An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Back pain back

What can I tell you? How do I explain? It isn't possible for me to share it: not with you, nor with anyone. Internal states cannot properly be communicated. I can tell you no more about my pain than I can tell you how I see green. These things cannot be shared.

She sat opposite him and felt for him. His suffering was making her sad. She wanted an in on it. And he was not being very forthcoming. She sipped her coffee and spied on him: he was aware of her sly gaze. She knew he was. He leant forward and she caught a glimpse of a wince. It had been going on for more than a week now - more like a fortnight. It was tiring her. She wondered briefly to herself whether watching somebody that you love in almost constant pain could itself be worse than dealing with it oneself. She would take his pain if she could. She mentally slapped herself and berated her selfishness - how could it be worse for her? And yet he did understand - he had said so and she believed him. He squirmed a little to the left and the wrinkles in the corners of his eyes tightened. His smile straightened out. He reached forward and took another cigarette. Lighting it, perhaps his 30th of the day, he plastered a smile on as he leant back and closed his eyes involuntarily. At last, he relaxed. He'd never been a complainer: many things he was but a complainer was not one of them. Try, she said. Please, she said.

It's just that I'm tired: tired of dealing with this all of the time. Tired of every day repeating itself in the same way. It's not the pain as such - its' more the relentlessness of the thing - the constancy. The consistency. From the moment I get out of bed, or try to get out of bed until after I'm back in bed. It's always there one way or another. It tires me, dealing with it, coping just saps all of my energy. Handling the actual pain and the anticipation of it. Sometimes the anticipation is more difficult. I even make it hurt me sometimes just so I don't have to anticipate it anymore - just twist where I know it will tweak me - take that jab, that pain in the leg, the numbness even. You know - on Sunday I was in tears just pulling my socks on? Saturday too. I'll make you laugh though: I was trying to explain it to Phi the other day - imagine being wrapped in a cast iron corset studded on the inside with sharp spikes, I said. In other circumstances, he came back immediately, you'd have to pay good money for that. Laugh? I nearly wet myself - literally. I coughed - a sharp pain shot up my spine. I sneezed - another ran down the front of my right thigh like a hot needle. The belt of muscles just below my waist cinched tight and squeezed hard against my bladder. Like I said - I nearly wet myself. Nothing is without pain for me right now. There is no peace while I'm awake - no rest.

It was the first time that she properly understood that it really wasn't the pain itself. A man who has had nerves removed from his teeth without anaesthetic has a high pain threshold. A man who lives with a broken finger for days and on one occasion a broken toe for a week without seeking attention is not too bothered by pain itself. And when he had nearly sliced his finger tip off with the angle grinder? It was a strange and unexpected insight but it explained the way he looked these days - older, more tired, a little grey around the gills - but it didn't stop her feeling his pain. The way that it interfered with their day to day life was a nuisance but they could cope. The fact that it stopped him doing so many other things was annoying - no more. The fact that she hated to see him in pain - even if he was coping - hurt her deeply. She pushed his cigarettes toward him and he winked at her. One more and then I'll pay and we can go. He lifted his left leg with his left hand and crossed it over his right leg. His back straightened in a reflex and that ugly wince wound itself across his face again. He smiled wanly and lit up.

At least now we know what it is. She'll sort it out. It's better already - not great - but better. Third and fourth vertebra misaligned - that explains the pain in the front of the thigh. Twisted sacro-illiac that's the underlying problem. Another week or so and I'll be back to normal. Christina will fix it. And we'll save money on the brufen. Maybe I'll even cut down on the fags. I'll be OK. Don't beat yourself up. It's OK - there's light at the end of the tunnel.

He drew deeply on the butt, collapsing the thing, and ground it out in the ashtray. Leaning on the arms of the chair, rocking slightly forward and grimacing deeply he raised himself to vertical and leant back to adjust his spine.

OK - lets go. Shit I'm glad I'm not driving.


  1. Commiserations from one who suffers from chronic pain - it really can wear one down sometimes, but as the sage famously said: "It will pass!"

  2. How very true oh master - all things pass