My cousin Christine had a giant trampoline, and it was beautiful. I walked into her backyard one hot July day and there it was—huge, enormous, a circle of springy black net shining glossily in the sun. It was the most gorgeous thing I had ever laid eyes on.
This was in the ’90s, and I was eight. I had never seen—or heard of—a giant trampoline before. Nobody had one yet; hers was the first in the neighborhood. I stood at the edge of it, the yellow pad along the rim pushing against my overall buttons, and slid my hands over the taut black surface. This was a good thing. It was warm. It was new. It vibrated slightly under my hands like something alive, something that wanted to be tested. We pulled ourselves up and jumped.
That was the summer I spent every day in the backyard with Christine, bouncing for hours. She and I had a singular goal in mind: We were trying to break our arms. Because, remember, injuries were cool when we were kids. Broken limbs were the height of chic. We had seen other kids walking around with their neon-pink or cool black casts, attracting swarms of looky-loos: How’d you do it? What happened? Can I sign it? Does it hurt? Is it true they saw it off and you have like a little shriveled mummy arm under there? Does it smell? We wanted that attention for ourselves.
Christine and I practiced double-bouncing, where one of us would land at the same time the other jumped so we could launch into the air way higher than usual. We set the sprinkler under the trampoline, slipping and sliding into the metal coils. We got five kids on there at once and played Push Me Off the Trampoline. We did somersault dismounts onto the grass—but to no avail. Every night, we’d go in for dinner, shaking our heads, saying, “Maybe tomorrow.” Not one limb was broken. Nobody got hurt no matter what we did. It was all very disappointing.
I didn’t have to wait too long, though. Summer lends itself to spectacular injuries, more than any other season, I believe. There are roofs to jump off of and into the pool, poison-ivy patches, swings, creeks that burble over slippery, algae-covered rocks, Rollerblades. There are hornets and spiders and fans with just enough space to stick a finger in. Speeding softballs and pricker bushes and biting ants and bikes—oh my lord, bikes.
Aside from that disappointing summer where I broke exactly no bones, it was a nonstop horror show. Over successive summers, I managed to break each of my arms twice (playing soccer, Rollerblading, on a different trampoline, and roughhousing outside with my dad—call my lawyer); dislocate my shoulder (showing the kids in the kindergarten class I taught how to jump through a hula hoop headfirst onto the grass); and finally break eight toes (kicking things, dropping heavy things on them, dismounting from swings barefoot), two ribs (bike and scooter accidents), and my nose (too embarassing).
And those were just bone injuries. We haven’t even scratched the surface (har har) of flesh wounds. When I was about 10 and living on the edge of endless Wisconsin cornfields, I ran barefoot outside one summer day and my foot landed on a short, thick, upright piece of straw that was still embedded in the ground. It went through the sole of my foot, between the bones, and came up cleanly through the top of my foot, as easily as a hot knife through butter. I hopped home, dumbfounded and shrieking for my mom, making a quick detour to show the neighbor kids, who were very impressed. I was a star. All the attention I could ever want—except once I was on the receiving end of it, I didn’t really want it anymore, because I was in pain.
But still, y’all, I’m a bit of a ghoul. I love, LOVE hearing about other people’s crazy injuries, so I asked the Rookie staff to tell me their most insane summertime how-I-got-hurt stories. And boy did they deliver. Heads up: If you don’t like hearing graphic, hilarious stories involving fishhooks and lawn mowers and screwdrivers, please read no further. Proceed at your own risk!
I grew up in the country, and when we were kids, my dad would take the blades the riding lawn mower and let us drive around on it. We called it the Attack Track. I was a panicky wheelman, so I usually let my sister drive and I would wedge in behind her. But one day, I was cruising around the backyard while she played on the swing set, and she yelled for me to drive under the monkey bars while she hung on to them with her arms and legs. We thought this was a fantastic idea for some reason, and so funny. We were laughing hysterically as I headed for the space right between the two ladders that held up the bars. Unfortunately, she was laughing so hard that she lost her grip and fell to the ground, and I was so freaked out that I ran right over her legs. I didn’t stop on top of her, thank goodness, and I immediately ran to find our parents. She was crying pretty hard. Within a couple of hours, massive tire-track bruises popped up all over her legs, and she was sore for a bit, but otherwise, she was fine! We were not allowed on the Attack Track for another month or so.
A few Junes ago, I was voguing, and I dislocated my elbow whilst trying to do an impossible shablam in an underground dance venue in Brooklyn. It’s not recommended for amateurs, especially those wearing platform heels. As soon as it became clear that I was not going to make it happen, I instinctively stuck my right hand out to catch myself—and when I landed on it with most of my weight, my elbow dislocated AND POPPED OUT OF MY SKIN. I rolled onto my back and went into immediate shock, because the grotesque sight of the bone protruding from my flesh was more intense than the pain. It seemed unreal, so I lifted up my arm to double check that I was indeed injured so gruesomely (due diligence), and yep, I was. Someone called an ambulance, and once I got to the hospital it took a high dose of painkillers and seriously four different doctors to pop my arm back in. I spent that summer sweating profusely in a cast and typing with my left hand, and since New York City summers are torturously humid and disgusting, my arm looked like rotten chorizo by the time I took the cast off.
I was spending the day at the local pool with my sister. She was 16 and going through a stage where she thought she was sooooo much cooler than me, and I was 11 and at a point where I wanted constant attention. So whenever we were in public together she’d pretend she didn’t know me. As she walked ahead of me down the concrete stairs leading to the pool area, I tried to catch up to her in my flip-flops and fell face-forward down the stairs as though they were a mountain and I was the sled. My chin scraped against the concrete so hard that it burst open. But my sister was so far ahead of me that she didn’t realize this and turned around at that moment to yell, “Get up! You’re embarrassing me!” But then I looked up and there was a stream of blood running down my neck and she didn’t know what to do. It was weirdly gratifying, like, “This is what you get for being too cool for your li’l sis.” Don’t worry, we’re pretty tight now, and the scar on my chin is barely visible.
A squirrel fell out of a tree and into my bike basket once. We looked at each other and screamed, and then as it was running away, I ran over its neck with my bike. I was fine. Does this count?
One summer when I was about nine, I was so bored that I tried to curl my waist-long hair on a comb, because I thought there was no difference between that and a round brush. I wrapped my hair around it so tightly that it became a tangled nest, and the skin on my forehead was being pulled and stretched in an effort to yank it out. My parents had to remove the comb tooth by tooth. It took them more than an hour. One week later, my hair dangled into the kitchen mixer and got caught in it while it was on high speed. I keep my hair short these days.
It was the summer after I finished high school. I was 18. My mother and I were trying to move a big ol’ slice of oak tree from our neighbor’s backyard in Long Island. The tree had been cut down, and my mom wanted to make it into some kind of table. We moved about half a step before it fell on my foot. I was wearing hiking boots and heavy socks, but when I took off my boot, my foot was covered in blood. The weight of the oak tree had crunched my foot—”squished it like an orange,” in my mother’s words—and shattered my big toe into several pieces while breaking the other two next to it. The good thing that came out of it was I had to stay in the hospital for two nights with nothing but a Scrabble set, and so I made hella anagrams, and that is when I first realized that Anna Gabrielle Liu McConnell equals mingle alone in le carnal club. Oh yeah, also, when the doctor looked at my foot, there was white goop dribbling out of it, and I was like, “What’s that?” And the doc said, “Oh, that’s fat.” (I have fat toes.) The doctor removed it, so I think I’ve had liposuction.
You know how when you’re getting out of the ocean, you’re not supposed to look behind you, and instead take the opportunity to just run, run, run? I always looked behind me. I was once so paralyzed by the rising wall of water that I froze, and had to continually duck under wave after wave until a lifeguard came and rescued me. But this isn’t that story. This is about the time I was running through the sprinklers at my aunt’s house when I was 10. With sprinklers, I had the opposite problem: I was never able to face forward and look at the line of water as I jumped through. Instead I closed my eyes and looked away. These were old sprinklers that shot out of metal spikes on a bar attached to a hose, and the water rotated back and forth over one patch of yard, so all in all, I was pretty cowardly. One time, I jumped prematurely, and my foot caught on those spikes, which dragged down the sole of it. It looked like Freddy Krueger had just missed me, which (as a horror fan) is how I consoled myself—after I cried to my cousin and she bandaged my foot while gently criticizing my sprinkler-jumping form.
On the Rookie Road Trip last summer, I had a sinus infection that led to pink eye. Then one night my sister and I were throwing tampons at Tavi, and she peed, so I got super hyper and jumped up and down, and I dislocated my knee.
I was playing in an old, decrepit playground with a friend the summer after first grade. We were messing around on an ancient wooden teeter-totter (aka seesaw). Instead of sitting on both ends like you’re supposed to, she sat on one end and I stood on the other side and tried to pulled the teeter-totter down with my arms. I slipped and fell, and she immediately jumped off to see if I was OK, which sent my end of the teeter-totter crashing down on my leg. I started screaming, and we lifted it up to discover that the back of my calf was covered in blood. It was pooling in my shoes. My parents bandaged me up and decided that since it looked like a clean wound, they wouldn’t traumatize me further with stitches. They should have, though, because that thing oozed for three days. And when we finally returned to the playground, we were horrified to discover what had caused it: There was an OLD RUSTY SCREW sticking out of the bottom of the teeter-totter seat. Luckily my tetanus vaccination was up to date, but I still have a huge round scar from it.
I forgot about the time I scratched my cornea on a sleeping-bag zipper nine years ago. I was touring with my band over the summer, and I was moving the sleeping bag around in our van. Then two minutes later, I scratched the other one on the tag of a sweater that I pulled on backwards. Five hours later, I went to the ER, where they put dye in my eyes that left brown-orange streaks down my whole face. They put a bandage over one eye, and I went to Walgreens in a borrowed ratty shirt to pick up an eye patch and a prescription. There, I ran into my ex-BF whom I had just dumped like two months before, and all he said was “Jesus” and walked away.
I was visiting my uncle’s farm and he had a shitty makeshift zipline over a shallow creek that nobody swam in. I fell off, and an old screwdriver in the water (?) cut a gash about four inches long in my calf. We washed off the blood with a hose next to a pigpen.
When I was six, I was fishing off a dock near my family’s boat, and I pulled my rod back to cast my line, so it went flying behind me. Little did I know, at just that moment, my BFF’s older sister turned a corner and was walking directly behind me. The hook landed about a millimeter from her eyeball, and hooked her lower eyelid. I HOOKED HER IN THE EYE. There was screaming, crying. Some old fishermen came running and tried to remove the hook, with no luck. And then we went to the ER. The hook was removed successfully and her parents never let her come to the boat again.
There’s only one conclusion to be drawn from this round-up of summer injury horror stories: STAY INSIDE. Just kidding. Go have fun! Summer is just waiting to sink its hooks into you. ♦