*Warning: This blog has got some CUSSING in it.
During the worst of my pain I was regularly reliant on a walking stick. I still am to a degree but not as regularly. To be honest, I kind of miss it. I don’t miss the funny looks, the ‘helpful’ people holding doors and ‘offering assistance’, and the ‘you’re too young’ comments from well-meaning strangers with pity to spare. I DO, however, miss people GETTING OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY!
Look, I’ve got a pretty good resting bitch face at the best of times. I have a slight down turned lip, a blank stare, and the sudden way I close my eyes as a pain flare hits me also looks the same as someone about to unleash with toxic vitriol not seen since the ‘No’ campaign in the marriage equality debate. Combine that with my love of black T-shirts, caps, dark sunglasses, skate shoes (I don’t/can’t skate), a few tattoos and piercings, and I’m the poster boy for a grown man still rebelling from his teen past. I just also happen to have a big stick with a skull on it. This was where the stick came into its own. I get funny looks as I walk through a shopping centre. Everybody does. Everyone looks at everyone. We all judge each other, that’s OK – ‘I like her hair – his shirt is cool – he’s an angry looking bloke – do I look as fat as that guy?’. But when people see the stick they suddenly rethink their assumptions about me. You see the split second confusion. ‘Tall, angry looking, slightly overweight, black tee, …walking stick. Wait, what?’ They move. Generally, they move out of the way. Some do the whole awkward dance thing which I too have been guilty – go left, faint right, side step left and through! But they move. It’s great. I’ve spoken of this before with a Moses reference. The way made clear for my travel to the promised land. Or, in my case, the coffee shop.
I don’t like crowds. I don’t like shopping centres. I don’t like how drivers generally follow the road rules of ‘keep left’ in Australia, yet it’s a fucking free for all everywhere else. (There should be lane markings in shopping centres). Really, I just don’t like people. I hate IKEA! But when I have my walking stick Chuckles, that’s his name, it’s a different ball game. I could walk in a straight line all the way through the shopping centre, the street, the crowd. I would be bestowed so much room it was embarrassing – ‘I’m not that fat, am I?’. My wife was less stressed too trying to guide me through without me falling or having someone bump my leg. Those were the days…
But now, I’m in less pain. I’m still IN pain. My function is still decreased. I have bad days, a pain flare. I overdo it physically one day, then pay dearly for it the next. It’s just generally not quite as bad as it once was. Before the implant, tripping and landing awkwardly on my bad leg would take me out for the rest of that day and the next – every time, no questions asked, down for the count. Now, the same trip and awkward landing, results in me upping some pain medications, adjusting Richard (my implant), a nap, and maybe having to use Chuckles the next day. I can still function and do stuff by myself.
So, it’s different now. I don’t always NEED Chuckles anymore.
Or do I? Is it a public safety precaution that I have Chuckles when I’m in crowds? Is it OK that I like having him with me? Chuckles is my flashing neon sign. My megaphone yelling ‘move along, nothing to see here’. My silent sign causing onlookers to look at me weirdly and then move. Does Chuckles make my invisible pain… visible? Legitimate? Real? Or do I just like my path made clear to the promised land of caffeinated beverages and caramel slice?
Photo: Emmanuelle Gerun