i have been told on more than one occasion that i have nice ankles, which struck me as an odd bit of praise the first time i heard it. later, when i was introduced to the concept of the cankle, this compliment made a little more sense.
these days, i have one demure ankle and one less aesthetically pleasing ankle. my ugly ankle is adorned with a bulky mass of fibrous scar tissue, which can be seen and felt beneath the surface of my skin. manipulating my bulky mass in his office a few weeks ago, my acupuncturist called it "meaty."
"it's like. . ." he started, struggling to find the right words to describe it further. "do you eat meat?"
"think back to what it tastes like. that texture in your mouth. that's what your ankle feels like in my hand."
i have an acupuncturist. the needles he sticks into my left foot and ankle feel like they're on fire when they pierce the surface of my skin. he puts them other places, too, those needles. inserted anywhere else, the sensation is weird, vaguely uncomfortable, but i wouldn't describe it as burning.
i tell him this -- that the needles in my left ankle feel like they're on fire.
"that is the afflicted area," he says.
my acupuncturist has many tricks up the sleeve of his white, doctorly-looking lab coat. he has taped seeds inside my ears. he has scraped my ankle repeatedly and vigorously with a buffalo horn (a technique that i later discover is called gua sha). he has applied a curious-smelling herbal salve, vintage 1993, purported to "wipe bruises away," concocted by a revered kung fu master. he has "smoked" the needles in my ankle (that is, to heat them via an ignited bushel of twigs, an instrument that looked and smelled not unlike a blunt).
yeah, it sounds like hocus pocus to me too. i don't know if i buy it, but this particular acupuncturist is sponsoring the league, and treating our skaters at a pittance. i want to be back to 100% badly enough that, given the rightness of the price, i will swallow my skepticism. i will buy it at a reduced rate. and my fibrous mass does seem to be losing weight, though my ankle is a shadow of her formerly svelte sexy self.
i leave my acupuncturist's office in a much better mood than i was before i arrived. i feel inexplicably cheered despite having spent most of the previous hour splayed out and alone in a small dark room, needles rising from my skin, a roller derby voodoo doll. my acupuncturist vanishes before the needles do their magic; i'm not sure where he goes or what he does as i lay there, soaking up the light streaming through the room's single window, and listening to the music made by the sad, sick dogs crying out from the animal hospital located across the alley.
by the end of practice on monday night, my foot was in a lot of pain. it was aching and cramping, but i skated through it. on tuesday, i saw my acupuncturist for the third time. yesterday, i woke up and went to the gym. i did an hour-long class called burn & firm, which involved an ungodly number of jumping jacks and other plyometric drills. then i went to work, and by 6 p.m., i was at the doll factory with my skates on again. i took a break from 7:30-8 to grab a burrito, but otherwise, i was on wheels until 9:30. by the end of practice, i felt like i might collapse from exhaustion, but any ankle discomfort was almost imperceptible. in fact, i wasn't sure if my ankle was only slightly aching, or if my mummification-style tape job was perhaps too tight. a complete turnaround from monday night.
afterward, as i sat peeling off my gear, a teammate approached me.
"wow! so you're totally back to normal now, huh?"
"not really, but i'm working on it."
"well, you look like you are."
"it's an illusion, though it's good to know that i'm pulling it off."
another teammate, leia, sustained a knee injury around the same time i severed the ligament in my ankle. we both resumed skating at practices about a month ago. it was great having her there skating alongside me, knowing that we'd been through the same ordeal over the previous few months. then last week, she went down in a jam, and blew out her bad knee all over again. it had probably been too soon for her to come back -- her injury hadn't completely healed, and now she was back at square one. so, rather than have the fight crew continue to hold her place on the team's roster, she has chosen to step down. she made the announcement at practice on monday night, and it made me sick to hear it.
likewise, i found this new york times magazine article about the injury epidemic in women's sports sad, moving and familiar.