The thing about wearing a cast is that everybody sees it as an invitation to tell you about the time that they had a cast.
Which I don’t mind; it’s more of a self-inside-joke. Whenever someone starts a sentence with, “I remember when I had a cast…” or, “I was on crutches not too long ago…” I exchange an internal sideways glance and “oh, here we go again!” smiling eye roll with myself.
Some of the stories are pretty entertaining (I once met a girl who broke her wrist doing the Dougie at a wedding). Some of them are predictable (sports injury, torn ACL). Some are surprisingly mundane (the amount of people that have broken a bone while walking up the stairs or tripping over a crack in the sidewalk is astounding).
People also seem to feel much more comfortable talking to someone with a cast. I guess when I have two normal feet, I’m just too intimidating.
So it certainly didn’t surprise me when one day, while waiting at the bus transfer station to go home, a man looked at my cast and came to sit down next to me.
He was about mid-fifties, with tattered clothes, bloodshot eyes, and skin reeking of stale booze. He pointed to my foot and told me how similar we were.
Very few homeless people have ever told me that.
I asked him why he thought so, and he told me that he had just gotten out of the hospital for a foot injury.
Sideways glance, smiling eye roll.
I asked him what happened (knowing he would tell me either way). He said that, for some reason, his right foot had suddenly become numb from the ankle down five months ago, so he basically walked around with a dead foot.
He said that the hospital wasn’t able to help, and they sent him home after a few days, saying that it would probably get better eventually.
He then went on to tell me about the hardships of having an unusable foot; about the times that he tripped over it from walking too fast, the injuries he had sustained, and the emotional turmoil that resulted.
Yup, we’re like twins.
The good news is, in case anybody was wondering, his doctors did help him order some new orthopaedic shoes that would help him walk more smoothly and avoid falling altogether.
He then told me that he couldn’t afford crutches, but asked if he could borrow one of mine.
How convenient that the bus pulled up at that very moment…