Twenty-one days after dislocating my shoulder it still hurts. It heals very slowly. My body is old. My cells are probably wondering why they are being coaxed to repair damaged membrane. I'm too old to hunt for mastodon. It was my mission, as it is with all living things, to reproduce offspring. I didn't do that. I chose to make art instead. Whether this was of service to the future of humanity that is for others to say, if they're still around. Things appear a little dicey. And my shoulder still hurts.
I was carrying a new laptop into the bedroom when Athena, our cat, cannonballed between my legs, causing me to lose my balance and fall to the floor. I concentrated my attention on protecting the laptop and preventing it from dropping from my hand but did so at the peril of my right arm for which I had not prepared to catch my fall. I came down hard on it and felt the acromion (the bony tip of the scapula) separate from the clavicle. I could not move my arm. It had become a tree limb. The pain was excruciating. I went to the top of the bookshelf to get a spiral notebook in which the phone number to Roberta’s bakery could be found. I thumbed through it as rapidly as I could, called Roberta, and within minutes she came home and drove me to the emergency room. Meanwhile, I’d managed to maneuver the arm back into place. We filled out a brief form and waited in the lobby of the emergency room. The pain had subsided considerably but was still a shrill presence in my shoulder. A large man complained of bronchitis. He coughed continually. The receptionist, a middle-aged woman with long dark hair, asked if he could cover his mouth when he coughed. Indignant, he went outside.
X-rays were made and the doctor, an amiable, energetic man a few years younger than me, examined the X-rays and did not see anything fractured or damaged but did notice some arthritis. That made sense. My shoulder frequently hurts when I sit at the desktop computer moving a mouse around. I was given a sling made of some sort of silky material with a number of belts and fasteners and a pouch for my arm. I have to take it off to shower and eat dinner and we have a difficult time figuring out how to get it back on. It’s a complicated device. When I have it on, I’m forced to do everything with my left arm, including signing things like credit card slips, which come out very badly. My name is barely recognizable.
Shampooing my hair is difficult. I can’t lift my right arm, even without the sling. It’s amazing how awkward my left hand is. What has it been doing all my life, just hanging at my side?
Well, yeah, pretty much.
It’s like an understudy who never really expected to take over a part due to an emergency. None of the lines or choreography have been properly learned. Everything feels clumsy and dumb.
My right arm really likes being in a sling doing nothing while my left arm does all the work, handling cutlery, brushing my teeth, taking the garbage out, scooping the litter box, moving furniture, turning the radio on and off, opening cupboards and doors, wiping the table, brushing my hair.
My left arm is thinking of starting a union. It is, after all, my left arm, not my right arm, which has strong convictions and delusions of grandeur. My left arm believes in collective bargaining, free healthcare and Dunkin’ Donuts. My right arm believes in free market capitalism, private property, & the right to bear arms. I give both arms a big hand.
My left arm is getting a little better at doing things. It sparkles with radius. It wants to increase its reach. I try teaching it how to bioluminesce like an octopus and frighten people. My right arm is getting jealous but prefers lying in the hammock that is my sling. My left arm is happy doing things. But it is still clumsy. I promise it a future of exoticism when my right arm returns to full activity. I will let it be a bayou, an arm of water that goes astray and languishes in cypress gloom, a world of orchids and Cajun jumbo. And really, the two arms work out pretty well together when I need to squeeze something like an accordion or an orthopedist. Chop wood. Carry water. Dance on a keyboard. Two arms, up in arms, armed with bravado and fingers.