It’s as if countless barbed arrows have pierced my back. Every step I take just pushes the arrows in that much deeper. In the kind of rising panic one usually only experiences in dreams, I phone my health care provider. A recorded message says my call was important to them. Ha! Fifteen minutes later, I’m still waiting for an actual person to pick up. Playing over the phone the whole time has been an excerpt from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” music I wearily recognize as Winter.
I was reclining on an exam table fully clothed. A nurse, her attention focused on the tablet computer in her hands, asked, “On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest, how severe is your pain?” “Ten,” I said, and she tapped the screen. “On a scale of 1-10,” she robotically repeated, “with 1 being the lowest, how severe is your pain right now?” I could feel the small bones in my hands and feet wriggling like worms under my skin but was too intimidated to mention it. The nurse looked up from the tablet. Her eyes were the color of dirty slush. When she left the room, she banged the door shut behind her.
The voice in my head that used to calmly offer advice has grown shriller and shriller until finally it’s become indistinguishable from the general noise. Today I actually found myself envying the pharmaceutically blessed seniors leading a rich, active life in a drug ad on TV. My own constituent molecules have weak bonds and wobbly orbits and, under even the best conditions, rattle. About the most active thing I dare do these days is lean way out over the railing to see if the Alp at the end of the street is still there.
Howie Good is the author most recently of the poetry collections Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing) and Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press).