The stairs at my guest house are steep and smooth, and I fell on them yesterday. My ankle is steady to walk on but tender, and I have a deep scrape on my forearm.
I lived in a suburb of Rome for six weeks one summer, at a family friend’s apartment. I’d take the early bus into the city and walk around in the heat. I found a market southeast of the bus stop plaza, and I’d go there every day. One morning, I stepped off a curb into a pothole and sprained my ankle. I was two miles’ walk and a bus ride from home, and by the time I finished the climb to my front door my ankle was swollen so badly I could barely stagger up the steps to the porch. I was housebound for four days, and I had nothing to eat but the three kilos of green and black figs I had bought at the market. (Summer was fig season in Rome, and there were laden fig trees everywhere, yellowjackets reeling around.)
So I sat inside and painted figs, first whole and then bitten open. I also watched most of my host’s DVD collection, including the first season of The Wire and Blackboard Jungle. I had a limp for the rest of the summer.
I’m not immobile now. I have a wedge of bruise on my ankle and one on my elbow, each around two shallow cuts from the banister. Shallow cuts like the one on the ball of my ankle are prone to infection – although this might be my superstition, the way some people refuse ice or cut fruit. One of my coteachers had a seeping pink patch on her foot from a shallow scrape on a muddy tile, and another had to go to the hospital with a swollen leg after she burned her shin on a motorcycle.
The weather is so hot here that I feel like I’m limping – outdoors is pleasant only before seven and after five, and I find myself rejecting a detour of a few blocks so I can get indoors earlier. Right now, I’m sitting in an air-conditioned cafe drinking a milkshake I justify as coffee, and dreading the five-hundred-foot walk back to my guesthouse. Summer in Cambodia is beautiful from indoors, but the heat defeats every plan as soon as I step outside.