This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one freshman’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago, and the songs that soundtracked it. New stories are posted every Thursday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist available on Apple Music and Spotify to complement your reading and get you through the week with some new music. (Not this week, though!) This week, our columnist breaks his leg, breaks the same leg again, and considers a conspiracy theory in hopes you can learn from his mistakes.
The first week of my first semester, I did a celebratory kick at my first college party, tore a ligament, and fell in blinding, screaming agony in front of everybody. Within seconds, a circle of staring sorority girls had cleared around me as I frantically tried to pull myself off the ground to no avail. In retrospect, I probably looked hilarious, but at the time, it was no joke. I could straight up not stop screaming. Not, like, cute groaning and embarrassed smiling. No performance- dead eyes, and full-bodied shrieking. Water on the Wicked Witch of the West. Not kidding.
Perhaps even faster than the circle had formed, I was scooped into the arms of four hulking, stone-faced frat guys. Despite the fact that they held me like I was being quartered for treason, under any other circumstance this would’ve been a dream. I was promptly dropped onto the cement porch, the door firmly slammed behind me.
I was left whimpering and teary-eyed, crumpled in the fetal position beneath the first in a line to get into the party that snaked around the block. There were only four stairs to get back to street level, but the pain created tunnel vision that made the staircase warp and stretch.
It probably could not have helped that I had broken my wrist only a month before, torn clean by falling off a roof and landing on it.
I literally hobbled over to the neighboring home whispering “help me” the whole way. That’s not like, a fantasy detail. I literally did that and nobody even glanced at me, and in all honesty, I wouldn’t have either. There was no guarantee that I wasn’t some schizophrenic homeless person who had snuck into the function, other than my outfit, which, I will say, was amazing despite my misfortune.
Anyway, I called not an Uber but a Lyft, because I had five dollars to my name and Lyft gives away free rides like the clinic gives out PrEP, but it was not until I got in the car that I realized I had left my shoes at the party. Somehow.
Alejandro, the Lyft driver (who was also an Uber driver, which made me feel a little better) repeatedly asked if he should take me to the ER rather than back to my dorm. I sighed and cried and shrieked when we hit bumps in the road, but never responded to him. I literally could not focus on anything other than the pain in my leg. We arrived at the dorms, I full on fell on my hands and knees onto the sidewalk, and then it started pouring rain. I wish I was making this up.
I hobbled like the Hunchback of UIC with all of my might, but the amount of energy it took to carry the full weight of my body on one leg quickly became too much. I sat down on a park bench and allowed myself to get soaking wet, before Drunk Me decided that it was a good time to fully lay down and take a thirty minute nap in a thunderstorm with no shoes on. Still not joking.
I at some point woke up and made it to my room (campus security had about zero interest in investigating why I was walking like a hermit crab), stripped off all my clothes, and passed out immediately. I called my dad the next morning in a weak voice and said “I think I really screwed up my leg.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” he says. The insurance company laughs.
No doctor is quite able to tell me what is wrong without an MRI, but those are expensive and it’s pretty clear that something is up based on the fact that my left knee has swollen to the size of a regulation softball.
I hobbled through life for the next few months, in both a wrist and knee brace, both on the left side. Not an artistic statement, but a shartistic statement.
The second weekend of my second semester of college, I did the exact same thing again.
My friends and I had chosen to forgo a frat party for a night of getting weapons-grade shlapped and then going bowling. My relationship with Four Loko is complicated and abusive but I found myself knocking one back in twenty minutes and scraping together the $5.50 needed to rent bowling shoes and a lane. (Which is an unbelievable deal if you ask me, no promo.)
I strap on my clown shoes and get to putting everyone’s name in the computer (“Anus,” “Fat Pussy,” “Nut” and “Queefmom” to be shared across a group of eight so as to control costs) and bowl a lovely 51.
After looking the bowling alley attendant directly in the face and saying “Hello, I’m Queefmom,” I forked over the cash and joined the rest of my friends, sprinting around the building, lighting cigarettes outside, then smoking them on the way to the escalator, putting my feet up on the moving rails and simulating anal sex with my roommate as I slowly ascend.
I think I’ve always overestimated how much my body is really capable of. In my head, my movements are always fluid, beautiful, and effortless. I know that I came out of the closet at a really good time in history but sometimes I wish that it would’ve been a few years later so I would’ve been okay asking my parents for dance lessons. I am super jealous of people who are in great control of the bodies they have.
When I finally made it back up to the floor of my dorm, I drank and drank and writhed on the floor to “Like a Virgin” like all eyes were on me despite the fact that I do this every time I drink and nobody is impressed by my performance anymore.
The show made it to the hallway and I entered a frenzy of voguing- I seriously feel like I blacked out. My friend and I chanted, flicked our arms, whipped our hair and circles and kicked out legs in a stream of fluid motion until suddenly I felt something pop in my knee, and I went down again, hard.
Suddenly the chant was over and the hallway was silent. I was rolling on the floor desperate to be able to focus on anything but the pain. No screaming in Round 2, so that’s good.
My friend calls out:
“You okay?” peppered with drunken laughter.
“F**k you, you fat faggot,” I straight up say. It is really no laughing matter, but I still apologize like I accidentally murdered his firstborn. Still rolling, I feel a small crowd step over me and mumble some apologies– a fool’s errand if I’ve ever heard of one, since I was moaning and groaning like someone had opened an umbrella in my ass.
I have been hobbling about campus for the last three days, time will tell if it takes months like last time.
For those frequent readers of the column, you may make some natural assumptions about whether or not these injuries were coincidences when you notice the fact that they were at the beginning of two individual fitness kicks.
I had a resting metabolic rate test performed to preface my new dieting plan so as to stave off the freshman fifteen at the beginning of my first semester- I broke my leg, couldn’t go the gym or do much else besides study or eat. It didn’t matter that the mythology of a low metabolism and impossible health circumstances I’d created around myself turned out to be pure fiction anyway.
I downloaded apps and threw away all the junk food in my house and created a detailed plan for logging calories, food groups, and gym frequency. I booked several personal training sessions to recover from the aftermath of the first broken leg at the beginning of second semester: broke my leg again, can barely walk, not entirely confident it wouldn’t happen a third time if I attempted to run.
“You know, none of us ever see the moment when you fall and do all of this to your leg. Maybe you just make it up and act like you can’t walk so you can talk a big game and then have an excuse to not go to the gym,” my roommate posits.
“Or maybe God hates me and doesn’t want me to be happy, you ever think about that? Where’s the theory about that?“ I offer in return, shoveling Baked Lay’s down my face as though the machine that made them somehow changes anything.
I thought about it later on though, and wondered how far fetched the conspiracy theory might actually be. It’s clear that my body’s capable of some psychosomatic black magic- half the time I look in the mirror I see an unspeakably obese mammoth elephant while the other half of the time I see a uniquely rail-able prima ballerina. The way I see it, it’s not particularly unreasonable to suspect that my mind has figured out how to be in cahoots with my body in a particularly painful way to screw with me some more.
“He’s finally doing it. He’s gone to the gym the last four days in a row and he sort of liked it!!” says my brain, and the rest of my organs are totally freaking out.
“This could mean the end for me! What about sour cream and onion chips? What about soft pretzels? What about saltines? What if he starts eating salad!?” My stomach is having a hard time of it.
“He might stop smoking!” say my lungs in a chorus of emphysema.
“He might stop thinking he’s dying all the time!” says my heart.
“Duhhhh!” says my liver, if you can call it speech.
My organs agree that my brain, like, def has to do something. My brain talks to my leg and is like, dude, get super weak and break!
It did. But I still went to the gym today. I worked on arms. They didn’t put up a fight and they aren’t gonna like the change but I am the captain now.
I took a shower when I got home and I knew I didn’t eat the best today- I had a very clear and visible food baby. Normally, my mind could sneak in and make me disgusted and embarrassed. I’d feel like I wanted to rip it off like a silicon practice pregnancy belly. But instead, I looked down and laughed to myself, shaking my head and applying my hair color protective shampoo.