Some people look twice.
Others look away.
The officer writing our parking ticket wouldn't look AT ALL.
Her eyes refused to leave my face.
Even as my dad pointed to the 30 Minute Loading Zone sign. Even as we insisted we'd been there less than 30 minutes.
Even as I balanced on one foot.
But I know how she felt.
I was always the "look twice" type. Nosy, curious. Interested in people, in a well-meaning way. I was the kind of person who wanted to see everything. To always learn more.
Until I had to look at myself.
Which brings me to Australia.
For months, an IV in my arm pumped potent liquids like Vancomycin, Dilaudid, and (ouch!) Potassium.
I drank nothing but icy cups of Gatorade -- and Boost, when pressured.
Prepping for surgery became as routine as brushing my teeth.
Home was a faraway place my family went each night. Without me.
Four-inch metal sutures stretched like unraveled paperclips across my abs. White bandages and thick tape wrapped both my legs. A Wound Vac machine slurped and slurped to eliminate the infection.
Each morning, my mom helped me get washed. We dipped the washcloth into a pink basin of water and gently cleaned my body.
I squinted through eyes that didn't want to see the damage.
I'd slipped, tripped, and stumbled over some of the best streets in the country.
One summer while racing down the Ben Franklin Parkway, my skate clipped against my brother Mark's. I fell hard, scraping the back of my thigh so badly I couldn't put on underwear for a week!
So while my newest piece of road rash didn't exactly please me, it was comforting in a familiar way.
And from my angle, it resembled the shape of... well, AUSTRALIA.
It sounded like a campaign promise, but I knew what he meant. When I awoke, that patch of road rash bore a clean bandage, and its dark flaky scab was gone.
There's a classic children's book by Judith Viorst about a little boy named Alexander who's having a ‘No Good, Very Bad Day.' He doesn’t find a prize in his cereal box, and he can’t buy flashy shoes like his brother.
He swears he’s gonna move to Australia.
I guess I just needed a way back to my old world.
And in the tiny world of Room 7206, Australia was the ticket.
Later in the rehab hospital, the nurses patiently taught me to change my own bandages. The PTs taught me to massage and Ace wrap.
"Love your leg, Rebecca!" sang Dr. L each day in her fancy European accent.
I finally found compassion for my new body.
Even the road rash.
It remains just above my left hip, a small pink mountain surrounded by a sea of pale new skin.
In the shape of – you guessed it – AUSTRALIA.
These days, without my prosthesis, I feel exposed. BARE.
Like the whole world can see my wounds.
People look twice. They look away. Often they stare.
I don't blame that parking officer for her discomfort. I don't even blame her for writing that ticket -- although we didn't deserve it!
"She wouldn't even LOOK at me!" I said angrily, tossing my crutches into the car. That was it.
As painful as it might be, I want to be seen as a whole person.
Prosthesis or not. One leg or two.
Australia and all.