After my father’s death.
A friend tells me to lie down. Rest. I will massage your neck. I recline on my back and draw a quilt over me. The friend slides her fingertips along the side of my neck beneath my ear lobes. The pressure is light. My skull fills, images and colors colliding, eager crime scene witnesses needing to tell. My neck remembers my father’s last two weeks of bed bound changes.
I stand at the bed head. The other two caregivers will turn him onto his side to wash him. One bends his leg and draws it across his body, the other pulls the chuck underneath to help tip him over as I slide my hands under his pillow on either side of his head. He cries out in fear. I hold his head steady. One caregiver guides his hand to the bar at the side of the bed so he can grasp this and hold himself. His fear subsides. I bend down and kiss the top of his head, murmuring words of comfort. I don’t know if he hears me, but I sense that my hands and voice help.
The friend massages my neck gently. Nothing will relax. It is a block of wintry ice. His neck remembered blots out my neck.
When Dad was still ambulating, I wondered if he felt pain. He limped. He grasped the foot of the bed, the door edge, and made his way thumping his feet into the floor; one then pause, another then pause, then a few in a row and catching himself. Now I am walking this way too. The pain shapes my steps. Had it shaped his? He could never tell me…
She has knives in her hips, ragged mental bands in her wrists, broken glass in her toe bones. Pain is pain. What is it really? It stops her, but how? Her legs buckle with the stab. But when she looks down, nothing is torn. No bone juts through. She runs her hands along the flesh, pressing in, and nothing…No note of distress. No banshees or red fires. Just placid flesh. Opaque flesh.
She sits and runs the heel of her hand over the outer hip again and again. Nothing hurts when she sits. Every time she stands, pain. As the weeks pass this continues to surprise her. She stands slowly, hoping that this time… Then the stab and buckle. She catches herself.
She is sure that her opaque hips are packed with hate and, perhaps, sorrow.
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