Observations of a Cripple
I’ve wanted to start writing again for nearly a year now but always wind up distracted with one of the many other things I think I enjoy doing, all of which I dabble in just enough to declare myself a practitioner. But this seems as good an opportunity as any being as how I can barely walk – or even stand up – and I find Game of Thrones about as entertaining as a bath tub of horse shit.
Six days ago, I threw my back out attempting to pick up a large amount of nothing at all. It was a small pile of dead leaves. A handful, actually. I basically bent over twenty-seven and came back up seventy-two. Just like that. I collapsed, but fear and sheer adrenaline immediately forced me back to my feet the second my knees touched the ground. Rigid pain shot back and forth from my neck to my fingers and from my ass to my feet. As my lower back throbbed and I lost feeling in my legs, I initially thought I’d suffered a stroke or something to that effect. It was my first time ever experiencing a back injury and I had no useful point of reference. I tried to take a step but couldn’t. The slightest amount of pressure applied to my foot assured me I’d end up back on the ground. I called for my son who was playing in the yard, and he ran for my wife.
I was dizzy and raining sweat by the time she got to me. Together, we made the ten minute, fifteen foot journey from my backyard to my living room floor. The three stairs leading up to my porch were particularly enjoyable, taking thirty second breathers between each to gather every ounce of stamina available. I laid there on the floor in a kind of pain I didn’t know was achievable without involving fire and/or machetes. It’s the kind of pain you can’t pinpoint the source of, you just know it fucking hurts and you want to yell or shake or pass out or kill people. I did some research and I believe it’s my sciatic nerve, but I signed up to be a rapper instead of a doctor, so I’m only basing that on the words of interweb dwellers I hope are smarter than I am.
And now here I am, nearly one hundred and fifty long hours later, sitting in a metal lawn chair in the middle of my living room. By “metal lawn chair”, I mean one of four cheap pieces of anti-comfort the wife and I bought some years back at Big Lots. Big Lots is a discount department store of sorts, with a certain dreariness trumped only by the living conditions of the Chinese seven-year-olds that poorly assemble its products. Including but not limited to my chair. It’s basically a chair you’d see in a torture chamber. What is a lawn chair doing in my living room, you ask? Why, because it so conveniently happens to be the only chair in my home that supports good posture. Which happens to be exactly why it’s so uncomfortable. And it’s in my house because I don’t wanna sit outside all night. You don’t realize how many different types of chairs are in your house until you’re desperate to find one that doesn’t rape your spinal cord.
So I’m sitting here in this lawn chair, in my living room, directly in front of my sofa. My soft, oversized and overstuffed L-shaped microfiber sofa. My sofa looks so good and so welcoming to me right now that I could sell my entire house and live just on my sofa. I could drift across the Indian Ocean with a Monkey, a Zebra and a Tiger, all on my sofa. Life of Pi. To my left is a stack of books I’ve been thumbing through between episodes of Hell On Wheels. And to my right, a dirty bong packed with some stuff that makes it easier to say “fuck those books” and just watch Hell On Wheels. The pain is secondary to the immobilization. I’ve become restless. Not the least bit lonely, but restless. I forgot about the hyena.
Between the weed and the hydrocodone I acquired from a trusted friend, I go on nightly excursions through space. Time is nonexistent in space, so my days and nights have begun to blend. During any normal week I’d be at work from early in the morning until 2pm, which is when I pick up my six year old son, who I actively keep alive and entertained until he goes to sleep at night. I always tell myself I could take over the world if given any free time. I could at least write more rap songs. Yet, I’ve been sitting here for six days and I haven’t written a bar. Not a line. I don’t know whether it’s depression or relief.
I had a minor freak out within a few hours of getting injured. Lying there on the floor, I started turning stones over in my head. Stones I didn’t know were in there. Growing up, my dad was always injured. He had a forklift fall on top of him shortly before I was born, and his bones just never fully recovered. Spinal surgeries, hip replacements, etc. Him being out of work so often caused obvious financial hardship, and it eventually became one of the pieces of straw on the back of the camel that was my parents’ marriage. They divorced and everything changed forever. So in my head, that was the pattern. You get hurt, you lose your job, your wife leaves you, you grow a beard and cease to know your children. The freak out didn’t last very long and I was even able to have beers with my friends who came over that night. I was on crutches and Vic’d out, but those two things are no strangers to the company I keep.
A funny story: My wife had just helped me into the living room. Knowing we had no real pain medication in the house, she asks in a panicked voice, “Do you want me to get your bong?” To fully appreciate this, you have to know my wife. She doesn’t smoke and she hardly drinks alcohol. She never touches caffein. She rarely curses. She eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with gold fish crackers for lunch. I smoked her out once after she’d finished off a bottle of wine and found her crying in the dark on our bathroom floor.
So my wife quickly returns, wielding my glass bong like an Olympic torch. Her mother was visiting, so she asked her to keep our son outside for a moment. I very rarely smoke with my son around, and I never smoke in front of him. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, I suppose I just want to spare him the confusion for a little while longer. She hands me the bong and opens my little weed jar. I was numb with curiosity. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” she said in a soft, defeated voice. I took the jar and told her to hold out her hand. I started breaking up the nug into her palm. Just then, I started getting dizzy again. I guess focusing in on something was too much for me at that moment, and my eyes started closing by themselves. “I think I’m blacking out,” I told her. Afraid I was dying, I forced my eyes back open. She was holding my hands, still with weed in her palm, and I could tell a few seconds had passed. As soon as I snapped out of it, she sat down on the couch and put her head in her hands. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a little over a year now, and the site of me nearly passing out was enough to make her follow my lead.
But she was only going to pass out once she knew that I wasn’t. She wouldn’t have allowed herself to follow had I in fact passed out. She would’ve just taken care of it. Of that I am sure. We haven’t been married long but we’ve been together for twelve years. Twelve years yesterday, actually. We don’t get much time for ourselves or with each other, but we’re best friends. I was reminded of this when she helped me towel dry my ass and everything southward. And when she helped me put on my boxers, my jeans, my socks and shoes. Smiling all the while. Not a smile of discomfort, but a smile that said, “I’ve loved you since we were fifteen.”
I’ve been slowly recovering in the last six days. Yesterday was my first day walking without crutches, and I’m writing this, so we’re at least headed in the better direction of the two. I get to skip work every morning, wake up to a quiet home, fix myself an exquisite breakfast and look at weird shit on the internet. I get to play Xbox and board games with my kid when he gets home from school. Earlier today he walked to his room and came back with a dollar bill in one hand and ninety-three cents in the other. He said it was for medicine. I’ve gotten to see my grandparents more than usual. They insist on bringing me dinner every other day because I’m injured and my wife works late. I’m broke and without health insurance, but I have my own house, a few wretched but occasionally cool house pets, spare time and some ideas. Today I even felt good enough to shoot a bow and arrow around my back yard. I started writing this with no real idea as to where I was going with it. I guess the moral is that I’m surrounded by dopeness. Sometimes you have to be crippled to recognize it.