The last thing I remembered before spinning to a stop was observing that the passenger side airbag was, surprisingly, blue. Blue enough to catch my eye as the other airbag exploded in grey-white powder and smacked me in the face. Light blue, like the clear sky that day.
Days later, when I saw the car, my shock at the crumpled metal was subdued by my amazement that the air bag, now deflated and hanging from the dash like an abandoned grocery bag caught on a tree branch, was, indeed, blue. Barely discernible as color, except in contrast to the white. Barely blue in contrast to my bluish-purple broken foot, only faintly colored in contrast to the reddish-brown burn marks across my neck and chest, it laid there, disabled, no longer serviceable, having done its job to protect the absent passenger. The driver's side airbag -- the one that kept me from skewering myself on the steering wheel or flying through the windshield -- was white, with a slight pinkish tint.
This past week marked the first time in over 4 months that I've driven regularly. It is also the week that I began to wear regular (although somewhat unfashionable) shoes. No cast, no walking boot-brace, no cane: freedom, of a kind.
Already I've noticed the looks I get from strangers are different when they observe my new, awkward gait. A cast or brace is temporary and elicits slight smiles of sympathy or an occasionally "What happened?". Passing someone else in a heavy ortho-boot (almost always the right foot, I noted), gets a nod of commiseration. But limping, moving slowly up a flight of stairs, stepping awkwardly from curb to street, receives puzzled looks of curiosity. No commiseration, no sympathy, no breaks; at best, there is a curious recognition of one's otherness; at worst, rejection for not meeting the normal standard.
It will be interesting in the next several weeks until I am walking in a manner not discernibly different, to continue to observe reactions of strangers I pass in my daily activities. One thing for sure, when I go back to NYC in a few days, I don't expect anyone to give up their seat for me on a rush hour train.