“I wish I could explain it, Peter. I really do. But I can’t. It’s just something that I’ve always had to deal with and if this is too much for you, then I guess it’s just better if you leave,” teary-eyed, Sandra looked into her boyfriend’s eyes for a sign of understanding. “I’m sorry, Sandra. I just can’t be with a person with such an irrational fear. I mean, who’s afraid of escalators? They are just stairs that move, for crying out loud! It may seem cold to you, but I just don’t see a future with someone who is so weak minded. I’ll see ya around,” and with that, Peter shoved his hands in his pockets and walked out of Sandra’s apartment.
Later that night, after grabbing a bite to eat and some beers with his buddies, Peter caught a cab back to his apartment. After paying the cabbie, Peter looked both ways and stepped off the curb and into the street. As he stepped down, his left shoe began to come off just as his foot hit the pavement causing Peter’s ankle to bend in a most unnatural direction. Howling in pain, Peter hopped on his right foot while grabbing his left ankle. Feeling ridiculous for injuring himself on something so benign as a curb, Peter grimaced through the pain and tried to act cool for the two pedestrians who happened to be walking by. Waving to them in an attempt at nonchalance, Peter took a few backwards steps into the street–and was hit by a yellow VW bug with daisy hubcaps.
Waking up in the hospital days later, Peter glanced around the room that was littered with bouquets of flowers, “Get Well Soon” cards, somewhat limp balloons and even a few stuffed animals. “Ahhhh, my head,” Peter groaned, reaching up he discovered that his head had been shaved and there was a large bandage covering the front of his head. Upon hearing sounds from his room, a nurse scurried in and smiled to see that he was awake. “It’s about time young man,” she said as she took his blood pressure and checked his eyes. “We weren’t sure you wanted to wake up,” the nurse continued before leaving to alert Peter’s doctor that he was awake.
“Hello, Peter, I’m Dr. Phobias. You gave us quite the scare there for a while,” said a wizened-looking man with what Peter thought was a slight Greek accent as he entered the room a few minutes later. Walking to Peter’s bedside the doctor continued, “I’m just going to run through a few tests to see if you have all of your reflexes intact as well as a few brain exercises to ensure everything is recovering from the trauma normally, sound good?”. Peter nodded and the doctor ran through several dozen tests with nothing but normal results. “Ok, Peter, now I’m going to need you to sit up and swing your legs over the edge of the bed here for one more test,” Dr. Phobias said as he patted the edge of Peter’s hospital bed.
Sitting up, Peter did as he was asked and swung his slightly weakened lower appendages over the edge and was immediately overcome with a sense of dread, panic and slight vertigo as he looked down the 3 foot distance to the floor. “What’s the matter, my boy?” the doctor asked with obvious concern. “I don’t know, I just… it’s nothing,” Peter shook his head and tried to look over the edge of his bed one more time. And, just as before, he was hit with such gripping panic at the gap of distance between himself and the floor he actually swooned. Coming to a few seconds later, Peter was forced to explain what had happened by his insistent doctor, less he be subjected to a flurry of tests and examinations.
“Ah, I’ve seen this in coma patients before. You have apparently developed an acute fear- or phobia, as a result of your accident. I want to try something if I may,” Dr. Phobias called for a nurse and a wheelchair and then asked Peter to close his eyes as they lifted him off the bed and into the chair. Wheeling Peter into an elevator, the doctor asked, “How do you feel Peter?” as they climbed to the top floor of the hospital. “I feel find, doc,” Peter answered. Arriving at their destination, Dr. Phobias wheeled Peter outside and onto the helipad and to the edge of the building, over 20 stories up. “How do you feel now, Peter?” the doctor asked again. Peter looked over the edge and replied, “Still fine, doc… what gives?”. Dr. Phobias pulled at his goatee and after thinking a minute, replied, “It appears, Peter, that you are quite terrified of very small heights. I’ve never seen this particular phobia before, but that seems to be what we are dealing with.”
The good doctor didn’t know how right he was. Peter’s new fear was debilitating. He found the most rudimentary tasks, getting out of bed, walking up or down his doorstep, taking a bath, using a stepstool, even sitting on the couch, all became practically impossible. Eventually, Peter stopped leaving his house and was forced into reclusive solitude (do you know how many curbs and steps there are out there?!?). Lying on his makeshift bed of an egg-crate and comforter, Peter dunked his spoon into the half-eaten jar of Nutella on the floor and stuffed the heaping spoonful of chocolate spread into his mouth. He had never been so depressed.
Peter’s doorbell shook him out of his reverie, and rolling out of his ‘bed’ he shuffled to the door. “Who is it?” he asked through the still closed door. “It’s Sandra, can I come in?” A familiar voice replied. Opening the door, Peter smiled sheepishly at the girl he had so harshly rejected months earlier. “I heard about your accident and just wanted to see how you were doing. I brought chicken parmesan,” she said a little awkwardly as she displayed something in a Tupperware dish.
Peter had never been so humbled. The graciousness being bestowed on him by someone he had so unfairly judged and found lacking brought tears to his eyes. “Oh Sandra, I am so sorry. I understand now. You’re not weak-minded, you’re none of the horrible things I said that day,” Peter said as he invited Sandra to come inside. “Oh I know that,” Sandra chuckled as she scooped the wonderful-smelling food onto two plates. “Come on, let’s eat. We can talk later,” Sandra said and taking both plates she walked to where the dining room table had been and sat down on the floor.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: I’m a total and complete klutz. I have been my whole life. I trip up stairs (that’s right up, just ask my college roommate) I trip down them (usually while wearing a dress), I trip over my feet, your feet, any feet… you get the picture. So today, in the parking lot as I’m walking to my car for the drive home I step off of a curb, just a regular ‘ol curb and somehow lose my shoe and twist my left ankle…bad. Of course this was done with plenty of witnesses, so despite the pain (and the instant tears) I ‘walked it off’ long enough to get to my car and gingerly climb inside where I proceeded to howl in pain and cry at how pathetic I am (more on that in a bit). For someone who trips with such frequecency, you would think I would begin to hate, maybe even fear, things like stairs and now, curbs (honestly, who twists their ankle stepping off a curb???). Then I thought it would be funny to write about someone who suffered from a phobia of ‘small heights’… meet Peter.
TWO: I am still sick. I have been sick for going on three weeks. Yes, I know, I should go see a doctor, get an antibiotic, etc. I’m working on it (says the girl who hates doctors and pills). Anywho, falling off the curb only intensified my overall pathetic existence today… so when I got home, after propping up my sore ankle, I mollified my sick and injured self with a big spoonful of Nutella. Man, I love that stuff. It’s like a warm hug by the fire on a winter’s day. Yummo.
THREE: Having been alerted that her daughter was ill (thanks Facebook) my mother was on the phone in an instant asking what was wrong and if I was taking anything and what were my symptoms. She also, as many mothers would, brought over a home cooked meal for her little girl, her version of chicken parmesan. Thank God for mothers. :o)
Love & Squirrels.