Bruises On My Knees For You: That Time You Accidentally Broke Your Friend's Arm


It’s the stuff of movie childhood trauma. (And of course Dick Cheney’s hunting trips.) It seems even little Barack Obama knocked a friend off his bike, breaking the tot’s arm. So, what are you still apologizing for?

While most of the violence I inflicted on my brother was intentional (and condoned! My dad gave us boxing gloves and regularly made us work out our differences in organized bouts), the Incident of the Donut Kettle still haunts me. Of course, it wasn’t just my fault. We were twelve or so, and my best friend and I set out to make an unsupervised batch of homemade donuts, both, as I’ve since learned, bad ideas. We fried up some desultory, oil-logged nuggets and, finding the whole thing a colossal disappointment, decided to call it a day. We tried to carry our dishes to the sink, but when I couldn’t handle my half of the pot’s weight and my strength gave out, it clattered to the floor, splashing Elaine’s bare feet and ankles with boiling oil. What followed was chaos, my attempts at first aid, my attempts at first aid giving way to screams for my dad, a trip to the ER, and a period where she dramatically walked with a cane. Neither of us has contemplated deep-frying since. And I’m not the only one:

Says Anna Holmes: “I was throwing rocks with my friend and hit her in the face and a part on her braces went through her entire top lip.”

And Katy:

I have:
– ashed a cigarette out the window of a moving car, which flew in the back window and hit my friend in the eye (this has actually happened twice)
– dropped a large rock we were carrying together on my friend’s foot
– chipped a friends tooth (ok this was her fault really, because she chipped it trying to bite my knee. this happened in high school.)

This is sometimes highly traumatic. Says Anna North,

I have a problem where if I accidentally hurt someone, I often burst into tears. It’s like a reflex. Once I elbowed my then-boyfriend in the eye as we were walking into a baby store to buy something for a friend’s shower. I immediately started sobbing — and worrying that everyone would think my boyfriend and I were having a fight about my (nonexistent) pregnancy.

The remorse is even worse when the violence was…less than accidental, as in Jenna’s shameful case.

Once, when I was about 14, I was painting a set for a theatre production at lunchtime with my two best friends, and they started teasing me about a guy I had gone on a date with. (They had a point – we had nothing in common, he was kind of an asshole, and he wore plastic trackpants on that date, but at that age, I still felt like I owed men something, and didn’t like having my taste criticized.) They wouldn’t let up. They kept calling him “Plasticpants” and laughing. I got so mad that I chucked the paintbrush, a big, broad, heavy paintbrush, at them. It ricocheted off the set and struck my friend Bec in the head. Hard enough to leave a cut, above her hairline. I burst into tears and started begging forgiveness, Bec went into shock, our other friend started yelling at me, we all ran to the bathroom. To this day they refer to “The Plasticpants Incident” and I feel such deep shame at ever having hurt someone I value so highly.

(Yes, it left a scar.)

Others have been on the receiving end of friendly fire. Relates Margaret,

My best friend has driven over my foot TWICE. She didn’t realize I was standing close to her car and rolled over it slowly while backing down her driveway. I actually wasn’t hurt, possibly because her car was so small and crappy we called it ‘the go-cart.’

And Katy, in addition to a serial burner and rock-dropper, has faced her own share of unintentional injuries.

My ex-boyfriend once kicked me in the face by mistake while we were wrestling, and I have a scar on my forehead from when my brother hit me in the face with an oar (we were 12 and playing something we made up called oar-ball). I also broke my arm when a friend crashed into me while rollerblading. And a neighbor broke two of my toes by jumping on my feet during a game of horse.

None of them as good a story as having your arm broken by the POTUS, maybe. But still an essential trauma of childhood that can continue to wrack you with guilt – and scars – for the rest of your life.

Obama Talks Childhood, Breaking Friend’s Arm

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