The West Coast 2.0 – The foot, the bear and all the despair


July 3, 2013

“Sir, as a part of the security check, I
will have to frisk you. I will run my hands over your body and I will approach
sensitive areas with back of my palm. If at any point you find it
uncomfortable, please speak up. You can choose to have a private screening or
we can do it here” said the police officer in the most monotonous voice
possible.

“Here is fine” I replied, impatient
and annoyed. And of course in immense pain.

“I will keep your crutches aside for a
minute if that is okay with you”

“Yeah that’s fine”

I was almost losing my frame of reference with
things around me. In the last few days, a lot had changed in a very short time.
I was still trying to make sense of everything good and bad that happened. I
wasn’t even sure why exactly was I at the JFK airport at 5am on a wheelchair
with a fractured foot.

Too busy contemplating what was coming next; I
didn’t even realize the check was over. I had the most strange, cold faces
around me. They were all looking down at me: some with sympathy, some with
curiosity and others with sheer indifference. I was definitely not helping them
through the start of their day making them go out of their routine for security
measures. Not my fault though.

As the officer moved out of my way, beyond the
line of people, I saw a very familiar face, whom I believed had already left.
But he was right there, smiling and waving, standing as close he could to the
security check border. Overwhelmed for a second, I took a deep breath smiled
and waved back. The wheelchair assistant began to maneuver me towards the
elevator. I tried to keep my eye contact for as long as I could. As the
elevator doors shut, I knew I was on my own now.

In an ideal situation, all this would have been
a matter of few minutes. But as things turned out, every minute for me was like
an hour sitting by the gate. Boarding was still an hour (real time hour!) away.
I looked around for things to distract me. I remembered I had forgotten to take
my travel pillow. I saw one on sale at a newsstand. I couldn’t muster enough
courage or energy to walk to it.

Never in so many years had I felt this sense of
disability and dependency. This weird sensation was slowly sinking in, of
having lost control over a major part of my body and life. And I knew, I had a
long way to go from there. The airline staff needed to move the chair I was
sitting in. As I tried to get up, I almost toppled. The guy on duty at the gate
ran to hold me. Luckily I gained my balance again. People around me quickly
reshuffled and gave me a seat nearby. I moved to the seat, smiling and thanking
everyone for their help. Inside, I wanted to just scream. The otherwise
absolutely mundane world had suddenly become a scary dark lonely place. It is
funny what your mind can do to you at times.

Few days earlier


Zach and I always have this habit of fooling
around while walking on the streets. If he were walking in front of me, I would
hold his backpack and pull him aside. He would do the same if I were in front.
Like a couple of stupid 6year olds, we were playing this game while Orso and
Dan were busy talking serious stuff. We were on our way to the West 4th St.
station to catch the A train to Far Rockaway beach. After almost a month of
crazy hard work, this was our moment of celebration. I had just bought these
weird flip-flops and for $24.99 they were not at all comfortable. It was
already past 3pm and we still had an hour of train ride.




We began descending down the staircase of West
4th St subway in high spirits of getting closer to the sand, the sun
and the sea. Almost at the end of the staircase, I felt a pop in my right knee. 


My right kneecap has always had this problem of slipping off its position
resulting in immense pain and immediate body reflex to straighten out my leg in
order to bring back the cap to its normal position. Most of the times, I escape
any serious injury when this happens. This was not one of those times. 


Due to the reflex of my body to straighten out my leg while still midway bent,
I swung around on the left foot that remained jammed on the stair because of
the flip-flops. As a result, all my body weight shifted to my left foot and I
spun around while my ankle remained lodged on the stair, unable to turn with my
body. I fell on the ground, on my hands without hitting anything else while my
left foot still on that stair in that same position. 


Everyone around me grabbed me, trying to help me get up. I heard Dan and Orso
ask me “Man, are you okay?” I opened my eyes and saw my sunglasses on
the floor with people still walking by. I managed to grab them and asked Orso
to hold on to them. They are a precious gift and broken sunglasses with a
broken foot would have been a little too much to take. 


Completely surprised, Orso just grabbed the sunglasses still wondering if I was
okay or I hit my head somewhere. Very carefully, I got up to my feet. I had
lost all sensation in my left foot by now. I dragged myself to nearby stairs
and sat there. I wanted to throw up. I was in a state of trance, half aware,
half unconscious, and barely able to speak or keep myself still. The pain in my
foot was now growing and it was sickening but absolutely familiar. 


Shit. Shit. SHIT. I had just fractured my foot. 


Moments later, i felt ice. Apparently, Orso made a run to the nearby pharmacy
and grabbed a big pack of ice. It was definitely soothing, but not enough to
make me calm down. I was extremely uneasy. 


One thing that I could think of was that I was glad I had Orso and Zach with
me. For I could probably lose my senses without being scared of anything. I was
in safe hands. Without wasting any time, they took a decision that I needed to
be taken to a hospital a.s.a.p. My foot had already swollen up to three times
the normal.


At the Beth Israel Medical Center, the next big question turned out to be where
could one find a wheelchair? While Zach held me, Orso ran to the emergency room
to get a wheelchair. Meanwhile, a lady passing by pointed out to a wheelchair
right by the entrance door. Dan got it and I sat in it. As Zach began to take
me towards emergency, Orso emerged with a Radiology wheelchair, running towards
us. His face, happy and grinning like he just found the biggest treasure of the
world. I am not going to forget that face for the rest of my life.  For a
moment I thought, Zach and Orso were going to joust. 


The next 6hours went past waiting. Only one could go with me and Zach chose to
go. I must say that was the slowest ER department ever seen. I am sure they did
not find my injury serious enough to run around crazy. Still, I expected a
little more concern. 


“Your name should now be Himancast! Since you have a cast instead of a
shoe!” was Zach’s idea to cheer me up. He continued to laugh and I knew
there was more. After much insisting, he blabbered “And if they choose to
amputate then your name can just be Himan.” I could have cracked open him
skull for that one. But then, a part of me was already laughing on it. 


“Okay we got the X-Ray and CT scans. Not good. A lot of stuff is broken.
Are you sure you slipped on the last few stairs? This seems like you fell from
two floors”


I wanted to thank the doctor for scaring the hell out of me. Meanwhile, Orso
being Orso broke into the hospital area secretly. He even took a picture of the
security guards as he sneaked past them. I was not surprised. His cheerful face
was anytime more welcoming than that of a pessimistic doctor. 


“I am going to put a temporary cast. You will be given a couple of strong
dozes of painkiller. You must consult our orthopedic surgeon in the coming week
for a proper treatment. What we are doing is just to keep you comfortable for
next few days till you see him. But I tell you, this does not look good.”


And came an injection shoved straight in my thigh. HOLY MOTHER OF…..!!!
AAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHHH! That almost killed me. I could feel the medicine slowly
flowing through me. 


Okay, that was the lamest injury ever. Did I fall off a couple of floors while
taking this amazing cool shot? NO. Was I saving somebody? Fighting crime? I
mean I have lifted heavy ass dollies on the narrowest staircases without even a
scratch. Have had so many narrow escapes from very dangerous adventures (Zach,
remember the cycling adventure at your place?). And then I fall off the second
last stair and fracture my ankle. So not cool. I find that really disappointing
and in a way, God’s joke on me. I could hear him laugh his ass off somewhere
close.

The cabin crew welcomed me smiling as I dragged
myself towards my seat.

“Oh…how did that happen? You don’t even
seem to have gotten used to of the crutches”

That was indeed true. I still sucked at walking
with those things. I smiled at her and told her my lame story. At this point, I
did consider the possibility of coming up with a very interesting story that
people would find more exciting. However, that seemed too much of work.

Settled in my window seat, I felt a little
relaxed even though my foot was swollen and hurting.

“I can take those and keep them up here. If
you need them, just call for assistance and we will give them back to you”
asked one of the hostesses. I was holding on to my crutches like they were the
most precious things I had. Technically speaking, they were. I thought for a
moment then gave it to her.

Even though I have a decent experience of leg
injuries, I had never travelled all by myself with one in an alien land. And I
was freaked out at the amount of struggle a person with crutches has to undergo
in a public place to even do the simplest things in life – PEEING! I had
decided I was not going to drink anything on the plane. I could not afford to use
the plane restroom. I would be doomed if the plane lurched while I was in there
and there was no Orso around.

Not having slept at all in last 24hours finally
got on to me. I was glad to slowly pass out as the plane raised its nose.





Once home, the reality hit me and pretty hard.
I had to leave for LA to shoot Sai’s film on July 3rd. My first instinct was to
call Sai and tell him. Not only was I about break hell on him and his project,
I could also see all my commitments for the next two months going for a toss.
No more edit lab job meant no more money. I still had a day of shoot for Orso’s
Favorite Things. That too, a very intense, handheld shoot day. I was also
supposed to shoot Azaan’s thesis, edit Stefano’s project. The fact that I could
not walk meant I was pretty much good for nothing.


If my injury were as serious as the doctor told me so, it would also make sense
for me to go back to India and get my treatment there. Which meant bidding
farewell to New York and all the people here two months earlier than planned.
Not to say, the last thing I wanted to do was to go back to India in a broken
condition. Not the best of the sight for my parents. 


Wow. Every minute that I spent thinking, life began to lose its color. I was in
bed with a broken foot. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help. Water,
food or anything I needed had to come to me now. And guess what? Mom was not
here. I had no idea how I was going to manage my life now. 


“May be..I should just call it off and go back home” were my thoughts
when…

“Hey man…so…I am going to take a shower. Here is pen and paper. Write
all the foods you like. ALL OF IT!”


For a moment I felt like being an adult about it and not write anything. I
wanted to convince Orso that “I am fine and I don’t need all
that….” The hell I was fine. I began scribbling. By the time he came
back, almost a full page of stuff from Oreos to Dorritos was in there. 


“And yeah, order the biggest and most awesome pizza that you can possibly
find. I will be right back” 


“But…”


“No buts bitch! You are sick…”


I gave him an angry look.


“Okay not sick…broken…and broken people just relax and eat. Don’t
worry, everything will be alright.”


I knew life was going to be tough ahead. But this was definitely a good start.
My room was full of food. There was a big box of Fruity Pebbles and every kind
of chips and dips, boxes of muffins and cakes. There was more stuff than I had
written in the list. But then he has always been a cheater that ways.


My doctor’s appointment was two days away.
And I had the following scenarios:


1. If my foot turned out to be a very serious injury and needed surgery and
stuff, I would go back to India immediately. Good-bye New York. It was a
pleasure. 


2. If my foot didn’t need surgery but was still serious enough to not be able
to travel, I would have to cancel my LA trip and stay in New York. This option
had its consequences. Good-bye Color of War. 


3. If my foot wasn’t seriously injured and I was allowed to travel, then I
would catch the flight to LA (supposedly the next morning from the doctor’s
appointment).


So, the next two days were amazingly hard to pass given all the contemplation
going on in my head as to what it would turn out to be. The pros and cons for
each of these possibilities, what would I lose; there was not much to gain
anyways.


However, I never missed mom again (at least for next few days). Or anybody for
that matter. I had my whole family and friends, right next to me, all combined
into this one blonde Italian guy. Oh, he’s not naturally blonde, just lost a
bet! Ha! He did turn out to be a pain in the ass sometimes because of all the fun
he made of me. And that smartass always kept a safe distance from me and made
sure I did not have stuff to throw at him. 




Having grown up as a single child, I definitely did not know the good and the
bad of having siblings. I had cousins so I had a vague idea. My friends who
have siblings always told me all sorts of possible fights you can have and how
I was a lucky guy to not have to share everything. But to have a selfless
little brother was a feeling unknown to me until now.
The difference between mom and rest of the
world is you don’t have to tell her what you need or want. She knows it.
Considering that, Orso was doing a fabulous job. Not only just food. He just
somehow understood what might be the next best thing to do to help me stay
comfortable and distracted. Of course, he fed me and fed and fed me some more.
He almost never left me alone. Except for when he had to talk to his
girlfriend. That shit is necessary. I give that to him.  
He was also working on his application for BFA.
So he had to make frequent trips to the school. For few hours that he HAD to go,
he would check in every now and then to make sure I was fine and alive. He
would bring everything around my bed so that I could reach those muffins or
cookies or water whenever I needed. He would give me his laptop and I had a
spree time watching old Cartoon Network shows on Netflix, Courage being the
favorite one.
“You wanna use the bathroom?” would be his
first words upon his return. Like he was wondering how long it had been since
he left me. It was really interesting for me to notice how spontaneously and
naturally all those thoughts and gestures came to him.
I didn’t know shit about walking on crutches.
And Orso just made it easy. He would hold me up on my left shoulder making it
unnecessary to use my left crutch. Just the right one to hop. He found it
faster and safer. It definitely was. However, I am sure I was not the lightest
of the creatures. All my trips to the toilet became a collaborated effort –
comfortable and easy.
People help you because they need something in
return. Or they help you if they are tied in some natural or social bond with
you, which entails that they have to help you irrespective of their
willingness. And then people help you because they want to, because they care.
And when they help because they care, you don’t feel burdened by their help.
They don’t let you feel you owe them. And then everything becomes easier for
the one being helped. He can breathe easy. What it also leads to is
strengthening of the bond between the two.
Not even once did I feel a sense of
embarrassment or awkwardness. It was like Orso had always been with me.
One night, he went to get my medicines at
around 10pm. I dozed off and woke up to find him return.
“I couldn’t find one of the medicines. It’s not
available anywhere”
I assumed he came back from Hoboken CVS. I
looked at the watch and it was 4:30am.
“Where all have your been bitch?”
“CVS in Hoboken didn’t have them so I went to
Manhattan. All across 14th street till first avenue. None of the
pharmacies had it. I am sorry man. I will find it tomorrow. I was trying to
hurry up because I didn’t want your pain to start again. But couldn’t find it”
I was amazed. This kid was running around the
whole of Manhattan on foot all the night looking for this painkiller? I felt so
much guilty. It is all about the choices you make. He could have just left me
at the hospital saying “Sorry about this man. Hope you feel better. Lemme know
if you need something.” Instead he chose the harder path. What could have
possibly made him do that? There is definitely hope in the world. ‘Selfless’
had a new meaning for me now. So did “brother”.
“Come on man…you didn’t have to run around the
city. It’s fine. Go sleep”
And like a baby he passed out. I kept looking
at him for a while surprised at how life turns out. Little did I know that the
kid who accidentally kicked his station in the edit lab and was freaking out
would be like my guardian angel one day? Orso means bear in Italian. How
ironic. I doubt bears do stuff like this. I could not have done without this
bear.


 “Your
fracture, my friend, is not a big deal. It should heal in about 6-8weeks. We
will get you a cast. And you should be fine” announced Dr. Miyakaza.
For a moment I could not believe what I heard.
“Doc, I need to travel to LA for a project. Do
you think I can?”
“Ahh…yes, you can. I am only scared if you
develop cramps. But you can avoid it by constantly exercising your foot, drink
a lot of water and juices. You should ideally be fine.”
I looked at Orso. He gave me a reassuring nod.
I smiled.
There it was. Option 3. I was going to LA. That
was such a relief. Then the painful long walk to the street from the doc’s room
made me think otherwise. Walking on crutches is not only tiring but also really
frigging difficult. Every now and then I lost my balance.
“Take your time bitch. No hurry” laughed Orso
walking by me.
The rest of the day went in packing and
preparing. Orso made a deal with me. If I edited the trailer for Favorite
Things, he would pack all my stuff. I know he would have done it anyways but to
contribute in some way was more comforting for me. He did all my laundry,
cleaned my room and packed all of his stuff. I felt really sad at this part. To
see him pack and take away everything that was his. He had been living with me
for almost a month now and I had gotten so used it. But it was necessary as I
was subletting my room to another guy and the room had to be clean as new.
We had dinner from Johnny Rockets as a
celebration to the fact that I was going to LA. And Orso bought some super cool
t-shirts for me. One had a bear on it wearing exact same sunglasses as he has.
I had to leave for the airport by 4:30am. It
was already 3:15am and we had just finished the trailer edit. I switched to
color correction and realized the program was behaving weird. After futile
struggling for half an hour, I had to give up. My foot had begun to hurt from
sitting for a long time. I was getting anxious as the time to leave was coming
closer. All this with my computer misbehaving made it impossible to
concentrate.
“I can’t do this. I am sorry. It’s not working”
“It’s fine man. We can upload it without color
correction” Orso suggested but I could sense the disappointment in his voice.
He was really excited and keen on releasing it before I left. I was the one who
had promised him that it would not take me long to color correct. I felt my
failure. Especially after all that he had been doing, this was the least I
could do. I had to do something.
A brain spark struck me. I copied the trailer
from his hard drive to my computer.
“I am taking my computer with me. I will work
on it as soon as I reach LA”
“No man. Don’t worry. You don’t have to. It’s
fine. Don’t carry your computer just because of this. Specially not in this
condition”
I gave him a stern look and he knew I was
taking the computer no matter what. He packed it for me. We were giving the
final touches to my packing when the cab guy called. Time to go.
My ride to airport was hardly 15mins. Orso took
a nap in that time. I was wide-awake. It occurred to me I was so not prepared
for this. I was heading to LA to shoot a film when I can’t even stand properly.
I wasn’t even sure if I would be more of an asset or a liability on the set of
Color of War. I realized I had suddenly become such a big responsibility. Sai
has a million other responsibilities to take care of. I know how crazy
filmmaking can get. And adding stuff like feeding me, taking me to the toilet,
helping me walk around etc. to all that madness seemed so unfair. I wasn’t even
sure if Sai understood properly my condition and was even mentally prepared to
deal with what was coming his way.
Last few days seemed so easy because I had
somebody giving his 200% attention just to my wellbeing. That was definitely
not going to happen in LA. And in all this, I was supposed to shoot a film. I
couldn’t think of anything even remotely connected to cinematography at that
point. I couldn’t even recall scenes or shots. I was blank.
Orso was surprised at how fast we reached
airport. I got out of the car. He took out the luggage. I readjusted my
position and lost my balance. My left crutch fell. Tried my best to gain it
back but in vain, I was tripping to my left. I didn’t want to touch the ground
with my left foot. But if I didn’t, I would just fall. A couple of people
around me saw this and started screaming but none walked towards me. I was desperately
trying to hold onto something but there was nothing around. I was sure to fall
and hit the concrete. Suddenly two hands just grabbed me and a figure pulled me
away. I couldn’t see but I could feel whom was it, breathing heavily, scared
out of my wits. Orso’s hands were holding me tightly. That was a narrow escape.
“Man…are you alright?”
Such was my condition. Left alone for 10 seconds
and I couldn’t hold still. The hell would I go and shoot a film. I took a deep
breath.
“Yup. I am fine. I am…fine. Let’s go”
Was I? I asked myself. I had reached the rock
bottom of my self-confidence at this point.
He helped me check-in and asked for a
wheelchair. When wheelchair arrived, he helped me sit in it and handed me my
crutches. The wheelchair assistant began pushing me towards the security check
in gate. Orso ran to catch up.
I made him stop. I had to say good-bye.
“Man. Take care and don’t worry too much
alright? Everything will be fine. Enjoy your time. Call me when you reach okay
bitch?”
“Yup” I mumbled reaching out for an awkward hug
from the wheelchair and those stupid crutches in the way. I did not want to
leave. I wanted to turn around and go back home. But I guess it was too late.
The wheelchair began moving again and I saw Orso left behind the queue of
people waiting for security check. I was given priority because of my condition
and I had to be manually screened.
“Sir, as a part of the security check, I will have to
frisk you. I will run my hands over your body and I will approach sensitive
areas with back of my palm. If at any point you find it uncomfortable, please
speak up. You can choose to have a private screening or we can do it here”
said the police officer in the most monotonous voice possible.


With the sun shining brightly on my
face, I opened my eyes. That seemed like a nice long sleep. Not only did I feel
good but also I was happy that I had made through most of my flight sleeping. I
looked at the watch.

07:02AM. Nice. I slept for hardly forty-five
minutes. Perfect. Yeah. Five hours to go. I looked at my foot. It wanted to pop
out of the cast, a million needles piercing it. Exactly what I needed. Did I
hear laughter again?

I was stuck in a strange cycle. I could not
take my painkiller because I had not eaten anything. I was scared if I would
eat and drink stuff, I would have to use the bathroom. And, if only I could
take my painkiller, I could sleep and ease my pain. I chose to bear with the
pain.

Tried to listen to music and after skipping
around twenty tracks, I decided it was not working for me. I needed something
more distracting. I looked up and saw this small TV screen in the center of the
plane showing some documentary of this guy who trained dogs. I hooked on my
headphones to the armrest and let myself slip into the world of Caser Millan,
an illegal immigrant who eventually became an icon in dog training. Some not so
famous TV shows also followed that were, I would admit, funny but none had any
titles or credits. Weird.

My flight landed earlier than scheduled. Sai was
stuck in traffic. And my foot was now a complete mess, swollen and hurting like
someone dropped a hammer on it. Luckily I had escaped any cramps. Not sure if
they would have hurt more or less. I had not slept for almost 32hours. Last
thing I ate (which was awesome) was 18hours ago. Yeah, my second trip to LA and
nothing had changed.

I saw Sai running towards me. Phew! He just
saved me from dropping unconscious (or maybe dead!) at the waiting area of LA
airport. In his car, on the way back, I thought, the worst was over. Here on,
it should not be difficult. After all, I finally get to shoot a project with a
professional crew, just sitting by the monitor giving instructions on the
walkie. He has a car so moving around is not going to be so difficult. He stays
in a house so I don’t have to worry about stairs or elevators.

We stopped by CVS Pharmacy to pick up the
medicine Orso was not able to find earlier.
“I am sorry but I cannot give you this drug.
This prescription is from another state. We are not authorized to dispense
drugs prescribed in a different states”
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDIDNG ME?
“But it is a legal prescription. You can crosscheck.
I am in a lot of pain. I need those.” I pleaded showing her my foot.
“I am sorry sir. We cannot give it to you.”
“Any other medicine that you can give? As a
substitute?”
“Sorry sir. We are not allowed to do that.”
At that point, I had lost it. Sai drove away
sensing my anger. He drove to McDonalds to pick food, as he knew it was the
only thing that could possibly cool me down. However, McDonalds might not have
been the wisest choice I would say. I took a deep breath and thought to myself
“Forgive him lord. He does not know what he is doing”. Kidding. I didn’t care
what. I just needed to eat.

As he parked his car in his parking lot, he
looked at me and smiled. I understood what he meant. There were no apartments
on the ground floor in that building. He lived on the second floor. And of
course there were no elevators in the building. Filmmakers!


The only way to go up the stairs was to use
Sai’s support and hop…step by step…AGAINST THE GRAVITY. I took the first
step and every part of my body jolted. The fuck am I doing here?  One more step. My foot gave a loud pang of
pain. I should have never gotten on that plane. Hop. I will have to go through
this torture every time I had to go out of the house? NOOO WAYYYY. Hop. My
building in NY is so convenient and accessible. Why would people live in a
building with no elevator? Another step. I felt my body weight grow heavier. So
now I was hopping on my bad knee. If it popped, I would be done. Hop. Hop. Hop.
Mommmmmmmm….daddddddddd…Orsooooooooo……Anyone……Hop. Hop. He better
has Oreos in there, waiting for me.

“This is the apt” Sai pointed to the
first door by the stairs. Finally.

He quickly arranged for pillows and elevated my
foot as I sunk into the bed.

“Give me the bottle for my painkillers. In
my bag.”

I gobbled the burger Sai picked earlier and
gulped my medicine (appropriate dose).  I
did want to kill myself though.

Waiting for it to kick in, I stared at the
ceiling. Those inspiring thoughts that everything happens for a reason. I could
see none at this point

“Why did I do this to myself?”

WHY?


To be
continued…

2 thoughts on “The West Coast 2.0 – The foot, the bear and all the despair

  1. Dude, I love reading these (This is Zach, by the way). You write fantastically. It's like reading a novel.

    That whole "medicine from another state" thing is utter bullshit. I've gotten medicine for things I've needed in other states. What the fuck kind of rule is that?

    Also, Sean apparently REALLY came through in the clutch. Great guy all around! It sucks you had to go through this, but it's great that the injury should heal more quickly than expected and that you got to go and help out Sai. Looking forward to reading the rest of it! 🙂

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