He’d heard that the flowers replied; he knew about the sad geraniums, and he was not thinking of them, nor the tree of light, nor that scene in the porn film that had so impressed him as a young man. None of those storied images seemed important or even relevant to his situation.
He’d hurt his leg; that’s what he thought. Some knee, hip, ankle injury he could feel in his aching bone. He could not remember any traumatic event; he considered arthritis or some need for replacement joints. It was difficult to be certain, but it seemed his back was involved. No surgery. Not for him.
He had the leg injury and in time it was chronic. Maybe because he’d done nothing about it. Perhaps it would get progressively worse. That was his recent thinking.
And he woke up.
One morning that was, and when he woke up, although he remembered nothing strenuous in the night and his chronically-aching right leg ached chronically, his left leg ached sharply. He got out of bed and twitched and lumbered, each step uncertain, painful, and realized he was walking like someone he’d seen, someone twice his middle age.
When he got to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, he saw tears of pain in his own eyes.
This, he thought, is very bad.
Then he inhaled deeply.
It seemed what he must, in that moment, do.
The next moment problematic.
Gingerly lowering himself to the toilet, he shrieked.
Certainly he was concerned about the future, about repeating this experience daily.
It was nothing.
He told himself that. People, hell, people lost limbs, mobility, everything, and he had what? Some pain in the legs? Pain, that for all he knew, might be easily cured if he would visit a physician.
And even if it were incurable, if it were, say, a tumor on his spine, some ugly lethal package, it was still nothing.
That was what he needed to keep in mind.
He hobbled downstairs and, not knowing exactly what to do, turned on the television. Somebody was on there singing something. Then the singer talked. He did not get the singer’s song nor did he comprehend the singer’s references.
His vision of himself was slipping; maybe that’s what it was. It was more and more difficult for him to understand himself as the knowledge that every day millions cycled in and millions cycled out was increasingly apparent to him. It happened.
Failing legs might be the start. Insofar as there was an identifiable start. Really, the selection of an arbitrary event in a series, he supposed.
He’d tripped and fallen down a half-flight of stairs a week or so ago. Nothing serious. Trip, crash, scrape. That was all. But he noticed he was anxious now. Tripping over his own feet.
Twice today he’d nearly fallen.
And he knew what that meant: It meant he was aware how frequently he nearly failed and he was counting now. The count would be daily now.
It was nothing.
If he fell again he’d fall again, all this consciousness nothing but worry. He no longer believed in himself.
That was it.
No longer believed in his life. That he had an individual life.
Why should he?
Used to be fate.
Used to be written.
It was all written. Now, not written. Videoed, one supposed. Of course. The film. Or now, the digitalized images of one’s life. That was how one imagined the narrative of one’s life now.
What could be simpler?
The outraged commentator in the next room delivering the commentary of outrage.
He’d been, lately, wearing his special shoes. He did not tell anyone, but he was happy with the shoes and the fact they were, after all, special. The idea was the shoes would help heal his legs. But not, obviously, enough. In their effect. Not in the idea.
He’d heard the woman singing so beautifully and thought it’s all—all this—in the song.
Pleasant thought at the time. Not enough forever but maybe all that was necessary for that moment.
The wet, partially-rotted smell of the world.
So much of his life, it seemed, in a trance, a reverie. That and an investigation. Every little dissection. Every little parsing of each tiny thing an argument with itself and every other thing—an argument against the world.
Well, he had not done it right.
Find your life in a pop song. that was it. A flimsy picket, perhaps, for belief and any sense of solidarity, but probably no worse than most in human history.
He sat and looked out the sliding door at the dark.
Here he was.
Earlier he’d believed he would be elsewhere.
Hard to say.
Here he was thinking of the reply. It wasn’t—was it—one must suffer oneself incessantly.