When bad things don’t happen to you
All kids (or at least all two-braided children with a penchant for eating twigs) at some point really really really really want something terrible to happen—preferably something like surviving a tornado.
You imagine scenes of total chaos with sad concertos playing in the background and you watch windows disintegrate and roof tiles fly around you until you look down and realize that your leg has too many angles and a rib is poking out of your skin.
You imagine being rushed on a stretcher to a hospital where faces wearing horror and pity swarm around you like a kaleidoscope.
Nothing like that has ever happened to me.
So when my brother broke his arm skiing during my second grade year, I felt a lot of jealousy.
Unfortunately, I was neither brave enough nor smart enough to realize that if I started doing dangerous things like jumping on the trampoline on top of a full sized rocking horse, as my brother did, I might get a chance to break a bone or crush my skull or disembowel myself. If I could just do crazy things, I might have my day of physiological trauma and a recovery where, in my mind, classmates would bring me baskets of flowers and chocolate.
I also couldn’t think of any way to have so many things I wanted, like admiration from peers and sympathy from adults, without seriously compromising my ability to do things like carry a plate of burritos from the microwave to the table.
But, I did know that not every injury was dramatic. Something simple like tripping or climbing a tree could make you break your arm, too. Then I realized, just maybe, I could get away with not breaking my arm but it seeming as if I had.
So, one morning, shortly after my brother’s arm was better, I got up extra early and hid the thick brown bandage in my backpack. I started my walk to school, paused along the road so my brother would go ahead without me, and wrapped it around my arm.
My second grade teacher, I’ll call her Mrs. Finnigan, noticed immediately when I walked in just as class was starting.
I explained how I had been casually jumping on our trampoline—a believable, solid story for a stereotypical good girl—when the wind blew me off course and I fell helplessly to the ground, breaking my arm.
So far, it was probably the best school day I had ever had.
No one else said anything about it, but I wasn’t too worried because they still had plenty of time to show up at my doorstep with flowers and chocolate—they had weeks.
Sadly, however, someone must have noticed and passed the word along, because my brother cornered me about it after school.
Brother: Lizzie, did you wear a cast to school today?
Brother: Are you sure?
Brother: Okay. I’ll believe you.
Me: You will?
Brother: But if I see you wear a cast tomorrow, I’ll tell everyone that you lied.
So I didn’t put it on the next day.
The worst part was that nothing terrible happened.
My brother didn’t report me to my parents or the principal or all of his friends.
I didn’t even get in trouble for misbehaving.
I didn’t even have the guts to keep on misbehaving.
You would think that if I couldn’t have my day—or days—in a cast, I could at least get some notoriety for misbehaving so badly. Instead, I remained the not-trouble maker to whom life-threatening situations and other disasters didn’t happen.
Alizabeth Worley writes The Earful Blog and has work in or forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Juked Review, Relief Journal, and elsewhere. She is an MFA student at BYU.