I was six. It was snowing, my parents were buying plane tickets in a time where you had to go to the airport in order to make the purchase. We didn’t have internet back then. It was snowing and I went to a friend’s house, whom shall be given a fake name: Tom. Tom and his sister, Megan (also a fake name), had a nice house next to the highway. There was snow, we were sledding, and there was an overpass we could sled next to. It created a cute little slope, but nothing real exciting even for my six year old mind. However, there was another challenge they did regularly, though it had been forbidden. Even before we left the house, Tom and Megan’s mother said, “Don’t sled under the overpass.”
Megan commented, “Why don’t we sled under the highway?” There was a guardrail at the bottom of the ramp. That’s why.
I spoke up all too quietly, “Your mom said we shouldn’t.” Megan was older, decent looking. I wouldn’t say smoking hot by any means, but she had a look about her. In truth, not really. There was no attraction aside from she was an older woman and I was starting to sound like a sniveling child.
“It’ll be fine,” she retorted. “Just duck and you’ll be okay.”
I fought tooth and nail that this was a bad idea, all the while following them up to the top of the concrete ramp, an eternal sledding ground filled with danger at the bottom. Finally Tom said, “It’ll be fine. We do it all the time.”
The actual words elude me, likely due to what happened next, but I thought something along the lines of “I’m screwed.” It wasn’t quite that as I wouldn’t know the phrase at that age, but something similar. I gave in to peer pressure.
Tom got on the sled in front, I was in the back. He ducked down immediately, where I froze. I wonder what it looked like to Megan, still at the top of the ramp, watching this child at the age of six. She watched as I couldn’t get my wits about me, I could only stare in utter horror as we hurdled towards this metal beam. There was that feeling of metal against my nose. Doctors would say later I must have started to look away. I don’t remember. It’s just black. Then Megan and Tom were over me, waking me up. My eyes stung with tears which were trying to freeze in the cold winter winds. There was a warmth though, gushing down my face. My nose was bleeding. Not just the nostrils but there was a gash across the bridge of my nose, a portal to the black abyss which oozed blood. I was told the gash was just a great nothing.
Hobbling to the house, I remember being unable to see much aside from the trail of crimson I dripped behind me. Soon I was inside, the mother was hysterical. It wasn’t long before there was gauze up my nose and orange juice in my hand. “It’s not that bad,” the mother said. She then did what she could to contact my parents. Mom and dad didn’t end up buying the plane tickets, but rushed to my friend’s house to pick me up. By mom and dad’s reaction, it was that bad.
We rushed to Children’s Hospital. With the regularity my brothers had visited, I only visited twice. This was my first time. We were popping a cherry of terror: getting rushed to the hospital. The nurse was nice. She was cute. I don’t exactly remember what she looked like, but I remember she was a looker to my six year old mind. These habits and temptations start young. She looked over the counter at me, “Oh, what happened to you.”
“I hit something.”
“Sweetie, I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s get you checked in.” They took my information, mom and dad hastily filling out form after form. The nurse removed the gauze from my nose. “It looks like the bleeding stopped, at least.”
I smiled, “So I can go home now?”
“Aren’t you precious, you little joker.” Joker? This wasn’t a joke. I want out. I want freedom. I want to go home. I do not want to proceed into the waiting room to see what damage had been done to my nose. If there’s no blood, how could there be any damage at all?! “It could be broken. We’ll need to have a doctor look at it.”
She lied. It wasn’t broken. A break is clean, simple, easy to fix. You don’t need a nose cast or reconstructive surgery for a break. The cartilage in my nose exploded. Pieces floated about where once there was a single entity. I went under for six hours. I didn’t get brought back because the surgery was done, either. I was brought back because the doctors had reconstructed my nose to the best of their ability within a safe time frame. Any longer and my little body may have drifted away, becoming one with the ether I was inhaling. Pear scented they told me. It’s all in my head, I found out later.
I awoke to six nurses hovering over me. This was heaven. Sure the Muslims were given 70, but I would take six. I was young and had some learning to do anyway. Then there were three. The room was spinning. Had it always been spinning? Then there was one, the room was stabilizing, and I, with my horrible motion sickness, started to feel ill. I didn’t vomit: I held it in to look like a man. One nurse was still better than none. There were words exchanged, I don’t remember what. I was floating, more or less, in my hospital bed.
On our way home mom and dad stopped at Toys R Us. “We’re getting you a surprise.” I couldn’t do any physical activities. There was a cast on my nose a half inch thick. I looked as if my nose had fallen off and this replaced it. But mom and dad were getting me something from Toys R Us. It was worth it, right?
When dad came back he had an NES. It was my first brush with video games, a love I would embrace wholly for decades to come. I slept in the living room, near it, playing it at whim. It was like a week long slumber party in my own house.
The stitches were painful to have removed. I still have the scar, and within the last year it aches with severe weather changes. In the future, when I can tell weather due to the ache, I’ll tell people, “I’ve got a nose for those thing.” There were other epiphanies as I got older. I should be dead. There were so many ways that beam should have killed me. My nose should have had a clean snap, the cartilage plunging through my skull into gray matter. With the force of impact, the shards of cartilage should have acted like shrapnel straight through my brain, a shotgun blast to the head. They say I tilted my head just enough to avoid this. That I was lucky it didn’t snap clean, but shattered. When I was six, I should have died. By all logic and explanation, I should have died. On that day, though my inability to avoid peer pressure nearly killed me, I can only imagine it was God who saved me. For better or worse, the past 22 years shouldn’t have happened, but here they are, and here I am, and only God’s grace had given those 22 years to me. For better or worse.