This prompt of ‘Sudden moments’ from Poets and Storytellers United.
I felt lousy for days. One of the endless head colds I copped back then, in my thirties, when every period meant my immune system crashed, and the bugs my kids so generously shared from school crept into my body. This one came with a cough-cough-cough.
My partner was fed up with my coughing. I coughed when he came to bed at 2am, fresh from a night’s computer programming, and ready for sex, sleep, and a home-cooked breakfast(every morning, thanks, because he’s the bread winner, so no store bought bread). So it was a perfunctory goodbye as he went to work.
I made the bed. Coughed. Swooned on it a while, covered in sweat. Coughed. Dusted a shelf. Coughed. Must carry on, be tough, prove to him that I’m worth his time. Cough.
Something sharp jabbed me in the side, and tingling pain spread through my back, my ribs, up into the nestle spot of my shoulder, my neck. Breath held, pain dying away to a dull ache. Breathing – pain, and more pain. Stabbing, an odd rustling in my chest, strange gurgle from somewhere around my liver.
I couldn’t lie down because getting up off the couch or bed was pain. Couldn’t sit. Couldn’t stand for long. I leaned against the wall. Coughed. Pain. I climbed onto the kitchen table, lay there, because at least I could slide off that to standing.
He telephoned mid-morning.
“I didn’t like the way you looked this morning. You looked sick for real.”
As though all those other times, I’d faked it.
“I coughed, and something’s wrong,” I said, croaking, coughing, groaning in pain.
He took me to the hospital. Nothing wrong. Ribs fine, lungs fine, everything good, good, good, we’re not keeping you in, go home, rest.
Two days later, I see my chiropractor.
“I almost didn’t recognise you,” he said. “You look that bad.”
My coughing had thrown something out in my spine, and my ribs. Painful clicks, and I could breathe and think again. More crunches, and the coughing stopped. I wept in gratitude, threw my spine out again. Another click.
That spot, years later, still goes out but obstructs rather than stabs. I don’t get quite the range and ease of movement I want when it’s being foolish. A few chiropractic clicks, and I’m fine, but no adjustment in the world gets rid of the scar tissue my ex-partner left behind – heart, mind, back teeth, scalp, ego.
Five years ago, he tried to make contact, saying we were friends. I disconnected in a short sharp stab of time.