I was a college freshman and alone for reasons I don’t remember. It was unusual for me to be alone since there always seemed to be someone around, even when I didn’t want others around,but on this particular night I was bored out of my skull and had left a series of messages on my neighbor’s answering machine describing in excruciating detail just how bored I was. When I guessed the tape was nearly full I left a final one that ended with, “Being able to share my feelings in this way has given me an entirely new and happier outlook on life. I think I’m gonna go fly a kite.” All of which was, of course, completely untrue. I didn’t even have a kite. But I did get up and leave. I’d been hit with a sudden craving for Chinese food and like a lean and hungry hyena, or at least like a pudgy guy in a trenchcoat, I set forth in search of numbers five, nine, thirteen, and a handful of fortune cookies. The problem was the closest Chinese food place I knew of was three miles away. I had heard of Chinese places that delivered, but New York is a long way from Indiana and I doubted any of them were willing to make the trip. Besides I barely had enough to cover a cup of hot and sour soup, let alone the extremely generous tip they were bound to demand. So I called in my order. I wasn’t going to sit there in the restaurant and eat by myself because that would be weird. And set off on foot. Having measured my walking pace I’m guessing it took me about an hour to get there and even though there was a chill in the air I didn’t worry about my food getting cold on the trip back because it was already cold when I picked it up. And I returned my dorm and had a small feast that I wouldn’t say was fit for a king or even the general whose chicken I was allegedly eating, but at least it broke the boredom. And the next morning I felt like it had broken something else. I had an intense pain in my right foot. I couldn’t stand on it but could hobble along by leaning on walls or on friends. The student health center provided me with a pair of Civil War-era crutches and my parents considered fetching me home to Nashville where my father knew a podiatrist named Doctor Payne. And I kind of wish they had, not because things would have been any better but because when your doctor as a homonynomous moniker like that the jokes just write themselves. I even spun out elaborate imaginary introductions. “Hello. I’m Doctor Payne. I’ll be assisted today by my interns Doctors Hertz, Bledes, and Nurse Stab.”
Instead an aunt and uncle nearby took me to the hospital where I was doted on by the same doctor I’d seen about a month earlier when campus security took me to the emergency room at three a.m. with severe stomach pains that turned out to be the result of mixing caffeine pills with Coke. I’m pretty sure that same doctor was there twenty-four hours a day which, in a small town, probably isn’t unusual, but that’s another story.
It turned out I had a stretched tendon. At least that’s what I think he said since it was kind of hard to pay attention over the sound of the guy a few chairs away who was trying to pass a kidney stone the size of a baseball. I was told I needed to stay off my right foot for the next six weeks which was annoying because walking was my primary way of getting from point A to point B since geometry wasn’t covered in any of my math classes. And I was stuck with the campus crutches which I knew dated from the Civil War because they’d clearly been made for Abraham Lincoln, and even once I got the hang of using them I didn’t move from place to place so much as take flying leaps that luckily didn’t stretch any tendons in my left foot. And when I got bored in class I could amuse myself by picking termites out of them.
It was an interesting experience but I leave this question to you: was anything learned or was it in any other way valuable? Would it help if you could try the egg rolls?