Up & Down | 24-300417

Passport, Bicycle, Little India. Monday’s lunch break is spent cycling to the Danish embassy way north of Orchard and Bukit Timah Road to have my passport renewed, and as I tread through the quays, Bugis and Little India in bright sunshine, I keep thinking to myself how glad I am to have a bike – it makes me so free, swift and independent. In less than an  hour, it enables me to see great parts of Singapore, get decent amounts of cardio training, freshish air and sunshine, making running an errand a fun ride serving as a welcome break from a day of desk work.

Sundowners. At the end of the day, I once again feel grateful for my bike, as it allows me to meet a couple of friends from London at Spago, on top of Marina Bay Sands, in a matter of minutes after finishing work. The couple got married in Bethnal Green last week, at my favourite bar and restaurant in the neighbourhood actually, at Town Hall Hotel, and are now doing an amazing honeymoon tour of Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan. He was the one who hired me at my first job in London, and at that time, she worked as a creative writer in the team that he managed. Think they only made their relationship official once she’d quit and started working as a journalist. I was never very close with either, but we know each other as well as you do when you spend 12 hours a day together in the same small environment (office; riverwalk in front of office; pub next to office) for three years, and they are lovely, balanced, happy people, so it’s nice to be able to spend a delicious sundowner cocktail hour with them here, almost exactly a year after I left London and had my first Singapore sundowner cocktails at the very same bar, with my first friend in town, who is moving back Copenhagen on Sunday of this week, incidentally. Ah, the near-symmetry! We chat with a natural excitement and joy as it slowly grows dark around us. This is how dusk looks from Spago – the panorama view of this vertical garden city and the twinkling tankers never fail to make me smile:


Accident. For the third time that day, when I push my bike across a pedestrian crossing on my way home from the Marina Bay, I thank the blue iron horse for its existence. It’s on my right side when a car hits it and forces it to pull me down onto the tarmac, my right leg twisted in an awkward angle around its iron body. At first I’m just shaken and shocked, feeling relieved that my bike appears to be unharmed and that I (and my Mulberry bag) have got no scratches, or pain to speak of. Having parked her car a bit further on, the driver comes running towards me looking frightened and as shocked as I feel, apologising and asking if she may take me to the hospital or home. I smile and thank her and shake my head, getting up and grabbing my bike. People around me look worried and stretch their hands out, eager to comfort and support me. I shake it all off and get up on my bike, cycling on for a bit until I get to the poke place where I want to pick up some dinner. As I step off my bike, I hear a cracking sound from my right knee and feel an odd sensation of the leg collapsing under me. I stumble into the takeaway place and ask the nearest waitress to call an ambulance, and then she puts me on a chair with a glass of water, which I sob into as my vision grows gradually more and more blurred, black spots dancing around in front of me. I’m shaking all over, feeling scared and cold, unsuccessfully trying to get hold of S who isn’t checking his phone as he’s at a work event. As I arrive at Singapore General Hospital, he is already there though, having read my messages shortly after I put my phone away to talk to the ambulance folks. I’m placed on a bed among hundreds of elderly people, and the rest of that night – we’re there from 8pm to 4am – is a fuzzy blur. Everyone is friendly – the nurse asking questions, the doctor moving my leg around tryingly, S walking back and forth between the waiting room and me, fetching a superfood salad from PS at one point as well, the people doing x-rays of the knee, shin and foot, the doctor telling me that there aren’t any obvious fractures, but that there may be something wrong with the ligaments or perhaps a hairline fracture, for which reason he puts me in a cask from hip to toe, ordering me to come back in a week, which is the earliest time they can schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, as well as the nurses giving me an anasthetic injection and, finally, just before dawn, the physiotherapist teaching me how to walk with crutches. I’m grateful that S is there to support me, all the way through the white night and with an arm on my back when we go up the stairs at home and fall into bed completely exhausted, making me breakfast when we wake up, helping me check that my health insurance through work will cover trips to a private hospital, which it will, thankfully, and taking Tuesday off work so that he can accompany me to Raffles Hospital, where we immediately get to see a bone specialist, who thinks it’s definitely not a fracture but may be my ACL that’s damaged. I have an MRI scan, the results of which we’ll have on Thursday. Having cut off the cask before the scan, the doctor wraps my leg in gauze and sends me home with a colourful selection of pills.

(Fear, Despair, Pain,) Optimism, Appreciation, Gratitude. Before getting the result of the MRI, I try not to think about not being able to work, run, train or socialise normally for any amount of time, or how difficult it may be travelling to Europe in a month’s time, or whether I’ll have to cancel the marathon in September, etc. Because it may not be so bad. And it could of course have been way worse. A car hit me. Or, it hit my bike. What if my bike hadn’t been there to serve as a shield? It hurts a bit, but otherwise I’m fine. On a small scale, I definitely have to cancel all plans for this week – work meetings, cooking dinner for my new Singaporean friend on Wednesday night, going to the theatre to watch the play The Unreasonable Feminist with another friend on Thursday night, attending a third friend’s leaving party (she’s moving back to her home-country, Canada, for an unknown period of time) on Friday, spending all of Saturday with a fourth friend, who is moving to Copenhagen on Sunday, brunching by the beach, hanging by the pool and dancing the night away, and, finally, on Sunday, checking out the Art Book Fair at Gillman Barracks, where my friend is promoting her new Singapore travel guide. On a larger scale, I have to think about the time I have to spend lying on the sofa with my leg elevated on a pile of cushions or slow-walking along with crutches, whether it may be two weeks, three weeks, or more, as a small moment in a whole life. It’s temporary. I’ll get over it. It’ll be in the past. I may as well get through it with the best possible attitude.

Love. I’ve been living in the tropics for exactly a year this Sunday, and in that time, I’ve met some pretty cool people who’ve come to play a large part in my life, and who all support me in this situation. After we get back from the hospital on Tuesday, S is pampering me throughout the rest of the day, fetching my favourite takeout for lunch and dinner, doing grocery shopping, surprising me with a beautiful bouquet of pink carnations and the newest issue of Monocle, watching Netflix with me. On Wednesday, he goes on a business trip to Manila, but he’s with me in spirit all the way until Saturday night when he returns, calling me several times a day. Friends fill out the time I’m not snoozing from the strong painkillers: on Wednesday evening, my local friend comes over with a bottle of cab sauv and boxes of tau huay (soy bean curd) for dessert, and we order takeout from PS, chatting cosily over dinner for several hours. On Thursday morning, S’s friend (who, by now, is also my good friend) from Hong Kong knocks on the door with my favourite coffee and accompanies me on my trip to get the MRI results at the hospital, proactively asking all of the questions that I’m too confused to ask, and making sure we get all the information we need. On Thursday evening, my former flatmate, drops by with a cute cockerspaniel she’s babysitting, cooking a hearty love soup stuffed full of sweet potatoes, chili, quinoa and other goodies (it’s the first meal she ever cooked for her boyfriend, and thus, he refers to it as the ‘love soup’), watering our plants and vacuuming up the thousands of fragments of a glass I’ve broken, while I’m playing with the dog. On Saturday, she calls me from her and her boyfriend’s detox hideout in Canggu to check that I’m ok. On Friday, the friend with the leaving party stops by to say hello and give me a bottle of her favourite wine before her party. That day, I also receive flowers and facial masks (!) from friends in Denmark. My parents and friends from home call and send sweet messages. Early on Saturday afternoon, a couple of friends come over to camp out in my living room for the rest of the day, listening to my tale, cheering me up with stories of their own, promising to avoid running for the next six months out of solidarity (ha ha) and getting me coffee from the bakery. At some point, one of S’s friends drops by with his best friend visiting from New York, both lovely guys, with lots of sweet words of compassion and encouragement as well, and in the evening, my friend leaving for Copenhagen and her friend visiting from Hong Kong come over in their party gear, carrying a bottle of pink champagne plastered full of happy emoji stickers and a great, chilled zinfandel. We listen to Beyoncé’s Lemonade, order food from Deliveroo and toast to life again and again. When everyone leaves around midnight, after having cleared completely up after the party, S returns from Manila, with kisses, comfort, a leather dachshund to use as a doorstopper (!) and a pile of my favourite magazines. He’s spoiling me all of Sunday, walking in snail-pace with me to get some fresh air and a cup of coffee at the bakery, cooking meals, picking up a huge bunch of hydrangea and a smaller bunch of freesia and roses, going on an expedition to find my bike and take it home, etc…

Work Life Balance. I have hospitalisation leave from work all week, and then I’ll have to see what will happen next week. One day at a time. One week at a time. I CAN work from home – but I shouldn’t exhaust myself. It all depends on how drowsy the pills make me, and on how little or much I’m advised to move my leg. I’m in a pretty strong and good shape, which will count as a positive factor in the healing process and allow me to get back to normal relatively soon. For now, I’ll face the days of marathon Netflix and reading and staring into space that I never normally take, but still do enjoy from time to time.

MRI Results. On Thursday morning, I’m told that my ACL and meniscus are torn and that there are two small bone fractures in my right knee. The fractures will take care of themselves; they are too small to worry about. There’s too much blood in my knee for reconstruction of the ligaments right away; the doctor wants to see me again next Wednesday to decide if enough liquid has subsided and we can schedule surgery. I should be able to walk a week after surgery, and then the success rate of the whole thing will depend just as much on rehab as on the operation itself – I need to find a good physiotherapist (a friend of mine knows one). I won’t be able to exercise like I normally do for another 6 months. It’s going to change my daily life – but it is for 6 months only, and I’ll just have to come up with other ways of staying in shape without stressing my knee. My lifestyle can stay unaffected if I’m strong, patient and creative. I love swimming – isn’t swimming what they always recommend? I know nothing. I need to know everything about this. A new area of learning. In a way, that’s exciting. It’s easy to feel discouraged and down, but I keep saying to myself that it could have been way worse and that it happens to a lot of people. On a superficial level, I hate the thought of losing my current fitness; that I’ll be immobile and incapable of doing barre and running for months; that I’m physically dependent on other people; that I may not be able to do all of the things in Europe in a month that I’d imagined; that I’ll miss the marathon in Chennai. But I will be fit again, and as long as I’m in a good mood, people around me are happy to help – and it’s okay to receive help from time to time. I would offer that to my loved ones as well. Appreciate the small things, like the morning light in the kitchen on Friday morning, even if I can’t run out into it; the bliss of the shower on Sunday morning after four days of no showers; the wonder of hot sunlight and a breeze on the Sunday morning coffee walk after 4 days of staying inside. All of the friendly calls and messages from everyone from peripheral friends and family members to colleagues and barre buddies… So much love.


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