(Note: This was written before I pulled a back muscle at the beginning of a recent vacation week, leading to several days curled on the couch in a fetal position. That and my annual winter sickness are all unrelated, unless you count them toward proof that, at some point, I unknowingly broke a mirror.
All I wanted to do was pee.
When you get to be middle aged, that kind of thing becomes very important. Some people wake up at night thinking, "Did I leave the oven on?" or "Will my career ever take off?" or "Did I hear a clown in the closet?" Men over fifty wake up thinking, "Great, my bladder is full. Again."
This can be dangerous, especially if you're in that deep sleep mode. Luckily I've worked third shift for years, and gained experience in ... well, let's call it "sleep-pee". Sleep-pee people can do what I've done hundreds of times: Get out of bed, navigate the stairs, go to the bathroom, climb back up, and get into bed again, all without really waking up. It's ingrained, like a kidney stone.
But sometimes mindless habit can get you into trouble.
I was particularly sleep-pee this time, but somehow managed to make it downstairs. Yes, I hit the toilet: Despite my incompetence at sports, this is one area where I have good aim. I made it back up the stairs, or so I assume, since I really don't remember--but chances are I didn't climb up the side of the house and go through a window.
Now, my bed has been in the same spot for over twenty years. It's an air mattress, but it's set inside a frame made to hold the weight of a waterbed. The side board is very, very solid.
Sometimes I forget that.
What happened next, I'll never know for sure. Maybe my balance was effected by the sinus medication I'd been taking. Maybe I was just more asleep then usual, even for me. Maybe the dog was on the floor, and I unconsciously tried to maneuver around him. He does that.
Whatever it was, I didn't just climb into bed. Instead I drew back my right foot and slammed it forward, like Charlie Brown trying to kick that elusive football. My sleep-pee brain apparently thought I was two feet further from the bed than I was.
This, incidentally, was my right foot. Arthritis showed up there a few years ago, and my right big toe is already in pain more often than not.
This new pain was not addition: It was multiplication.
The kind of pain that comes from an attempted karate kick by someone with no knowledge of martial arts.
And my toenail ... well, you don't need to know all the details.
Emily was sound asleep, having not developed a middle-aged bladder. As I crumpled over onto the bed, I heard her murmur, "That sounds like it hurt--are you okay?"
I tried to answer, but from face down on the pillow could only make a high, wheezing sound. After about twenty minutes I was able to roll over, by which time she'd gone right back to sleep and only vaguely remembered hearing a noise.
The dog came to check on me, but didn't volunteer to help.
The next day, after seeing the black and blueness of my sleep-pee slip, I did an inventory. In addition to my foot, I'd put my hip out and pulled my lower back muscles. (Say--come to think of it, maybe there was a delayed relation.) My left shoulder and upper arm ached, probably because of windmilling on my way down. I could walk, kind of, while making a little whining sound, but I didn't really want to.
And then I healed. Okay, I'm fast forwarding, but there was some prescription pain medicine in the cabinet and, as a result, I don't remember some of the healing process.
All because my bladder was full. Again.
I know you're looking for some kind of moral to this story, but all I have is "get a bedroom on the same floor as the bathroom"--and even that didn't help me here. I suppose I could also advise you not to be middle aged.
But it beats the alternative.
"So, how close did Mark get to major injury?"
"About a foot!"