Sunday, March 14, 2010


For this exercise, we have to take a trip through time. We have to go back to last summer, to the last day of July. You are going to meet four beings--Tom (my then boss), Thompson (still an employee), my right side, and Anna (my friend and physical therapist).

In the afternoon of this day in question, Tom and I had just back from lunch, and I had strapped in to all of my work gear--what I call my cop belt of box cutters, pens, two-way radio, multi-tool, etc--right out of the gate, there was an issue at our building's ship dock. The dock is split into three bays, two in a sunken entry and one with an ascending ramp, and six vehicles were trying to get into the three bays. Earlier in the morning Tom and I had discussed leaving one of the long, heavy steel sled carts (called sled carts because they run low to the ground) at the dock area so that we wouldn't have to go get a cart every time UPS dropped off a whole cluster of packages. I was willing to give it a try--had a funny feeling about it, but wasn't allowed to really think about it because I had to get on to the next damn thing in a hurry, as always. So I left the cart there that morning. Low to the ground. And forgot about it. Didn't see it anymore. And in directing/stopping/starting six trucks in three spaces, I ran to stop a truck from backing and flipped in the air over the cart, coming down hard on my right hand and, to learn later, my right side.

The next image I have is looking up at Thompson upside down and him looking down at me--"are you trying to breakdance?" I pursed my lips and staggered to stand up, and then immediately tried to sit down on something when my hand started to swell. Get the rings off, get the bracelet off. "Squeeze my hand," commanded Thompson, about five inches from my face, and I yelled at him to back up before I might throw up on him. He refused to back up. "Look at my face," he said again, sternly. "Now squeeze my hand." I couldn't muster any muscle, and the hand was full of liquid--the nerves had already been severed. "Oh, well," he joked, "It's just 'cause you're a girl." "Give me your hand again," I growled through clenched teeth, and I gripped all my pain through my left hand. "Nope," he gasped, "there's something wrong with your right hand."

Follow that scene with weeks of not being able to rise up in body, followed by fear of falling, of not being able to stir, or scrub, or buckle a belt or bra. Slip-on shoes, so I wouldn't have to bend over. Splints tightened, loosened, tightened again. And standing sometimes with the overwhelming feeling of flashback, as though I were falling while standing still, my body all the time remembering.

My right side, at the moment, is therefore holding a grudge against me. The right leg will suddenly, inexplicably drag, and then spring back to muscle. The right side tenses and then relaxes like a rag doll when I need it. Muscles from the elbow to the knuckles will suddenly shut down, leaving me to drag boxes, light switches, pens...all by sheer stubborness. The right ankle gives.


And then I finally visited Anna, my miracle of a physical therapist in a massage therapist. Through her, I learn what is going on. While my left side is normal (and sometimes even trying to take on extra work), my right side has spent seven months, day in and day out, minute by minute, punishing me. The force of me slamming my own body on concrete and steel, and then screaming for me not to stand upright and losing that argument, and then getting angry at me picking up stuff, HEAVY stuff, too, damn you Sarah, and the continued abuse and recklessness despite the fact that you broke a fucking bone, bitch...there's no love lost the other way, either, because that was SEVEN MONTHS AGO--WHY ARE YOU STILL NUMB AND DRAGGING?


Then the right side and I are still and quiet for a second, staring darkly at each other and panting heavily...wanna go again? Huh? Do you?

Here's what we fight about:
  • typing
  • putting on belts
  • unhooking the two-way radio from it's bracket to talk into it
  • putting loose change in pockets or jars
  • accepting loose change (CUP YOUR PALM, DAMN YOU)
  • scrubbing pots, bowls, or anything with a lip on it
  • unplugging USB cords
  • holding cylindrical items while standing
  • holding and using chopsticks (I still haven't won this fight)
  • mascara application (who's up for a black eye?)
  • inserting earrings
On most of these I win three times in a row and the lose a few. Spasm or stroke, and the right side wins. I trip over my right knee, crap out the spelling of a word on the drag of my hand, and then I have to stop, or lose my temper.

Or burst into tears, if I have had combat all day long and had to drag the right side all day long.

According to Anna, this fall was too big a deal--we're going to be fighting a good, long time. Here's where I feel some relief, though--when she takes over for the hour, I just lie there. SHE is fighting with it, not me. My right side, fully suspicious of me treating it with any kind of kindness, and wary of outside force, tenses up to the point of flight. Anna has a job on her hands, and it's my right side sparking and whiplashing in fear. My left side sighs, relaxes, rolls its eyes even, and my right side HOWLS. We have the same stupid argument, only now the right side is kicking and screaming, breaking our heart, with a witness. "Relax," she says. "Let me work." I am. Well, the left side and core are. The right side and its memories are filing lawsuits, screaming for the police, but mostly FIGHTING. "If I fall you're going down with me," sing The Dixie Chicks.

And we do.

Someday, I'm promised, we won't.

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