Masked Agony

By The Curious Map

Have you ever tried to hide your pain, hoping that it would disappear on its own? I know I have. Shrink it in till you feel your tenacity crumbling? Yes! You have a hint of my innermost sensations. It all starts with a twisted ankle, a seemingly innocent accident that seems to have changed my life forever. One moment I’m walking down the stairs at school, and the next, I’m tumbling headfirst towards the ground. I hear a sickening snap that echoes through the empty halls of the school. My ankle twists at an unnatural angle, and a searing pain shoots up my leg. I try to act like nothing happened, but I know deep down that something is seriously wrong.

I hobble over to the side of the stairs, trying to put some weight on my injured foot. Tears sting my eyes as the pain radiates up and down my leg.

“Are you okay?” I hear a voice ask from behind me. I turn around to see one of my best friends, Sarah, looking at me with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I lie through gritted teeth. “Just twisted my ankle a bit.” Sarah doesn’t look convinced, but she doesn’t press the issue. “Okay, well, let me know if you need anything,” she says before walking away.

I try to stand up straight, but my ankle protests. It feels like a thousand needles are piercing my skin with every movement. I take a deep breath and try to focus on something else. I look around the empty hallway, hoping that this whole ordeal didn’t happen but it soon becomes impossible to ignore.

“Come on, you can do this,” I whisper to myself, gritting my teeth in determination. “Just a little bit further.”

As I limp around school, attempting to avoid detection, I can’t help but feel like I have a secret that can never be revealed. But what I don’t realize is that secret would eventually lead me to uncover a truth I never expected.

“You should see a doctor,” my best friend advises as she eyes my ankle with concern.

“It’s just a sprain.” I affirmed the pretense.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I try to manage the pain on my own. I pop painkillers like candy and wrap my ankle tightly, but nothing seems to help. The pain is consuming me, but I refuse to let it win. I imagine the warm hugs and laughter we will share, the exciting games we will play, and the beautiful scenery that surrounds his home. I can’t wait to explore the nearby forests and streams and spend time with the animals that my uncle keeps on his farm. I’m determined to keep going, no matter what.

My family has begun to notice too. My mother keeps asking about it and wanting to check, but I keep brushing her hand away or distracting her by changing the topic of conversation.

“Hey, have you seen the new movie that just came out?” I ask to divert her attention

“No, I haven’t. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to know how your ankle is doing,” my mother replied, her voice full of concern.

“I’m fine, Mom. Thanks for asking. Hey, what’s for dinner tonight?” I responded quickly.

I could feel her eyes on me, and I knew she was still worried. I wanted to tell her the truth and seek her help, but I was too scared. As summer approaches, the pain in my ankle becomes worse. I try everything I can think of to find relief—balm, hot towels, bandages, and even orthopedic socks—but nothing works.

Despite the pain, I decide to act as if I were healed, masking the discomfort.

Though I smile and laugh with my family, my nights are filled with tears of guilt and exhaustion. I am desperate to keep my secret, but I know that if my mother finds out, I’ll never be able to make it to my uncle’s house.

I am playing a game against myself, trying to balance a lie with the truth.

The day of the trip is finally here, and I’m filled with excitement to travel to my uncle’s house, even despite the persistent pain in my ankle. My excitement and anticipation are getting the best of me, causing me to aggravate my injury as I leap up in joy. It has been an eternity since I last saw my uncle, and I am eager to reconnect and hear all about his adventures. As I catch a glimpse of him from a distance, I dash towards him, momentarily forgetting about my limp.

“Is everything okay?” my uncle inquires, observing my awkward movement.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I reply swiftly, hoping to downplay his concern. “Just a slight sprain from playing around.”

My uncle appears doubtful, but he doesn’t push the issue. Instead, he embraces me warmly, and we head inside to fetch my bags so we can hit the road. As I hug my parents in goodbye, I feel a wave of sadness wash over me. I had been lying to them for so long, and now I am walking away. I want to tell them the truth, but I can’t. I thank my stars, as they have worked in my favor and fortunately, my uncle came to pick me up in his car, which means that I won’t have to worry about walking or taking a bus.

If I had taken the bus from my hometown in the city to the countryside, the entire journey would have been a complete disaster. For starters, the bus ride would have lasted for two whole days, with several stops along the way, which would have made it quite grueling. One of the first issues that would have arisen would be the limited legroom on the bus. Given my injury, it would have been challenging to find a comfortable position in the cramped space. I breathe a sigh of relief, grateful for this small mercy.

My uncle opens the car door and insists that I sit in the back seat to alleviate the pain. He also makes me promise to show him the injury when we arrive at his house. I agree with a smile, knowing I can persuade him to drop the topic later.

During the journey, I try to hide the pain, even pretending to sleep by covering my face, so my uncle won’t see how my body shakes with sobs and tears stream down my face. I feel like I’m on the brink of collapse, but I can’t let him know. I’m biting my lip to prevent myself from moaning or crying out. Occasionally, my face twitches involuntarily as the pain intensifies.

The journey feels endless due to the constant bumps on the road, as my uncle lives on the outskirts of the city. I am in pain and sweating, but I don’t want to worry him. Despite the discomfort, I can’t help but daydream about all the wonderful things that await me at my uncle’s house. I am filled with anticipation for the delicious meals my uncle will prepare using our secret family recipes, The pilau he prepares is absolutely heavenly, with a perfect blend of spices that gives it a tangy, lemon-like taste along with a spicy kick that I find irresistible.

Just thinking about it all makes me forget about the pain for a moment. I feel at peace, surrounded by the beautiful scenery and the sounds of nature. It is as if my worries and fears are being carried away by the wind. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, savoring the moment.

As we finally arrive at my uncle’s house, I feel a wave of relief wash over me. It’s been a long journey, and I’m glad to be here. As I reach my room, I try to act like everything’s okay, but the pain in my ankle is getting worse by the minute. I quickly search through my bags, hoping to find the bottle of pain medication. I look in my backpack, in my suitcase, in my pockets, but it’s nowhere to be found.

“Oh no,” I mutter to myself. “How could I have forgotten my pain medication?”

I start to panic as knots form in my stomach. I can’t imagine spending the whole summer without my medication. I glance around the room, taking in the familiar surroundings. The walls are painted a calming shade of blue, and pictures of my family and me are scattered throughout the room.

The bed is soft and inviting, with a quilt made by my grandmother draped over it. Being in this room brings me a sense of comfort and familiarity, but it’s not enough to take away the pain.

As tears stream down my face, I feel helpless. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the summer without my pills. I can’t let my uncle and his wife know that I’m in pain, or they might send me back home. But I know that I have to find a solution to my problem.

“What am I going to do?” I whisper to myself.

“Hey there, kiddo, how was the trip?” my uncle’s voice breaks my concentration.

“Hey, Uncle,” I reply, trying to mask the pain in my voice.

“Are you okay? You sound like something’s bothering you.”

“I’m fine, just a little tired.”

“Alright then, why don’t you rest for a bit, and we’ll catch up later?” he says, patting me on the shoulder before leaving the room.

I sit on the bed, tears streaming down my face, feeling helpless. But being in this room, surrounded by memories and the love of my family, gives me a glimmer of hope.

I get up from the bed, wiping my tears, and set out to find a solution to my problem. I tiptoe out of my room and make my way to the kitchen. I search through the cabinets and drawers, hoping to find some pain medication that can help me. But my search is in vain; there is nothing there that can alleviate my pain.

“What are you doing up so late?” My aunt’s voice startles me.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d get some water.”

“Okay, well, be careful not to make too much noise. Your uncle is a light sleeper.”

“I will,” I say, trying to hide my frustration.

I continue to search the house, checking every possible place where medication might be kept. I look in the bathroom, the guest room, and even the garage. But I find nothing. As I search, the pain in my ankle continues to worsen, and I start to feel hopeless. Finally, after what seems like hours, I give up my search. I feel trapped in a world of agony.

As the morning arrives, I can no longer conceal the pain and cry out for help, begging for assistance. “Uncle, Auntie, please help me! I can’t take this pain anymore! My ankle is hurting so badly,” I say, tears streaming down my face. They rush to my aid, and I can see the worry etched on their faces

“Don’t worry, we’re here for you. Let’s take a look at your ankle,” my uncle says, his voice gentle and reassuring.

I feel embarrassed, but I push that aside because all I care about at that moment is getting rid of the pain. My uncle hugs me and reassures me that everything will be alright. His wife quickly goes to the kitchen and comes back with some ice and a towel to wrap around my ankle. As she works to ease the swelling, my uncle sits beside me and gently rubs my back.

I feel a mixture of gratitude and embarrassment, as I had been trying to act independently and not burden anyone with my problem.

“Thank you so much for being here for me. I’m sorry for being a bother,” I say, my voice still shaky from the pain.

“Don’t apologize, dear. We’re family, and we’re here to help each other,” my auntie says with a smile.

My uncle takes me to the nearby clinic to have my ankle checked. The ride to the clinic is excruciating, and the fear of the unknown is paralyzing.

“It’s going to be okay, just hold on a little longer,” my uncle says, his hand on my shoulder.

As I lay in the hospital bed waiting for the doctors to examine me, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of regret. I regret not taking care of myself and not prioritizing my desire to visit my uncle instead of my health. I regret not being honest with my family and not seeking help earlier. Regret being so naive and thinking that everything would just work out.

The medical staff is examining my ankle, and the pain intensifies, and I can feel tears streaming down my face uncontrollably. The doctors come in and discuss the possibility of surgery, and I’m terrified at the thought of it. “What if something goes wrong?” I ask, my voice shaking.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. You’re in good hands,” the doctor says, her tone gentle and reassuring.

They immediately order an X-ray of my ankle, and the results are shocking. I have not only twisted my ankle, but I have also fractured it in two places. The doctors tell me that if I had come in earlier, they could have set the bones properly and prevented any further damage. They also tell me that the infection has already spread to my bones, and if they can’t control it, amputation would be the only option left. I feel my world come crashing down. The possibility of losing my leg is too much to bear, and I feel as if I’m in a nightmare from which I can’t escape. “I wish I had listened to my body and not ignored the pain,” I say, tears streaming down my face. “Is there no other way?”

“I’m afraid not.” says the doctor.

As I am being wheeled into the operating room, my anxiety reaches an all-time high. “Please, God, let everything be alright,” I pray silently.
The operating room is cold and sterile, and the bright lights are blinding. The doctors and nurses are all busy preparing for the surgery, and I can hear the beeping of machines and the sound of instruments being moved around. I try to calm myself down, but it’s difficult.

When the anesthesia kicks in, everything goes black, and I feel like I’m floating in a void. When I wake up, I’m groggy and confused, but the pain is gone. My ankle is bandaged, and I’m told that the surgery had been successful.

I’m relieved that my leg wasn’t amputated, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude towards the medical staff who saved my leg. “Thank you, thank you so much,” I say to the doctors and nurses, tears of joy streaming down my face.

I spend the next few weeks in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries to control the infection and set the broken bones. It’s a painful and emotionally draining experience. I am in a foreign city, away from my family and friends, and I have to rely on my uncle and his family for support. I feel like a burden to them and am constantly plagued by guilt. They assure me that it’s okay, but I can’t help but feel like I have let them down by not taking care of myself.

When my uncle visits, I watch him talk with his wife. I realize how much I have taken for granted before. The simple act of walking or running around with my loved ones had once seemed so trivial, but it was now a precious gift that I treasured.

“I never really understand how important my health is until I get injured,” I confide in my uncle.

He smiles at me, and his eyes are filled with understanding. “It’s a hard lesson to learn, but an important one,” he says. “You’re stronger now, and you have a new perspective on life. That’s a gift in itself.”

His words resonate with me, and I feel a sense of peace settle over me. The memory of my injury and the pain I have endured will always be a part of me, but it no longer controls me. Instead, it has become a symbol of my resilience and determination.

As my uncle leaves the room, I hear his wife whisper to him, “She’s going to be okay.” Her words make me smile, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who have stood by me through it all.

Over the next few days, I begin to focus on my recovery. I am determined to get back on my feet and regain my independence. The physical therapy sessions are challenging, but I push myself to work harder every day. Slowly but surely, I begin to make progress.

As I prepare to leave the hospital, my uncle surprises me by organizing a small celebration. He invites his close friends and family, and we gather in the hospital garden. The sun is shining brightly, and the flowers are in full bloom. The sight is beautiful, and it fills me with hope and joy.

My uncle raises a toast to my recovery, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards him and his family. “Thank you,” I say, my voice choking with emotion. “Thank you for everything.”

My uncle puts his arm around me, and we stand there for a moment, taking in the beauty of the moment. As we walk back to the hospital room, I feel a sense of renewed energy and strength. I am ready to face whatever comes my way and am grateful for the lessons I have learned.

5 April, 2023