I Fractured My Collarbone – and My Ego – in Bali
My eyes flash open. All I can see in the moonlight is asphalt. Unforgiving asphalt. Metallic fear fills my mouth. My scooter is still wedged between my sweaty legs.
“Get up. Get up. Are you okay? Get up!”
Panicked cries from gathering locals fill my ears.
Oh fuck. I fucking crashed. This is fucking embarrassing.
I was recently made aware, by a stupidly emotionally-intelligent friend of mine, that I put on an act. Apparently, in group settings, I have a façade of confidence and an air of social ease. I’m the first to make jokes, volunteer my opinion, and, hopefully, the one who stands out. My ego is healthy. I am the queen of self-preservation, and pride is my most deadly sin. I strive beyond competence, and want people to trust in my ability to do things, and do them well.
But here’s the thing, I’m a staunch believer of faking it ‘til you make it. A lot of my confidence was once forced, but has now just become part of who I am. In reality, I am riddled with insecurities. I have a warped perception of my body, my face, my voice and my general being. But no one needs to know that. Okay?
So, when I found myself kissing the road in Bali, having just crashed my scooter into a parked car, I was pretty mortified. Thankful, yes, that I was able to stand up and walk away with very minor injuries, but mortified nonetheless.
Moments before the crash, I was travelling at about 7km/h. Then I swerved to avoid someone on the wrong side of the road. I was scared shitless. My instinct when I am scared shitless is to pull into my own body. On a scooter, this translates to pulling down – hard – on the throttle. So, effectively I nudged the car on contact, then proceeded to try to plough through it, before pathetically dropping to the road.
The scooter left a real impression on the car. I could see from the ground that the bumper was mangled. A bribe was not going to suffice. Springing to my feet, my first word was “Berapa?” or, “How much?” My ego was dented more than the car, and I had to do something to fix both. I was met with rejections. None of the now seven-strong crew of men standing around me wanted to give a cost price to fix the plastic van. All I wanted was to pay my dues, move along, and never ever speak of this again – but it was becoming agonisingly clear that none of these things would eventuate. After half an hour of confab, an exchange of details, a small payment and the promise of further compensation, I was finally able to leave. I drove my sad scooter home, rigid with disbelief.
As I dismounted the bike, I winced. My right hand shot up to my clavicle. Oh fuck. Please don’t let that be broken. I ignored it. I was sore, but I just took myself off to bed, with the help of some Panadol Rapid. I woke up in the morning in agony. Humiliated, and quite sore, I popped more painkillers, and tried to ignore it. I knew I had to settle things with the driver of the car. I knew I was in pain. But I also knew I didn’t want to tell any of my friends, or my family back home. I couldn’t – far too damaging to my ego.
I couldn’t drive a scooter. I couldn’t shave my armpits. I couldn’t even put a shirt on properly without cringing. I didn’t want to, but I had to; I had to tell my friends about the accident. I bitterly shelved my pride, and told a few close friends about my whoops-a-fucking-daisy. I expected them to be judgemental, mocking, and to generally think less of me. There was no such judgement – not on the surface, at least. Tapping out a tentative message to send to my mum back home, my hands shook. I braced myself for disappointment – which we all know is far worse than anger – and hit send. Mum basically laughed at me: “Typical… It’s always you.” At least she didn’t further bash my self-esteem.
Six days after my accident, I expected the pain in my collarbone to subside. It didn’t. I had tolerated the pain through jovial shoves, dancing in clubs and climbing a volcano. But, damn, I wanted to cry. I almost did cry when I conceded I needed an x-ray. On the way to the hospital, I had tears stinging the back of my eyes. I masked it with a laugh. A shrug of the – one good – shoulder, and an eye-roll.
After a surprisingly efficient examination process, and an even more efficient x-ray, my – and my mum’s – greatest fear was confirmed: I had fractured my collarbone. At this point, I actually did laugh. I felt relief. The pain was justified, and I could freely whinge without speculation. The prescribed stronger painkillers worked like a literal dream, too. And so began the road to recovery, of my collarbone, at least.
With a self-deprecating, and simultaneously self-serving, Facebook status, I attempted to salvage my situation. Teamed with a shot of the x-ray and a drugged-up selfie, I admitted defeat: “I have fractured my clavicle…” Although, I down-played it. I was careful not to admit that I could have been featured on What Happens In Bali, filling that young-dumb-Aussie-in-Bali stereotype of falling off my scooter. I saved face as much as I could.
My fractured collarbone matched my fractured ego. I hated that I had broken a bone, but I hated telling people even more. The accident smashed my ego, and my body. But I had been so caught up in protecting my pride, that I neglected my body. Realistically, the damage caused to my pride pales in comparison to my fractured clavicle. And, as it would turn out, my ego healed much faster than my collarbone ever did.
Cover by Livia Benders