I fell down. It doesn’t matter how, but I ended up with two skinned knees and a patch scraped off my forearm. Embarrassing. Grimacing and feeling the tingly sting I hadn’t felt since I was young enough to run on gravel.
Even cool, clean water stung at first. The angry red patches clung tightly to the bits of dirt and I had to pour and pour until the wound dripped clean. I had a raisin-purple bruise beneath.
They gave me the day off on Monday. Rest! Get better! I stared at my joints so swollen they looked like foreign things. They were like children, crying out to be bathed and cared for. When I tried to run, I shuffled. Stubborn, the knees wouldn’t bend.
They are tiny little scrapes, really, the kind children are distracted from by popsicles. But they demand my attention, my care, and I realize how unaccustomed I am to caring for myself. Someone else always had to tell me to go home when I was sniffling. I don’t like to stop.
I get pitying glances, on the bus and in line to buy band-aids. There were gasps and hands clasped against chests. Everyone told me to buy a different cream that they swore by. They were just little scratches, a moment of clumsiness, I was embarrassed by the attention. It’s nothing, I kept saying, It’s no problem, though it stung to stand.
Cuídete! They tell me here when I leave in the morning, Take care of yourself. I think of myself, as any selfish human, but that doesn’t become care, the gentle attuned-ness to needs and inclinations.
My knees woke me up in the morning, the drying scabs pricking. How disgusting. I scooped a pailful of water from the cistern and bathed them. The red was hardening and turning a brown-maroon. I sat in bed and cleaned my knees and forearm, watched the puckered pink skin begin to emerge. I’m not used to this conversation, this asking and answering with my body: What do you need? What will make you feel better? It was a moment that surprised me – the peacefulness of self-care.
What a silly and sheepish emotion, to suddenly love my knees and care very much about what happens to them. What if this love extended to the rest of me, the parts that cry out for sleep or for vegetables, for slowing down sometimes? From my knees to the rest of me, I want to take care.