…after the pendant incident, Beck woke up very sore from dragging himself around the room on his elbows. But that wasn’t any real breaking point. He had been through worse: getting up the two flights of stairs to his previous walk-up on the top step, unable to stand.
He always seemed lucky to find something to grab onto when he fell. And only once was hurt with a twisted tendon in his knee.
After eking out a living as a fine art photographer (translation: no weddings, tours. dog portraits, lighthouses, sunsets, flowers, nudes, product shots…) ; after walking these stairs for 20 years, often loaded down with photographic equipment; after walking 5 miles to work and back to have a chance to shoot while working a full-time job; he found himself seated on the top step, a few feet from his apartment door, and he could hear his cat meowing, and for all his efforts he couldn’t stand up.
The problem, which I’ve already mentioned (hopefully) was that he had suffered two separate strokes. The nerves in the lower half of his left leg were simply not in the listening mood. And his arms had weakened as well.
You could tell them that it was time to contract the calf muscle or whatever muscles were supposed to help you get to a half standing position, but they were simply not listening. After two months of PT they were showing the dimmest glimmering of twitching.
So what did it feel like to sit there, with passersby half his age asking if he was okay, and him waving them by saying “just resting… be alright in a minute…”
EMBARRASSING. Pure and simple. Too much pride before the literal fall. Beck connected it to the feeling from the night before. There was an emergency string next to the toilet. He didn’t want a bunch of female blue shirts finding him on the throne, his underwear half down, unable to get up. (Was there also something there about manhood?) Besides, he had pulled the string once before and no one had arrived.
Back to the 2nd floor stairs. (I apologize, but Beck’s mind was jumping around).
Eventually, Beck realized he couldn’t spend the rest of the day sitting on the top step, and it was just getting ridiculous to keep telling neighbors, many of them strangers, that he was just resting. He had one of the passersby knock on his neighbors door. Mitch was a friend and knew what Beck had been through.
Mitch was older than Beck and often they’d visit each other and talk about their health troubles.
Mitch: (a wry smile but still sympathetic) Down again, Beck?
Beck: Yeah. I’m not hurt. It’s just getting embarrassing. I guess you gotta call 911.
Mitch was strong for his age, about 75, but in no shape to lift Beck up.
He called EMS.
Told them he’s not hurt, and went back to his apartment to ring them in.
The fire department arrived first. They were right around the corner.
Beck’s first reaction on seeing about eight firemen in uniform with various tools was: don’t tell me there’s a fire here too.
“No, we’re here for you.”
Neighbors came out to see what all the hubbub was about. The hallway was soon crowded with firefighters and onlookers, and whatever dignity Beck had evaporated.
Then EMS arrived a few seconds later.
Beck told the two closest firemen he wasn’t hurt. No bruises. How it was a slow motion fall, and everything about his bum leg, and that if two of them would pull him up, and stand him on his feet, he’d be able to walk around with his cane.
Two powerful men grabbed him under the arms and pulled him to his feet. Once standing he walked around and told everyone he was okay. Invited them into his apartment. Sat down in his desk chair. The cat sprang into his lap. And he petted her. Cats know somehow when something is wrong, and even with the firemen and EMS in the house, she stayed on Beck’s lap.
EMS wanted to take him to the hospital. But Beck refused and signed some iPad form releasing the city from responsibility, and that was that. Soon he had a home health aide… and hadn’t fallen again until the night of the broken pendant, about 4 months later.
So as he lay on the rug, waiting for someone to either answer the pendant or peek in the room, he acted as if he were on vacation on a tropical island. He had managed to rest his head on his arm, was surrounded by all the bedding he had pulled to the floor, and had managed to turn the t.v. on since the remotes were on the bedding.
The Mets were losing as usual, blowing a three run lead in the ninth inning. His mind wandered to The Pride of the Yankees. Lou Gehrig played by Gary Cooper. Beck was beginning to nod off, wondering about Pride.
Was it a good thing, or a bad thing? Pride goeth before a fall – literally.
It’s good to have pride in your work. But bad if you have too much pride in yourself… He never did figure out whether pride was good or bad. Lou Gehrig wasn’t prideful. His disease took everything that had made him a winner away from him. But he was a hero. And Beck was no hero.
Well his castle apartment door opened, and you can read what happened in the previous chapter.