Over the days that followed, his pain became increasingly familiar to him. It would come over him while he was reaching for the push-buttons on his bed or crossing the floor to the bathroom, when he was watching the sun bounce off the TV, watching the rain leave its cat’s paws on the window, a response he realized he’d been waiting for all along, as if he and his wounds were having a conversation at bedtime, interrupted by long moments of insensibility. Oh, yes. Where were we? You were asking me a question, weren’t you? He did not court the sensation, but he did not shrink away from it, either. Whenever he felt it diminishing, a brief feeling of regret settled over him. The fact that he was healing meant that he would be returning to his real life soon.
-Kevin Brockmeier, Illumination.
I copied that wonderful quote on pain from the mighty Kevin Brockmeier’s Illumination because it spoke to me. Every anniversary of the accident, the rainy season has passed and the worst of my pain with it. Rather than struggling to cast my mind back, I decided to record those complaints so I’d have some fresher memories. It also helps me keep my complaints to myself.
Friday, July 15th, 2011 - It’s a restless day for that creature. You know what it looks like, the thing which lives inside your thigh, mouth wrapped around the end of your femur where it meets your hip: at the end of The Incredibles, Jack-Jack morphs into a little demon of flames and big teeth. The end of your femur rests in it’s mouth like a dog sleeping with a chew toy. The heat tingling from this creature’s mouth is like your nose in the corner of your vision, always there but forgotten unless you think about it.
Then a movement you’ve made a thousand times startles it for some reason. It’s not quite awake, but it still bites. Once, twice, three times, before settling back into that low heat.
Monday, July 18th - The aching bones in your leg bring to mind a rotten tooth. Not a fresh nerve jangling pain, but something brittle you’d see in a skull in a museum. No longer a tool for biting, but an object to gingerly ease from place to place.
This is not the case, obviously, but it feels so true you actually test holding your entire body with your leg. You push up and down a few times for good measure, proving your leg is strong, solid, that the weakness is all in your mind. Even this doesn’t convince you. Your hollow bones ache like buzzing filament in a lightbulb, warning you to tread softly on what’s left.
Thursday, July 21st - It’s a day to lean forward in your chair because of your rib, the high one toward your back. You’re a child, and a cruel adult is digging a thumb and forefinger into your back and side like a pincer. The angle makes your hip worse, of course, so you lean back after a time. Since most your day is spent in a chair the day passes this way, moving the pain back and forth between your hip and your rib.
Friday, July 22nd - Your rib, the low one this time, toward the front. It’s like sleeping on a fold-out cot, the metal hinge digging into your side. You forget it’s there, and you slouch. The weight of your upper body pushing down increases the annoying pressure into a deep throb.
You straighten up, which is fine. You shouldn’t be slouching anyway.
Wednesday, August 23rd - Nothing which cut through the rush of work and wedding prep severely enough to report for a month, which is good. A day with no relief, which is bad.
No standing position is comfortable, no sitting position is comfortable, laying down relieves the worst of the aches but it’s not an option. Grit your teeth, get through it, hope tomorrow is better.
Thursday, August 24th - The day begins with some kind of object left inside your left buttcheek, something shaped like one of those trivets you leave on a stove for resting spoons while you cook.
As the day progresses, the object moves south. It rests against your hip socket, then in your knee joint, and finally your ankle. The ankle and knee pain always mystifies you. Nothing happened to your ankle or your knee. Supposedly getting in an accident is like jumping off a building, six stories for sixty miles-an-hour, seven stories for seventy miles-an-hour, etc. Your legs absorb the shock of the car’s sudden stop. But that only applies to head-on collisions, and if it had happened with you, the pain should be in both ankles. Besides, what bruised bone still pains four years after the injury?
That’s another reason to keep the pain to yourself; the idea that it might be all in your head.
Friday, August 26th - Ribs poking the muscles in your back all day long at work. Hip at a level you haven’t felt in years. Blame it on the sudden temperature shift brought by the passing of hurricane Irene.
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 (the Five-Year Anniversary) - You get the idea. I stopped at that point but I realize this year that cold snaps in the winter aren’t any picnic, either. Maybe last year’s rainy season was just extra-bad. Here are two images I didn’t use but which I also see on certain days: my hip as a sea shell, or a two-by-four blackened and brittled by fire.
Yesterday I helped set up Books & Books’ booth for this weekend's South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Lugging heavy cookbooks about led to a painful evening, but you know what? No one likes a whiner. I popped some Aleve and walked to Cub Scouts with Dylan.
I made a promise to myself after this accident that I'd never take my body for granted again. The aches last night were worth getting out of the chair and doing something physical. I should remember that.