Sorry to be a pain, but please suffer with me
My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.
It’s said that being in pain can focus the mind on the task before you and, subsequently, working through that task can symbiotically mitigate the pain that made you focus in the first place.
You know ... like egrets and cows.
Of course, sometimes our focus doesn’t want to stray too far from the pain. Take the case of an Italian sculptor surnamed Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni — the poor soul who wrote the poem which opened this week’s cognitive offering at some point during the four years he created a 5,382-square-foot painting.
We know him better as Michaelangelo.
“I am bent like a bow and my back aches,” he wrote while working on the Sistine Chapel.
“Dear friend, rescue me now. I am not in a good place. And I am no painter.”
To which I add ... preach, brother.
Well, I’m not a painter either. And I’m not Italian. Come to think of it ... the only things Signore Di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and I have in common are a bad back, and a task to complete.
Perhaps by focusing, I’ll finish mine in less than four years.
My back went out — well, technically, some gel escaped from the center of a disc that was resting between two bones and slithered its way past the gates of Nightwyrm Fortress where it aggravated a nerve — a couple of weeks back.
I’d like to say that I then exacerbated the problem while carding a birdie on the fifth hole at Oak Knoll Golf Course in Ashland but, truth be told, I would have been happy with a par.
And since that time, I’ve been the central figure in a Ready Player One game of musical chairs — sitting and standing with the onset of each pang of distress and discomfort.
Speaking of weak backs (oh, c’mon, you knew I was going there the minute I laid out the breadcrumbs), this is yet another gift from my father — whose own travails foreshadowed my current situation like dark clouds and ominous music in a cheap horror film.
Misery loving company, I immediately sought out my younger brother, whose own maladies have had a habit of mimicking my own.
“Nope, good for now,” he texted. “But ... ouch.”
I’m pretty sure I said “ouch” already (it hurts to scroll, you look), so that wasn’t much solace. Instead, misery was just about to give company a NSFW emoji when, in an attempt to be the cow to my egret, he added:
“I did fall off a step ladder last weekend. Just a couple of steps, but landed on cement and banged the back of my head pretty good.”
“Concussion?” I asked with anticipation. “Because I’ve had three of those.”
“Nope, don’t think so,” he said.
Annnnd ... off went that emoji.
I was getting nowhere on my quest for empathy. Even my focus had turned against me and conjured up my first moment of self-inflicted back pain — an event 40 years ago which included the New England Patriots, a house filled with stoners ... and a German shepherd.
I was taking the winding secondary routes from a charity basketball game (played by the football players, not the dog) to the office to file a story on deadline when I turned one of scoliosis-like bends in the road to come face-to-face with the shepherd.
Actually, it was his face and the grill of my 1980 Chevy Chevette. If you know anything about that particular car ... you know what happened next.
I hit the brakes, skidded on sand, went across the road, down an embankment, up a stone wall only Robert Frost could build and into a birch tree.
The dog was fine.
By the time I crawled up to the street, I could see him looking across from the opposite side of the road and wandering off.
I also saw the lights on in a nearby house and, lacking a cellphone in 1980 (some things never change), I Quasimodo’d to the door and asked to use the phone.
Sure, they said, as I explained the accident and told them I would need to call the police.
Leave, they said — in a manner bordering on paranoia — after I finished the call and the sudden smell of patchouli made its presence known.
By the time I returned to what was left of the Chevette, a fellow reporter had stopped to survey the scene and wondered where I’d wandered.
We sat there — one of us in agony, the other in an ecstasy of guffaws — until the police came.
“Next time,” the officer suggested, “hit the dog.”
“I was driving a Chevette,” I offered up, and we agreed that I was screwed one way or the other.
The car was towed out and deemed drivable (it really wasn’t) and the paramedic indicated I was good to go (I really wasn’t), and I made it back to the newsroom with about 20 minutes remaining to hammer out a short story on the charity game.
And although I couldn’t move the next morning and wore a neck brace for a week, I managed to work through the mishap and complete the task at hand.
Which, by the way, I’ve just done here. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to slither that gel back into place.
Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin painted the ceiling at firstname.lastname@example.org