Discover more from Peachfuzz
point where it hurts
on chronic pain, moldy fruit, impossible language, and erosion.
We kept clementines on the top shelf and forgot them until they rotted. The cabinet still smells seamy with citrus, though we’ve long since tossed the fruit frilled celadon with spores. I sprayed vinegar on the walls and soaped the bowls, kept the cabinet ajar. Still, when I open the door for a plate, I inhale its damp plumage, wait for the sharp root to rend what remaining bouquet portends bitterness. I love how furtive the turn from sweetness to decay is, how if you blink you’ll miss it. It awakens some feral thing inside me, some red hum that is not about endings but what follows. Sometimes I want to lay down under a tree and watch my body resurrect as mulch. Like the-thing-that-is-me could slip from my sternum in a breath and instead perch on my chest, watching the ants blow from exhalations of wind. I want to keep existing outside of my bones and all the parts that ache.
I take a shower and bite the inside of my cheek, count to ten and do it again. Nausea, my old friend! Come to me bright as refracted sun. He mirrors my each movement and begs me nod my head. If you can hear me, blink. I pour myself down the drain. I am the soap, the dark hairs, the sudden blood. I am not the body, its static, the castanet’s glissando between standing and falling. He’s brought an orchestra, see, and I laugh at the brass, ignore the strings. I could never sight-read my sheet music, it’s always been sound for me. The steady drum-drum and sudden melody, my practiced inhalations and exhalations before I can lay underneath a ceiling spinning though the fan is still. One hand to my belly, one to my heart. If I close my eyes, I may insult gravity. The wind instruments keep time. The window is closed and I can’t lift my arms to open it.
I had dreams of flying as a child, where I’d be in my kitchen and realize I’d forgotten flight. It would only be when I’d rise to the roof that I’d remember I didn’t know how to land. These days I practice moving from my bed to the couch and plant my feet as my ballet teacher intoned, you have to ground so you can lift from the earth. I hold my head in my hands and practice weightlessness.
Our cat moves from room to room, following the sun. She hates the sound of the ice cream truck, scurries away from any noise she cannot place. When I hold anything in my hands, she looks at me until I let her sniff what she finds strange: cardboard boxes, the aluminum of my sparkling water; an empty candle holder. She goes back to sleep.
Jenna calls me her cat, with my stretching motions and particularity, my need for windows. How sometimes I too will crawl under a table, cover my head with my hands, find a dark and quiet space to regulate.
I want to be spiteful and say, I also need to sleep 14 hours these days, but who is the spite directed at if not myself: my body’s needs and my frustration at being unable to locate their source.
In the dark I can will a scrim between myself and the pain. Behind my eyes I count time, pray for emergence.
Another doctor’s office, NYC-Seattle-Minneapolis-[ ]. Day or Night.
The doctor is wearing a stethoscope or he isn’t. She’s carrying a clipboard or she isn’t. The nurse has asked questions or she hasn’t. The patient has been asked to repeat themself or they haven’t. The patient has been misgendered. The doctor is a man. The doctor’s hands are warning sounds on the patient’s body. The nurse can’t find the vein. The doctor orders tests again or he doesn’t. The patient has been asked their symptoms.
On your reason for coming in, you wrote headaches; migraines; vertigo; nausea dysautonomia; shortness of breath; fatigue unrelieved by rest; numbness in extremities; joint paint; jaw pain; back pain; nerve tingling; brain fog; chronic sinusitis; stiff muscles; muscle spasms; blurry vision; changes in appetite; persistent, widespread pain without a source.
Have you tried seeing anyone for any of this before?
It’s boring to talk about pain, if only because it is so routine. So heady with used-to-be’s. A month ago the trees dreamt of buds, now our bay window flues green light from the leaves. In the twilight I can’t count their shadows. I used to walk for hours in the dark without tiring. I used to exist before sickness / I have to believe I exist now, even if there is no after.
In college, someone I loved told me I was not allowed to talk about sickness because without diagnosis, an explanation of my body was illegitimate and incomplete. Put simply, I was taking from those who could readily prove illness with a doctor’s seal. I was not angry then, but instead ashamed for being wreathed in pain I could not speak of without risking another’s erasure. Later, people who loved me told me this was unfair and untrue, were angry on my behalf until I could hold the hurt. I still feel the quick flash of fear when I talk about being ill, like I’ll be asked for proof, like I’ll be disbelieved even though my whole body is a map of pain and anywhere you point I am.
It’s been a decade and still, I have no name for what’s become of my body. Nerve endings frayed like root rot. When people ask what’s wrong, I want to pose a riddle: what is pain without an end or beginning? Rewind the tape and watch the warped green oscillate, see if you can excoriate the cell that went wrong. My body is sick, I say. Hedge against conflating my body with me. Does a body exist within the embouchure of its wound? What I mean to ask, when does pain precipitate my disappearance?
What’s hardest lately is language, not just for illness but everything outside pain — it’s been months since I feel I’ve been able to properly write, much less attend to life, much less concentrate. I buy new books in hopes of being able to read them. I set aside time to sketch but can only sit for so long before exhaustion stills any gesture. My plans fall apart, my life streams out in all directions. You can only hold so much in your palms.
Last year at this time I hoped I’d hit a corner, that I was getting better. I want to go back, say nothing, take another walk.
Instead, I gnash my teeth and then roll out my shoulders, again. I allow myself a moment to be an animal. I curse my soft body, repent later. It’s easier to blame my body than the unknowable assailant. Some days I’m too angry to be kind.
Jenna and I’ve talked about how it’s okay to grieve my lack of mobility and lessened capacity, and while that’s true, I feel my rage come in hot underneath any tears. Anger has always been easier for me than grief—there’s a mutability in its volatility that keeps me on my toes, encourages my quickness, sharpness, attention. To my acupuncturist, I say that sitting with my sadness is part of my grief practice, but these days it’s unending.
At a certain point, the maladies make an eddying, endless rhythm — does a point of origin matter, if it even exists?
I told Jenna yesterday that I feel so far from myself — far from the person I thought I was before illness took hold. I want to take a walk without needing to lay down. I want to wake up without my head spinning. I want to be more than unending mediation against collapse.
Nothing stops. Outside our window, a woman walks down the street saying good morning to all the neighbors on their stoops. I hear her coo over a baby. Brooklyn simmers in the humidity as the trees sputter to life. Inside I’ve squashed another ant with my thumb, let the ice melt in my coffee.
Two Advil or three? Jenna asks.
Here’s a better riddle: does lack of diagnosis exempt a person from their pain? What came first, entropy or its name? It’s only now I let myself lay down. I put my hands in the earth and cup grass. The only sound the sound wind makes against a body at rest.
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