“We’re going to have to figure out a way for me to help you,” my husband says once I am home on the couch, with my cast propped on a stack of pillows.
It is not the short wrist cast I had envisioned. Rather, it begins at the shoulder, hinges at the elbow, tightens at the wrist and weighs several pounds. Beneath it, pain beats in time with my heart. But I won’t take the pills. The ones my mother took to die, the ones that took her away from me, made her mean, changed her brain. The ones my husband’s mother swallowed every day, an addiction she couldn’t shake, to all the same results. Meanness, disconnection, death. I’d rather feel the hurting, the yearning for it to stop.
Days pass, the pain subsides and the cast takes on a personality. A cumbersome agent of change. My husband brings me food, and where at first I hate that I can’t prepare it myself, count every calorie that makes its way onto the plate, there’s nothing I can do but accept my frustration and eat.
He buys stencils and stickers, and we bedazzle my plaster arm until it glitters gold. He wraps me in a rubber sleeve before every shower. He stands behind me in the mirror and I talk him through the basic anatomy of a ponytail, how to gather my hair, how to fasten it with a plastic band. He brings me reams of yellow legal pads. Within a week, I’m at my desk, cast in a sling, grateful that the fall took my left wrist rather than my right. Small mercies.
Writing longhand is slow work. But the time it takes to make a sentence produces a certain lyricism, and the plot I once resisted becomes the plot I embrace. I’m still writing, still wearing the cast, when the world goes into a lockdown.
Helplessness, uncertainty, fear. A season of loss and letting go. The calorie-counting subsides, then surges, then subsides. The virus does the same. When finally the cast comes off, my arm has the appearance of a newborn, soft and not yet of this world. Fingers free, I transcribe the novel I wrote by hand into my computer. I revise, revise again, choose words, punctuation, images with care. Here, a question mark. Here, a heart. Here, a new world for my character to walk through.
Episode is a column chronicling a moment in a writer’s life. Allie Rowbottom is the author of the novel “Aesthetica” and the family memoir “Jell-O Girls.”