One time when I was like ten or eleven, I remember running around the house, a full sprint through the living room, around the kitchen, back again into the TV room. I was just doing laps, a little kid with way too much energy and nowhere to go, no place to really burn off any steam. On this particular day, my theatrics weren’t getting any attention, nobody yelled at me to stop, or calm down, and so after a while it got kind of boring, like a flame deprived of oxygen, without managing to get a reaction out of anybody, I slowly burned myself out.
But not before going out with a bang, my cooped up, ten or eleven year old version of a stuck-inside-the-house grand finale. I climbed up onto the arm of the sofa, jumped into the air, and tucked my legs under my arms, hoping to land like a cannonball onto the couch cushions.
Only, as soon as I hit the furniture, I felt something sharp, stabbing me in the leg. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really. I’m the oldest of six, and back when we were all younger, a house jam-packed with little kids, there was just stuff everywhere, little pieces of toys, crayons. This time there happened to be a pencil stuck in between the couch cushions. How it got like that, positioned so that the point was sticking straight up, I have no idea.
But that’s how it was, like a spike, my right leg landing directly on top with all my body’s weight to really drive it in. I looked at my leg, I couldn’t even react, not really. It was such a weird sight. The pencil had to have been at least an inch and a half deep inside my shin. You couldn’t see the point, or any of the wood, just the yellow back end protruding from my leg.
My little sister Emily was like four or five years old, and she was the only one close enough to actually see the whole impaling go down. But she was a little kid, and while I appreciated her look of shock, this was a much bigger deal that just that, worthy of a lot more attention, the kind of attention I was constantly craving, my need for spectacle the driving force behind most of my actions, my running around the house, my indoor acrobatics.
My mom wasn’t in the house. She was there just a second ago, but now I couldn’t find her. I needed her to see this. I ran outside of the house and down the driveway, but no luck. After a minute or so, I looked down at my leg. For the first time, I was starting to freak out a little, the gravity of the situation sunk in somewhat, that I had a pencil in my leg. I reached down and yanked it out.
And it just slid right out, easily. It bled, but not that badly. In fact, looking at the wound from the outside, you couldn’t really tell that a whole pencil had been lodged inside just a second earlier. I deflated a little, like maybe I should have kept it in there a while longer.
When I went back inside, my mom was back in the kitchen. “Mom, where were you! I just stabbed myself with a pencil. It was in really deep! Mom, look, it’s bleeding! Mom! Mom!” And she looked at it, but like I said, the after shot didn’t really do any justice to how severe this thing looked when it was still sticking out of my leg.
“Yeah?” she asked, “Well, it doesn’t look too bad. I think you’ll be OK.” But she didn’t get it. Nobody got it. Nobody except for my little sister Emily, but she was way too little to have any sort of a significant testimony. I had wasted it, a golden opportunity to make use of what looked like a potentially serious injury, without any real danger or lasting damage.
Because, for real, why didn’t it bleed? I swear I’m not exaggerating, that thing was in deep. Shouldn’t it have hit something? Wouldn’t you have expected a lot more pain?
My only consolation is that, after all these years, my sister Emily still claims to remember exactly how the situation played out, my dramatic leap onto the couch, the heart-stopping realization that there was a pencil stuck deep inside of my leg. And so it’s nice to have some sort of confirmation that I hadn’t just made it all up. I think so. I hope so. I mean, she was really little. Part of me wonders if I hadn’t coerced the memory onto her by sheer force of will. I just wish that everybody could have seen it. I wish that everybody could have been paying attention to me.