Or indeed any other appendage. I crashed my motorbike when I was a student. (Well, I crashed it many times, but that time I did so quite spectacularly, in Tottenham Court Road, and had to go to Casualty at the Middlesex: the impact had smashed the thin bones behind my right eye-ball.) The hospital sent me home later that night, and the next day I went to the Student Health Centre at University College, where the doctor checked that all was well. He happened to be, as well as a G.P., a well-known psychoanalyst, and he said ‘The important thing is to find out why you had the accident.’
‘What do you mean? There’s no why in the sense of motive; it was an accident.’
‘Nonsense. No such thing as an accident.’
Well I was studying philosophy at the time, so used to believing six impossible things if not before breakfast then at least before coffee, which I had in the excellent basement café at Dillon’s bookshop. (I wonder if it’s still there?) Over coffee I thought about what the shrink had said, and realized he was, at least this time, right: I won’t go into details, but the ‘accident’ had certain important advantages for me. Ever since, I have had the Freudian habit of looking for hidden, unconscious motives behind accidents, my own and others’.
A young friend of mine is under a lot of pressure just now at school: she has been told that outside school hours she must do at least five hours reading a day, and she is exhausted. She came home the other day tired and with a headache, and rang me to say she simply wouldn’t be able to come, as usual, to play the piano. Furthermore she was due to have another of the school’s far too frequent ‘tests’ on Monday and wasn’t looking forward to it.
That night it rained, and when she went out the next morning, crossing the gang-plank from the back door of her house to the road, (don’t ask), she slipped and fell. She was badly shocked by the fall, but the only actual physical injury was — to the thumb of her right hand. For some days she will not be able to write.