months ago, I was coming home through Colonia Carmen at night, and walked close to someone’s low front wall. The dogs began barking furiously, as dogs do. I thought I moved far enough away from the wall to have gone back into ‘neutral territory,’ but the pack leader disagreed. He or she ran up and bit me in the back of the leg, leaving marks that are still visible.

Then, twelve days ago, a friend dropped me off there, before driving on to her house that lay in a different direction. “Look,” she said helpfully, “there’s a taxi waiting over there!”

But I said I’d walk, it being a nice afternoon. And walk I did, for about three hundred metres. Then, I either stepped on a fragile piece of asphalt at the side of the paved roadway, or onto a void where the asphalt had already broken away. I went straight down, scraping my hands, bruising one hip, and of course, spraining the right ankle.

Yes, it hurt.

As a kid, I often sprained ankles, at an age when I had poor coordination and was growing too fast for my joints to be strong. I did something similar two or maybe three times as an adult. But previously, the pain and swelling disappeared after three days, and in a week, I was walking normally. This time, I tore an aging ligament and the healing hasn’t happened so fast.

Wearing shoes, the sides of which rubbed against the area of the inflamed tissue on the outside of the ankle, makes things worse. It took until this past weekend for my foot to stop looking like a giant baby’s, it was so swollen, and until today for it not to produce ouch-y sensations when I got out of bed in the morning. It’ll be another week, probably longer, before I’m walking normally again.

A temporary disability is like a trailer for the actual B-movie called “Old Age.” Suddenly, I had to move slowly, so that I didn’t re-injure the ligaments. I stopped my daily trips into town so I wouldn’t have to wear shoes, and the swelling could subside. If I went to a store in the village out of necessity, I wore carpet slippers and shuffled over the cobbles.

The weekly hikes I made with friends up steep trails are postponed until the strength has come back to the foot. After the first 48 hours, the pain wasn’t intense, but it was still annoying. Having to watch every step, or making sure I didn’t bump into a rambunctious dog in the dark, became just wearing on the nerves.

Worst of all, for me, I became suddenly dependent. A friend had to pick up dogfood, since I had run low, and dogs won’t eat granola. Or, they will, but they consider it an appetizer, not food. I became anxious that my propane cylinder would empty, and I’d be unable to get it replaced when the propane truck came by, unless a neighbour could chase it down for me.

I’m compulsively independent, and I hate needing anyone else’s help. I found myself retreating into a quietly angry shell, and fantasising about what I could do if I didn’t have to sit with my leg on the table. And complaining to myself that putting said leg on said table didn’t help anyway.

Yes – you get grumpy when you have to do stuff like this, just like any old geezer. Your horizons shrink. It’s like I’m visiting myself when I’m 83, and there’s only one topic of conversation: symptoms. No anecdotes about famous people I met or interviewed for my work; no sharing of family recipes preserved for generations that produce lump-free scrambled eggs or gravy; no wisdom of the decades about how to survive … well, the decades. No, my horizons are determined by a mild degree of pain, a stern measure of self-inflicted immobility for protection against re-injury, and the knowledge that I can’t go for a long, brisk walk. Or even a short, slow one.

I don’t look forward to being old me. Almost-old, grumped-up me, is more than bad enough. I can’t wait not to be cooped up with him.

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