Last Thursday afternoon, in equal parts disbelief and denial, I sat in a metal chair beside the nurse's desk at Khalifa Urgent Care Clinic in Abu Dhabi.
"What brings you here?" an unsmiling nurse asked me.
"I was riding. I fell off a horse," I said, showing her the swollen middle finger on my left hand.
"Your first time?" she asked.
I began to feel as if I were in the confessional.
"No, I've ridden for a while," I said. "I broke my right arm in February - also falling off a horse."
"Not a very good rider," she said.
"You could say that," I said, nodding my head. I'd earned that one: my left middle finger turned out to be broken.
I had broken my right arm two months ago, in February. When I got the cast off after six long weeks, I told myself I wouldn't ride again. The healing process had been more difficult than I'd anticipated.
But over subsequent days, even as I decided to quit riding forever, the demands on my time/energy were mounting. Our eldest needed advice on which college he should attend. The mail needed sorting, the house needed de-cluttering, and the younger boys needed to organize play-dates. The height of the laundry began to rival the Hajar Mountains.
My inner self yearned for something just for me.
I got the okay from my doctor for riding, and I set up a private lesson. Sitting on the slowest horse in the stables, I was exuberant to be back in the saddle.
"I haven't that much fun in a long time," I told M that evening, smiling for the first time in weeks.
Last Thursday, my horse made an abrupt stop while cantering. I went over his head and onto the ground. I didn't do anything wrong, my teacher said. But accidents happen. My finger was killing me. I didn't yet know it was broken, but I knew I had to quit this sport.
I looked at my riding instructor. I felt very sad as I began my first Abu Dhabi good-bye.
I wished this gentle man much happiness and success in life, with his job, with his wife and his new baby. He wasn't a personal friend, but I liked him very much. His workday began at 6 a.m. every day except Friday. He grew up in Morocco, where his father had been a showjumping trainer. He was endlessly patient and an excellent rider himself. He spoke Arabic, French and English - sometimes all three in one lesson.
Over the time I knew him, I'd enjoyed hearing about his baby: it was the one area where I felt I could return the favor and offer him advice. I was leaving Abu Dhabi this summer. I knew I'd never see him again.
I mumbled good-bye and left, saving my tears for the car ride home.