When I was 13, I broke my femur running into traffic while a boy led.
He was the son of our neighbors at the time, only a year older to my 13, a man worthy of my secret crushing. He was the cool one, always at the gym, always busy, always with his equally cool friends while I ate Twinkies and chips, and coveted from afar in my knee high socks, awkward shorts, puffy hair and glasses covering half of my face always slipping forward.
As a child, I would have followed him anywhere and on one unfortunate day, I did just this. He said we should go across the street to the store (where they sold Twinkies), and so I scrambled to pull up my socks and follow. I was so excited, my glasses began to fog.
As we were about to cross the street, we noticed that the You Should Not Cross But If You’re Already Crossing Then Please Move Yer Ass hand signal had begun to flash. He said we could make it and so began to run. Naturally, I followed, only was incapable of running as fast as him because my glasses were fogged and bouncing, my socks were falling and my hair was getting bigger with every gram of humidity, beseeching that I pull back and go home.
He made it to the median safely.
I did not.
My small body made it to the pavement.
While Unk stood above me and rapped –
Shorty hit the dance flo’, and bend your back low
Shorty hit the dance now hit the dance now hit the dance flo’
She do it with no hands, now stop pop and roll
Ya girl had been hit by a car.
Thanks God I wasn’t run over, but merely knocked over, and so what could have been complete devastation was just a broken femur. Cue 5 weeks of traction in a hospital bed, 6 months inside of a body cast, 2 years of physio therapy to complete the cycle, my parents staying together longer than they should have because of this trauma to the my potato ass which they had planted and reaped together.
No one who hears this story can say they’re surprised. I have never seen the cars as representing the danger and lunacy of a situation; instead, I have always, and continue to see the possibility represented by the man.
It still holds true, that I will run into traffic if I feel that the right man is leading. I will run out randomly like I have water on the brain, because I choose to believe that people default to good, and when they do not, the responsibility is on them, not me. My only responsibility is to live in a space of gentleness and kindness, ever believing in the goodness of others until they prove otherwise (EXCLUDING THE TR.MP FAMILY AND HIS WHITE S.PREMACIST SYCOPHANTS); to heal and to remain open, because I believe that to give and receive love is absolutely the greatest and most incredible language of the human condition.
In all forms, platonic or romantic, it is in spaces of love that we heal, and grow, where we are challenged to better, and where we soften. Always, I will remind you how necessary it is to continue softening; if you aim anywhere between now and when you leave this place, aim only to soften.
That believed, let me tell you that it is fucking hard to keep such an open heart; it is draining and exhausting and anxiety-filled to be generous in this way. It falls a little short of impossible, which means that it remains possible. And it is not something done for others, but rather it is something I do for myself so that I remain kind in a world filled with too many people who have shut themselves off from love (therefore shutting themselves off from Love).
The loves I have lived have been incredible men, and from them I have learned an enormous amount. But, their time was not for ever after. Truth is, I would not trade any of these men for anything in this world; I would live them again in a heartbeat to land at here and today. In this, there is strength in the ability to still stay vulnerable and open to love in the most awkward, unlikely, and absolutely ridiculous moments of impossibility. Playing in traffic has given me bruises I stare at in wonder and fascination still, representing engaged and active markers of my growing pains as a woman, a sign that I am not sitting on my ass safely on the sidewalk never living for fear of hurting. I feel a tremendous amount of sadness for people who do.
Earlier this week, one friend said ‘You have the naivete of a child, when it comes to love. I wish I could tell you to change, but I know that someday, someone will take the heart you wear so softly on your sleeve and cradle it and take care of it and love it in ways I won’t be loved because that’s what you do for people. A part of your gift is how much kindness and wonder you have for others’; another said ‘You have so much love to give, and I wish you weren’t so open. But then I realize that the way you experience things is something I will never experience. When you feel something, it’s so bright and intoxicating and I will never have that because I choose safety instead.’ Listening to both of these made me sorrow-full, but better this than friends trying to convince me toward a bitter and calloused heart whose arteries have been filled and hardened with the bad behaviours of men without integrity.
As I have never been a fan of cream-coloured not-bruised skin soft as a newborn’s bottom covered in talcum, I am sending this as a love letter to each of the women still playing in traffic, still believing in love, still opening their hearts with abandon, still knowing that there remain a few good men with character, still believing that the pain really is worth the love-fall –
May you each find your regular booty-call in the middle of the streets, and may the men who are smart and blessed enough to scoop you, have the strength to keep you. Because to love strong and fierce, you have to be willing to take the hits just as fiercely, and if it isn’t for love that you will do this, then you have your priorities ass-upside, my friends.
You are each and every one of you my heroins.
With thanks to Popsi for taking this photo while we were in NY.
Anonymous Maria Calvo said…
Ha!!!! I LOVE IT!!!! Your stories about your childhood are hilarious!!!!
You got hit by a car though, that’s INSANE. 6 month body cast too? Wow, Mahi!
35 and he’s a specialized surgeon? That’s unbelievable. I’ve always said the foxiest profession, and the most masculine is surgery. I’ve never met a surgeon I didn’t think was sexy., even the ugly ones 😉
Your spring sound so nice! So full and happy! You sound so good, Mahi……I love it when I can feel the sunshine through your possts.
Mon Mar 02, 08:24:00 PM
Anonymous Thomas said…
It’s always great to read about your childhood. You should pool all of these stories and make them into a children’s book filled with short stories. I have no doubt that it would sell incredibly well among adults, mostly.
Your friend K is to be admired, undoubtedly.
Congratulations on your becoming a refgular contributor to rabble, Maha. I read the article and it’s another excellent and informative piece. You are an amazingly clear writer even when you write about the most difficult subject matters. Few can boast that.
I’m looking forward to reading more and regularly!
Mon Mar 02, 11:08:00 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Your itinerary is making me jealous!
Mon Mar 02, 11:09:00 PM
Anonymous patrick said…
there’s so much here and i don’t know what to respond to first.
– this is my first time commenting, but i’ve sent you a couple of emails over the last few years.
– congratulations on rabble.
– your article is incredibly well stated. you have an amazing clarity.
– your travel schedule is anyone’s dream.
– please don’t marry anyone but me. i think you’re an angel 🙂
Mon Mar 02, 11:37:00 PM
Anonymous yasmine said…
california says COME SOON!
thank you, maha.
for what, you know.
PS: patrick! i challenge you to a DUEL!
Mon Mar 02, 11:47:00 PM
Anonymous yasmine said…
PPS: my topsecret-word verification was ‘slyho.’ bwahahaha!
Mon Mar 02, 11:48:00 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Thomas see if you can convince her to put her short stories in a book.. I tried … very hard and failed 🙁 I even took one of her stories and “published” it for her in her own little booklet.. Much as she loved it, she has not yet yielded. Maybe you will have better luck than me 🙂
Wed Mar 04, 12:48:00 AM
I am sorry to say that I am one of those non-interesting non-heroine types. I still believe in love, but I no longer have the open heart that I used to. I have been more lonely in my last relationships than I have ever been actually alone and I find myself being more content focusing on the things that make me happy. If the right love comes along, great. If not, I guess I’ll just have to remain not so interesting.
Spurschick — two questions you can answer here, in private email, or never: was this an active choice because you are content, or is this a reaction to heartbreak and being exhausted from the try, love?
And were you always content not playing in traffic or was this something that developed over time?
Super curious — I hope it is okay for me to ask these Qs!! XXO
I’ll keep playing in traffic until I get to the same point at spurchick. It’s a BITCH all of these bruises but I love the way you have written about it. I’m not ready yet to sit by the side so gonna keep takin’ my hits until I break my femur too many times or I find that dude 🙂
I hope spurchick answers I’m curious too. If I can also ask if we’re all in same age range cus I wonder if this changes with time! I’m 36. -lily
Maha, I have always found you very much like my late wife. I know that she played in traffic, until she found me – I was lucky that she found me. She said that until then she was near giving up and she was ready to call it a day.
We both got lucky a little later in life.
Thank you for reminding me of her spirit.
I love this so much!!!!!!!!!!
I hope I have enough stamina to play in traffic until I find that one guy. I hope I don’t lose steam, Maha. Thank you I love this!!
How do I start playing in traffic? I think I am on the sidelines and don’t wanna be here anymore =0(
I find myself just recently in full body cast, so this topic is especially relevant. (Although my particular body cast is not yet cured, still soft, still unresolved as is my situation, and sadly it is likely to be for some time…)
I’ve always liked to believe that I play in traffic willingly. But after each run across the street, I find myself scared and loathe to do so again. The pain and exhaustion, the frustration leave me stupefied. And so after each sprint I take some time for my bruises to heal. And with the right partner to chase, I always realize too late, after having jumped, that I will end up hurt again. Once I’m in the road, I give the pain freely. But again on the sidewalk, I am afraid. Truly afraid. I know I’ll jump again, but I wonder if my time will run out, if one day I will not get luckily to the curb, only knocked down temporarily. I hope for my loving ride to arrive, but am not sure he will. But more than that, I hope that one day I will not find a car speeding so fast that he breaks my spirit. I am afraid as well that my car may not recognize me and speed past.
Metaphor aside, I think those that love truly and deeply after being hurt are truly the brave. This is how I live my life because I find that life without love (of friends, of family, hopefully someday of spouse and children) is not worth much. But I can’t say it doesn’t hurt. A lot. I just find that genuine love is worth the pain.
You are beautiful and I love you!!
I too play in traffic. I’ll have to PM you my latest story. Suffice to say even as I dashed headlong across the street, I knew there was a 50/50 chance I was going to get my ass kicked. I did. I’m licking my wounds, but I know I am going to get up and do it again.
And Jen – I don’t believe that the spirit is breakable. Not if you tend your to your soul.
Maha, I remember that. Pin in your knee and stuff right? I visited you at the hospital and thought it was one of the strangest (and grosses) things I’d seen to date. Didn’t know metal went into the body. Hope you’re well.
Maha – I will respond to your questions via email. And, for the record, I do not consider myself as sitting on the “sidelines.” I have a very full life =)
I remember it too. I remember seeing you in the hospital and seeing that pin, but having had experience with kids in traction with my sister Brooke, I wasn’t quite as fazed. Although it was pretty gross…heehee
i, maybe naive, but am DEAD-set on this:
i’ve seen way too many comfortable women out there who walk the god damn sidewalks ever-so-cautiously, FORGET about even attempting to flirt with a lil traffic.
from my observations, this usually leads into comfortable relationships that seem to be perfection on paper, but where everything else lacks. they coast through life. it works, but its mechanical…. and it takes a decade or two to figure out that everything important is missing. blah. meh.
the smell of it nauseates me just as much as bland macaroni-and-spice-lacking-cheese.
i vow to not settle for anything less than earth-moving, heart-thumping, breath-stopping, blood-rushing, fear inducing…. AH! if it ain’t FIRE… i dun wannit. and yes, EVEN if it means being crushed for a lil while if it doesn’t pan out in the way hollywood has always promised. if its THAT good, its bound to come with some downfall/sacrifice and i’ll take that kinda fierce feeling anyday over the lack thereof.
there’s a quote that speaks to this a lil and forgive me for forgetting who its by:
“be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
Just placing this as a marker because I love it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-schocker/why-i-love-living-alone_b_1324539.html?ref=women&ir=Women#s748058&title=Kristine_Springer
I will respond later to your amazing comments, and shared stories (and emails on this subject). xxo
As someone who’s spent too much time on the sidewalk and not enough time playing in traffic this hits close to home. I think sometimes you are ruled by the fear of being hit by the car and the pain it would cause. Once you get older you realize that pain probably isn’t any worse than the pain of not moving off the sidewalk at all. The problem is it’s hard to step off the curb when your instincts of self preservation are telling you NO.
This is my favorite post you’ve written.
Maha.. I know I argued the same before with you but i must admit I am losing faith in men very fast and deciding that it is far much better and less painful to build your life alone.. those secure but not arrognet men are truly rare..
Strong women need strong men (so she does end up on the other side of the street while he is still taking the first step) but somehow strong men are scared to run across the street with a strong women.. they worry she might be a step ahead so they prefer to wait for some other “strong but not so strong ” woman who they are 300% positive will be just one step behind them.. not a mile back because they like to believe they are confident and secure and like the idea of being with a strong women .. it makes them look and feel good that she chose them..but they do not want her too close so their confidence and security is threatened. they do not want to find out if they are really as confident as they like to believe they are. Being around a strong woman helps them believe they are what they want to believe they are.. commiting to that woman will force a real test.. a test they quickly realize they are too scared to take. i have seen way too many strong men that enjoyed chatting on the curb with some great women but when the time came to cross the street, they found a graceful reason not to do so.
I figured I will cross the street on my own. if someone is there on the otherside to welcome me, I will be happy to chat .. otherrwise, I will be on my way 🙂
Thomas.. i am sure I am speaking on behalf of many of the women above 30 on this list.. I wish there were more strong confident men like you around. Your wife was a very very lucky woman.
I was lucky to find my life’s partner when I was very young. I only had some minor teenage fender benders before we met. Sometimes I wonder if I “missed out” on some of these things you are talking about because the road of my life has been a safe & smooth one with wide lanes & low accident rates. However, I’m thinking that it’s really the same thing you are talking about – every time I “run into the street” with my husband (talk about the things that interest me, let him know what I’m thinking about, communicate my feelings…) it’s still that moment of vulnerability.
Also, I too have really been hit by a car & broke my leg so I feel your pain there, Maha. Yours was way worse though. Mine was just a broken fibula. No traction thank goodness.
Hi girls, sorry I am responding so late. Yes, you’re right — pin in my knee with the scars still. They unscrewed the pin without any sort of sedation. It was totally gross, but better than what they do today which is surgery, binding a steel rod to your femur (forever) and sending you home. I’m happy my body had the chance to heal itself, rather than be forced to be bound to steel.
That was the road my parents took also, when given the choice between surgically imbedding all kinds of metal into my sister’s hip or 2 years in an A-frame leg brace. They opted for the brace. She’s cool as a cucumber going through the airport now 🙂
And, frankly, if a foreign object is going to enter our bodies, it should be removable, not imbeddable. Or, at least belong to another person. (HI MAMA!!)
“Because to love strong and fierce, you have to be willing to take the hits just as fiercely.” and… “May the men who are smart and blessed enough to scoop you, have the strength to keep you.” …LOVE! Very well said, Maha!
I loved this. Thanks. I have played in traffic quite a bit, never broken a bone but have definitely had my heart broken. I decided I would be a little more discerning from now on but I still believe in love and that there are good men out there. ♥
Badr + Lubna — I think maybe in addition to “I’ll meet you underneath the olive tree,” there should also be an “I’ll meet you on the other side of the street. I’ll be holding your sweet chai, and there’ll be a ready hug.”
Thanks Maha. I recently wrote a blog called The Power of Vulnerability which reminded me of this. An excertp: “Our strength lies in our vulnerability and our willingness to keep our hearts open in spite of all the painful blows that life throws at us. By allowing your heart to remain open you will not only learn faster and heal faster, but all those delicate and beautiful parts of yourself will begin to flourish.” You can read the whole blog here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/the-power-of-vulnerability-10-life-lessons/ Thanks for the chai and the hug. Right back atcha. ♥