Decades after a sudden car crash left Lynne Greenberg severly injured and in immeasurable pain, she is learning that recovery is a long process.
After discovering that neck injuries from the accident had never quite healed, she is forced to deal with a life of chronic pain and all of its repercussions.
You can read an excerpt of Greenberg's mesmerizing memoir, "The Body Broken" below.
I was nineteen. Home from college for the summer. A third date. A reckless boy. I find myself initially unable to recall his name, having blocked it years ago—Walter, perhaps? My mother, emphatic, reminds that his name was Martin. All I remember is his stocky build and that, like a wrestler, his center hung low in his hips.
On our first date, we rode horseback. My horse bolted, and I fell. On our second date, he took me skeet shooting at his father's hunting club. The gun backfired, and I fell again. Shouldn't these falls have presaged another? Grounded, solid, he had a gravitational pull on me.
On our third date, we drove out from the suburbs of St. Louis, my hometown, to a friend's farm in rural Missouri. Huge party. Lots of beer stowed in his trunk, still unopened. He sped along faster and faster, eager for the fun to begin. Racing and bumping along the dirt road, the car hit a small ditch. Martin lost control of the wheel, and the car pitched, rolled, and tumbled off a thirty-foot drop. Those were the days before laws prescribed seat belts; none of us bothered to wear them. I flew out of the open window and fell, yet once more, landing in a cornfield far below. The car was totaled; people assumed that I was dead somewhere inside all of that bent metal. Martin suffered few injuries, a mere broken collarbone, and barreled out of the wreck.
I felt only a vague annoyance during the accident, at first, because hitting the ditch made me bungle my attempt to put on more lipstick. As we began catapulting off the embankment, I still felt no fear, anxiety, or even premonition, just more annoyance. This is so stupid, I thought. Now we're going to be late to the party. And then the sudden whoosh of being lifted high into the air, so brief this flight before the free fall, followed only by blackness.
News of the accident spread through the party. My neighbor Clayton Varley, hearing, raced to get to the car, taking a shortcut through a cornfield. He never found the car; he found me instead, lying among the ripening stalks. Dress ripped off. Unconscious. Covered in filth, rocks, glass, and blood. I was later told that he took his shirt off and covered my exposed body. Such a sensitive, protective gesture. One that sometimes creeps up on me unawares. I still find myself using it as a way of gauging individuals, particularly men. How would they behave in a moment of female vulnerability?
I came to in an ambulance, strapped to a gurney. I couldn't move. I could barely open my eyelids. They were swollen shut, but a man inches from my face demanded attention. He kept questioning me—my name, age, address, where I hurt. Again, I felt annoyance. I wanted to go back to sleep. My neck hurt. My arms hurt. My legs hurt. My face hurt. I answered a few of his questions but then drifted. Darkness again.