A Common Thread

Life is pain

Lisa Renee


Photo by Roma Kaiuk on Unsplash

My back hurts. It’s because I’m an aging biped, according to almost everything, but it’s also because of the long car ride. Given that I continue to age and will hopefully be walking on two feet for the foreseeable future, there’s not much relief in sight. It seems like a midlife thing, but I was in my 20s when I first experienced back pain. Working at a museum, where I maneuvered giant drawers of pre-Columbian textiles all day, I tweaked something and couldn’t move. It got so bad, I went to a doctor who talked about posture and gave me exercises. It improved quickly and seemed like a blip, but it was a forewarning.

I secreted a tiny, loose red thread from one of those textiles into my pants pocket and felt a nervous thrill about it for years. The most criminal thing I’ve ever done (except for drugs and everyone does that). It was a whisper, nearly dust, and sat on the tip of my finger like a slim thread of blood. I kept it, along with some road glass from a shattered windshield, in a little metal box that my ex-husband found in a dying man’s house. I used to visit the ancient thread regularly, wondering about the women who touched it thousands of years ago.

Perhaps my theft offended gods and now my back hurts, but my tiny metal box seems no worse than the dark drawers of that basement museum department: The Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Several floors soared above, bathed in sunlight, all for the art of Europe. Everyone else in the basement.

Anyway, the back. It hurts low and in the hips, especially the left one. The one born bad. It feels sometimes like pregnancy hip pain, something about hormones and ligaments, only I’m not pregnant. Just barely post-menopausal and therefore something always hurts. At 3 a.m., suddenly everything hurts and I’m connecting dots that probably aren’t dots at all. That angry red coin on my leg. My reddening face. A grumbling gut. The ghost aches and the weakness.

Everything hurts + Can’t sleep = Dr. Google

In the night black, with my face bathed in phone light and the husband snoring next to me, I decide it’s either lupus or the Teri Garr thing (the name is lost in the night brain). The 3 a.m. bed can be terrifying, past and future tangled up in demons. It can turn a bad back into an autoimmune disease. Now, in the morning with my first cup of coffee, I think it may have simply been a long car ride and too much cheese. The daylight provides some comfort and clarity, but things still hurt. It’s either because I’m old, or bipedal, or I offended gods with youthful rebellion. Unless it’s lupus or MS (the Teri Garr thing, thank you morning brain).

I can’t find the red thread. Perhaps it’s finally turned to dust, a forewarning to us all.