I took a baby step over the curb and onto the sidewalk. I poked along like an aged dog. Several days after my back surgery…they said: “Get up. Get out. Walk a little. You’ll get stronger.”
My back hurt. It was a #7.5 on the Great Medical Scale of 1 to 10. My only thoughts were about whether I bit off more than my spine could chew. How many blocks have I come? How many to the movie theater? I recalled the hospital stay.
I stayed two nights. The surgery took about five hours…longer than I was told. The Anesthesiologist fiddled with my tubes. They said something about a catheter…I looked at them with big eyes. Please, not till I’m under…for God’s sake, please! I rolled over. It was 8:20 am.
“Do I count back from 100, like the movies?” I asked.
“If you want…won’t matter anyway.”
The earth opened up and swallowed me. There were no lights. There were no thoughts. No dreams. No visions…and thankfully, no light at the end of any tunnel. I don’t even recall a tunnel.
I heard someone say it was 3:15 pm.
Who were the nurses? What exactly did they do to me? They took a disc and relieved the stenosis on my nerve. Where was the disc? Wasn’t I supposed to get it in a little plastic bottle? My back began to hurt. What was my BP? My temperature? Who were these people? I was fixated on my pain. I owned this pain. It was mine and no one else’s.
So, I’m on Broadway. I’m off to see the new Coen Brothers movie. My pain was on my mind. How could I sit that long?
I paused next to a window of beautiful clothes for women. I stared down at the sidewalk. Pain was going to be my brother and sister, my mother and father, my old girlfriends, my wife, my lover, my old drinking buddies…and the pet dog I was going to walk for years to come.
No one was going to take my pain away from me. Like a Wounded Warrior, I would wear it like a medal from the battles of the war.
Then I looked across the street…across Broadway. It was nearing Christmas. I saw an old man. He carried a black plastic garbage bag. I assume it contained all that he owned. I used my powers to look inside his bag. There was no pain in there. He wasn’t carrying his pain on his shoulder. Where was his pain?
Then, even from that distance, I saw his pain. It was in his eyes. He was probably ten years older than me, but he was more fit than a linebacker from the old Baltimore Colts.
His pain was his loneliness. His pain was his solitude. His pain was ten times what my pain was. My back would heal…in time.
But a life without love and without friends is a bitter pain indeed.
I forgot my pain.
I wept for the lonely, the unloved and the forgotten.
Through my wet eyes, I watched the old man continue up Broadway…to celebrate his own Christmas.
I hope the angel on the church steeple smiles down on him tonight…and every night.