They were having fun, really going at it. I could hear the thuds way across the mat. Then everything stopped. "Should I call an ambulance?" I heard someone say. By the time I got to them, my friend was standing.
"No, no," he said. "I'll be OK." But I could tell by his white, white face and the way his arm hung that he was not.
"We have those ice packs you crack and shake," I said. I started after them but someone was already bringing them and ACE bandages. I went to get a cup of water instead.
Someone had found a chair for my friend to sit in. The seminar instructor had gotten my friend's gi top off, and my friend's practice partner had made a sling. They were using ACE bandages and the partner's tee shirt to strap the ice packs to my friend's shoulder. "Could you clap everybody out and get them cleaning?" the instructor said. "I'll get him fixed up."
"Thank you," my friend said. He took a big sip of water and a little of the color came back to his face. "But no need. My partner here is taking good care of me. Once he finishes, I'm going to wash up a bit and change, then go outside, call my wife, and head over to the Urgent Care so they can take a look at it."
"Let me drive you," I said.
"Then I'd have to come back out here to pick up my truck," he said. "It's just my shoulder. I can drive."
"I'll help you get changed," his partner said. They headed for the dressing room.
~ * ~
Several groups of people loitered in the parking lot, talking in low tones. As I walked by the first group, from our dojo, I overheard, "He was being way too rough and using too much force. I knew something was going to happen."
Passing the second group, from the partner's dojo, I heard, "Someone of his rank should be able to take that ukemi. It was uke's fault."
~ * ~
When I got to my car, I saw my friend and his partner come out the side door. Someone had brought my friend's truck up close to the building. My friend's partner opened the driver's door of my friend's truck, then walked around and put my friend's bag in on the passenger side. He came back to the driver's side to shake my friend's hand and close the door. My friend waved at me as he drove by, then at the groups of folks who still stood talking by their cars.
The partner came to stand with me and watch my friend drive away. "I am so sorry," the partner said. "I should never have let this happen. It was my fault. I want to pay his medical bills." He pressed large bills into my hand.
Later that night, I called my friend. He asked me if I'd come by to pick up his partner's tee shirt and return it the last day of the seminar. His wife had washed it. I sat on his couch and listened as he told me about the trip to Urgent Care. His shoulder was separated and he'd be out of work and off the mat at least a month. The doctor had put him into some kind of x-brace and a sling and had complimented the first aid he'd received before he got to Urgent Care.
"Your partner asked me to give you this," I said as I pulled out the wad of money. "He wants to pay your medical bills."
"He already apologized," my friend said. "And it wasn't his fault. It was mine."
"He really wants you to have this," I said.
"I can't take it," he said. "It was my fault. Please tell him thank you and I hope we're partners again on another mat another day."
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.