Quarantine Diaries: Chapter 9.  The Tunnel at the End of the Light

As my “confinement” passes into another month–the entire month of June, lost–and the pill bottles count down to the half-way mark, it’s twitchin’ time.  The searing, aching, crushing pain is gone, with little echoes from time to time.  But, there is that nagging discomfort, a restlessness, something not quite centered, a vase teetering on the edge of the table, a squeaky door hinge.  Part of it the tapering off the little bitter pills.  The dosage started with six pills for a few days, then 5, 4, counting down to a race between the tortured sciatic nerve and whatever is doing the torturing.  The other, an orange capsule that threatens seizures if stopped too quickly, clouds men’s minds more effectively than The Shadow’s powers, suppressing those faulty warning signals, but making time fluid and washing out the details, not being smart enough to tell brain cells from pain receptors.

I have a Physical Therapy appointment.  I’ve had the physiology lesson several times now.  I finally understand that I don’t have a broken leg, twisted ankle, sunburn, bursitis, frostbite, or The Bonk (a bicyclist term for very painful lactic acid poisoning in the legs– preventable with proper nutrition and hydration, inevitable if you continue to ride on empty).  These are all things that that right leg has experienced over its 76-odd years of existence.  It’s like the nerve has shut down, so the brain, not knowing what to do, plays back the entire archive of sensations of what could have gone wrong, all at once.

As usual, I have a surprisingly normal range of motion with surprisingly little pain in the exam room. It must be the heat, I say.  It’s always warmer in these places.  But, I get assured that yes, I do have a problem, and it will resolve more quickly if I do these odd exercises in exactly the precise manner shown, and don’t do anything that might aggravate that nerve bundle, now or before my allowed visits are up.  The therapist looks at my spiffy blue second-hand walker chair, at me, and says, “That’s so not you.”

“Yeah, it’s my ride, for the summer. I posted that on the senior bicyclist forum.  I’m not going to get to ride the bike this summer am I?”

“Nope.”

But, I can walk, when I improve, and we had become rather fond of our footloose explorations around town this spring.  It’s all good.  So, off to home, with homework.  It’s easier to get in and out of the car this week, but  a lot of movement makes me antsy.  My foot goes numb.  I’m a bit loopy from the drugs.  The clocks run too fast.

We have directions. A couple of exercises are unfamiliiar, and, as I had suspected, the ones we knew, we’d been doing wrong for the past 10 years.  Our yoga group isn’t certified, it’s just volunteers, and we don’t watch each other and critique for style.  Plus, some of the exercises are modified versions of the asanas we perform in our practice, and have a more precise movement and posture for maximum benefit.

A month of sitting and sleeping in my recliner, which I had more or less bequeathed to Judy early in the year after one of our living room cleaning/rearrangements.  It fits her better.  Six years ago, she bought it for my recovery from heart surgery, and I slept in it for two months back then.  It doesn’t get flat, and it’s custom-molded to someone else’s body, somebody much shorter.  It’s like sleeping in a dumpster full of rags and boxes, but better than a concrete door step.  We’re at the start of the second month this time.

Without much to do, the druggy loopiness is taking its toll.  I endure being waited on: Judy mixes my turmeric/protein latte just fine, but the preparation has been part of my morning ritual, as much as drinking the strange concoction that has started my day for the last few years to keep the pain and stiffness of creeping old age at bay.  Preparing coffee and meals had been my job, before.  At least I have the rolling walker chair, so I can help with the prep now and then.  But, I miss the stirring, flipping, careful timing, and getting the flame just so for the right temperature.  And the oven is off-limits. Judy makes awesome cookies and bread, but I miss my Italian-style rustic loaves, too, and the pita and naan, which takes bending over into a too-hot oven.

When it’s nice out and not too windy, we sit on the porch at the table that put me in the walker.  It’s pleasant, a place to feel the air and watch the deer graze through the yard, and listen to the birds in the trees.  We eat lunch, drink coffee, and read a bit.  Our grandson arrives, displaced from home on the house-cleaner’s day: his job is to help run the errands I can’t do, like finally dispose of the microwave oven we replaced on the very eve of the shutdown. It sat on our porch like a prop for an episode of Hoarders, for three months.  Our basement is filling up with Costco shipping cartons, which need to be broken down to fit in our recycle can, as the service no longer handles tied bundles of oversized cardboard, strictly hands-free collection.  The New Normal touches all aspects of life in the ‘20s.

The recycle bin was already full, so we spend the afternoon playing board games, instead.  The quarantine goes on: to get through this, I think everyone who is isolated should choose a pod pair, another neighbor or relative who doesn’t mingle socially or have a service job, who is unlikely to get the ‘Rona or spread it; get a foursome together and play cards or board games.  The senior center is opening next week; masks and gloves required at the card tables.

But, that’s mingling.  I’m talking about being able to remember the good old days when you could see a smile.  We’re learning to read expressions in people’s eyes, but we’d like to watch for that tell, the little twitch at the corner of Myrna Whats-her-name’s mouth when she has three of a kind,  unmuffled laughter when someone lays down an unexpected winning hand.  You know what I mean, to remember back when America was great, before the red hats that said it wasn’t, before neighbor turned away from neighbor on the street because of what we might infect him with: germs or ideas–both are dangerous.  My drug-addled brain has come up with a plan: get big buttons, like the campaign buttons, and put full-face selfies on them, to wear so people can see what you would look like without the Teddy Bear’s Picnic disguise.  Eventually, we’ll all have bluetooth chips to transmit our real face to the other person’s augmented reality glasses.  Maybe by the next pandemic. 

For now, the conspiracy theorists are certain the  phone-trackers that identify nearby virus-carriers will strip them of their precious guns.

Meanwhile, the current pandemic surges, fueled by that great American remedy for uncertainty and tension: to go shopping, to mingle at the club or neighborhood tavern, to party at the beach, or to go the stadium and cheer for your team.  Civil unrest brings another uncertain mingling, with an undertone of violence and helter-skelter that a breeze could turn into a conflagration.  The curves on the graphs angle upward once again. Medical facilities brace themselves, check supplies and contingency plans, while the country plunges forward into the darkness ahead.

The Shadow, 1930s radio and pulp fiction character. Illustration by John Cassaday, © Dynamite Entertainment

 

 

“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men?  The Shadow knows…”  Time for one of those orange things and the dwindling count of those bitter ones.  Quickly, the clarity is starting to set in, and the morning news is coming on…

One thought on “Quarantine Diaries: Chapter 9.  The Tunnel at the End of the Light”

  1. Seems a bit churlish to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading the account of your recent misfortune, but you’ve told it so well and I do admire good writing. I also can’t help wondering how much effect the drugs have had. Can’t be for naught that writers and other artists have been long-time advocates for offering the creative spark whatever nudge it needs. It’s also gratifying to read someone’s political views that align so closely with my own and see them so well expressed. Here’s hoping your recovery continues apace and you’re back on the road soon. If the pandemic should end during our lifetime and you’re in Minnesota again, come see us at our new (since March 2018) digs in Roseville. In our mid-80s now, we simply got too old to keep up with the house we loved in Coon Rapids

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