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I’ve been in physical therapy for two weeks now because a performing troupe of tiny flying monkeys somehow flew up my butt, and they can’t find their way out. They’ve set up base camp inside the left side of my pelvis and have been sending out search parties for about six months now, looking for an exit. Their attempts at escape or rescue have resulted in a raw sciatic nerve from which they like to swing, and the seizing of my piriformis muscle. Tension is rising because they’ve mistaken my lower spinal disks for lifeboats and have been trying to dislodge them.
I was ashamed at first to approach my pain doctor with this story—so hard to explain—but finally I couldn’t bear the pain anymore. I remember sitting in the exam room with him, Dr. Lee busy studying my history on his computer, me trying to stop my fly-away leg from knocking things off the desk. Sit still, you damn monkeys.
“No drugs, right?” Dr. Lee said as we went through treatment options.
“Right!” I said. Pain pills make me shluggish.
“No injections, right?” Dr Lee said.
“Right!” I said. He knows I don’t have any friends to haul me around after I’ve been anesthetized.
That left physical therapy, my third summer in a row spent with strangers in various states of paralysis, glumly kneading Play-Doh and picking up grains of rice, screaming, strapped to walls with red and green rubber bands. Every one of us going nowhere fast.
On the bright side, I like my current physical therapy place. I was there two summers ago with a frozen neck, and now it’s flimsy. On my first day back I bobbled my head hello to my old therapist, Isabel, who had one child when I’d first met her and now has twelve. My new therapist, Elijah, has nineteen children…so you know these folks are friendly, determined, and resourceful.
“Okay,” said Elijah yesterday as he suddenly embraced me on the therapy table. “Since nothing seems to be helping and you’ve been in pain for so long, I’m going to try something a little unorthodox.” I mumbled “okay” into his fine-smelling armpit as he climbed on top of me, our bodies entwined and my face smushed against him, my left leg off making new friends.
“Now I want you to take a deep breath and slooowly blow it out,” Elijah instructed. I could hardly get a breath with his body weight pressing down on me, but I tried and then I expelled, thank God from the right end. I was not quite finished expelling when Elijah squeezed me with all his might, crunching my lower spine into my belly button.
“Aaaagh!!!” I shouted. The monkeys aren’t going to like this.
“Oops,” said Elijah, climbing off me. “I didn’t wait long enough for you to blow out. You still had some air in there. Sorry!”
Feeling as if I’d been punched in the back, I lay rigid on the table facing the ceiling, though my left leg was now running for office.
“We’re just going to try and relax,” Elijah said, staring down at me. “Looks like you’re having some spasms. Let me get you a warming pad.”
As I lay crying, Elijah wedged a special flat pillow under my back and left to go work with another patient. I closed my eyes, my left leg still waving to the crowds, and nearly fell asleep as the special pillow warmed against me. Then I heard a man’s voice somewhere behind me say, “I…I…feel really uncomfortable doing this. I hope nobody’s watching. You’re not like…recording this, are you?”
Well, I wasn’t going to miss whatever was going on back there no matter what the flying monkeys would do as a result of my twisting to see. I struggled upright and used the propelling motion of my left leg to turn around. There I saw a middle-aged man sitting on a stability ball, his legs spread wide with his hands on his hips, thrusting his groin forward, then his butt backward, then swiveling his hips around in a circle. Thrust, thrust, swivel. Thrust, thrust, swivel. Isabel stood next to him, smiling approvingly. They were both reflected in a mirror that covered the wall from floor to ceiling, their own private audience—or maybe not. I’d heard about those mirrors.
I briefly thought of lurching over and tucking a dollar bill into the man’s pants; the situation almost demanded it, and my flying monkeys urged me on. But in the end I decided against it.
Just the prospect of being inappropriate in such a professional setting is often rush enough for me. I’m lucky that way.