I’ve had few major injuries in my lifetime (plenty of minor ones though. Ever since I was a child I’ve been a human pinball. You might be surprised to hear it’s not as fun as actual pinball). But there was one that left its scars on me, and not the cool battle-hardened scars you hope for. These were more ‘good God, what is that Thing’ kind of scars. Too embarrassing to explain away and far too pathetic to gloat about. However, there is one good thing you can take from this account. If you want to scare someone for Halloween, this is how you paint your face.
In my first year at secondary school we had an assembly to attend before afternoon classes began. The whole school was packed into the hall as the headmaster gave his usual lectures and as usual, most of us check our watches and prayed he’d make us late for class so we wouldn’t have to work as much. But my class was a little different. We had German next and the teacher was renowned for being tough; none of us wanted to provoke any anger from her for being late, even with a legitimate excuse. So as soon as it was over, we were the first out the door while everyone else reluctantly shuffled on. Class was on the opposite end of the school so I power walked round the front and onto the field, hopping over every railing that barred my path. It was just a iron chain held up by a series of wooden spikes in the ground, but the chain drooped as low as knee height, so it was easy to leap over (I’ve noticed in my life that every time I claim something to be easy or lucky, something dreadful befalls me. I’m great at subtle foreshadowing).
On the last railing I took a running jump but misjudged the height of the railing. Mid air, my feet got tangled in the chain, cutting my momentum completely while I flailed helplessly for less than a second before falling at high speed.
I hit the road with my face.
Feet still caught in the chain, sprawled over the tarmac, blurred vision from the blow and an awful lot of blood bubbling out of my mouth. It was a great way to begin the afternoon. It hurt of course, but I couldn’t see how badly injured I was. Not until I spat blood onto the road and thought that it probably wasn’t a good sign, which helped me to consider my options. I was tempted to wipe my face on my sleeve, brush myself off and stroll into German class. I could still make it on time. But then again, my face seemed to have developed its own throbbing pulse and there was a lot of blood in my mouth. Every time I tried to talk, I ended up gurgling instead. I wavered with the first few steps forward, changed my mind and turned, only to waver again and repeat the process. After about a full minute of indecision, I decided that I probably wouldn’t be much use in German class anyway that afternoon; I was already struggling to voice English.
I wandered back to the assembly hall as half the faculty were still there, shepherding the rest of school back to their classes. I passed a couple of students who came out, and each one jumped in fright when they caught sight of me. I’m very proud to say I managed to get a stifled scream out of one of them (that’s right Boris Karloff. New kid on the block. In more ways than one I guess, but I meant competition). In the assembly hall, most of the teachers were by the doors herding students, but their backs were to me, as they chatted to each other. I zombie shuffled over and tried to get the attention of one teacher.
“Excuse me, I’ve had a bit of an accident” (what I intended to say)
“Egush mui – hoarse zombie moans – akishdent” (what I actually said)
The teacher didn’t turn around despite hearing me.
“What? Yes ok. One moment please” he said, waving a hand behind him, before continuing his conversation with the other teacher.
So I did the polite thing. I waited for him to finish his conversation. I stood behind him patiently, swaying on the spot a little because my vision was still blurred and I was feeling dizzy. The rest of the school slowly marched past, slowing even more when they caught sight of me, and falling deathly silent. So silent in fact that the teachers I was waiting for remarked on it.
“Wow they’ve gone quiet. Cheer up lads, it’s only two more periods till the end of the day”.
I held one of my hands up to collect the blood that was dripping from my mouth. For some reason I couldn’t quite close my mouth and it was very inconvenient. When I looked at my sleeve I realised my suit was smothered in mud and sticky wet leaves from my fall, which was more upsetting than the blood somehow. After all, I’ll eventually stop bleeding but there was no guarantee my suit would survive the encounter and that thing was expensive. I breathed a heavy half sob sigh when I thought about it, and the teacher waved back again and scolded me for impatience, misunderstanding the breath. After 15 minutes, the conversation finally wound down and the majority of gossiping students had dispersed. That’s when he finally turned to look at me.
“Ok, now what is – oh Jesus what happened to you!” he cried out when he saw me.
I made a few more zombie grunts at him instead of repeating what I said earlier. My mouth had swollen too much to speak coherently.
“My God, why didn’t you say anything!?” he demanded, as he gently pulled me to the office.
“Ai dish” I moaned back.
The school did not have a nurse or any kind of infirmary, so I was left sitting in reception while they called my father to come pick me up. I had an ice pack pressed into my face and at last the bleeding started to stop. I made the mistake of checking a mirror though; my bottom lip was torn down the middle, one of my teeth had been chipped, my face was covered in a beautiful pattern of cuts and grazes and I’d somehow cut the inside of my cheek. I didn’t break my nose though! (Yay. take the wins when you can). It turned out I couldn’t close my mouth completely because of my lip. Having split down the middle, along with the swelling, I had a permanent look of mild shock; the lips couldn’t press together any more.
It took about two weeks for everything to heal and for me to recover the ability to close my mouth again. I’m left with a ridiculous scar on my bottom lip and a chipped bottom tooth but aside from that I look mostly human again. At school, the gossip had sky rocketed. The two most popular theories were that I had been attacked by 4 men wielding baseball bats or that I had been hit by a car. Everyone didn’t really believe the truth of it, including my father.
“You’re not saying their names because you’re scared are you? Because I’ll kill them. You sure you weren’t beaten up?” he asked me
“No. I just tripped”
“So what you’re saying is you weren’t beaten up. You weren’t pushed. You weren’t hit by a car. You just…fell over”
“And after spending years as a child practicing judo. All those Thursday nights when I took you to practice, where you got taught how to fall safely. How to roll. How to land. After all that you forgot to put your hands out before you hit the ground?”
“And instead you broke your fall…on your face”