The world is not made for me. I've been over six feet since I was a preteen, and six-foot-eight for over a decade. I don't fit in cars or planes. I have chronic knee pain from years of angling it under the steering wheel to make turns while keeping my foot on the break pedal. I trip servers in restaurants and flight attendants when I'm in aisle seats. Occasionally, asking about my height has started conversations with pretty girls. More often, it starts conversations with everyone else, whether I want it to or not. This time, it was the catalyst for a blood plasma epidural. Win some, lose some.
We open on a Barcelona cobblestone alleyway with dimly glowing fairy lights and drying laundry, both hanging on lines that lazily loop from window to window above. The heat is wet and my mouth is dry and I've decided that public bike shares are suddenly "my thing" and that I should swear off cabs for the trip. Of course, these are public bikes, made for the public, i.e., normal-sized people. Cut to a quick zoom as we shrink down, magic-school-bus style, diving into a pore on my skin while dodging an engorging sweat droplet. Beneath the skin we reveal my spine, bent at an odd angle due to my hunching posture because that is the only way for my hands to reach the handlebars of this normal-sized-person bike. The pressure of this posture causes a jelly-donut-like disc of goo between my fourth and fifth vertebrate to herniate, i.e. squirt out between the bones like... well, like a jelly donut.
The next few cuts are a montage representing a full month of aches, pains, ill-advised kettle bell swinging (why, just why?) and a sudden inability to bend over to reach the faucet on my sink. Yes, I have to bend over to reach the faucet on my sink, no, I don't know why I haven't just paid someone to raise the sink. End montage on a shot of me face-up on a whirring platform as it ferries me, lovingly, into the smooth, minimalist white donut hole of Steve Jobs' gigantic anus. This is the second MRI I've had this week. The first was for pain in my knee that turned out to be a consequence of my back pain radiating down. In other words, nothing. Money well spent. Fast forward a week, and I am watching a cartoonishly large vial of my arm blood being injected into a centrifuge. It spins until it separates into a sort of yellowish, translucent pus of platelet-rich plasma, which is then promptly injected into my back as I lay ass up on yet another table. They let me film it with my phone after I apologize for wanting to film it with my phone.
I gotta tell ya, the urge to over-dramatize this thing is overwhelming, because the aesthetics of it all look very clinical and gross. Bags of dripping blood traveling through tubes, needles into bone, x-rays. Truthfully, it's not all that serious. My actual pain is minimal. I'm fine, I'm not dying, everything's good, I just hem and haw like an old man when I put my socks on now, and hopefully that'll go away with some physical therapy and maybe a couple more back needles. I'm sure we all know some old man in our family that has complained about a hernia at some point. This is hardly chemo. But still, the strange temptation is there. What if, I fantasize, I sent a picture of the MRI machine or the blood spinning and separating to my friends or family without context? That would certainly cause a commotion. So, of course, that's exactly what I do, because there's nothing more fun than making my loved ones worry needlessly. (At the suggestion of a friend, I may or may not have also posted a video of the aforementioned spinning blood wheel on a certain social media profile to the tune of Meshuggah's "Ivory Tower." Because blood is so metal, you guys.) "What happened?!" "Are you okay?!" "That's crazy!?" Oh, sweet dopamine receptors, open like lotus flowers as the attention floods my brain with delicious juices. Drown me in love, fill the locked room of my head with love.
But really, I'm fine. No surgery on the horizon as of yet. That will be a last resort if these epidurals don't work. So the man in the white coat told me.
It's weird to admit that there's a certain thrill in being injured or sick. It goes without saying, of course, that if I were actually significantly injured in some truly horrible way, I wouldn't find it fun at all. Obviously. And of course no one wants the pain or death part. But we do kind of instinctually want everything else that comes with it. Being special, being tended to, being unique. Don't you remember taking a sick day as a kid, maybe even getting breakfast in bed from a sympathetic parent, while everyone else had to get up at the crack of ass in the morning? Don't you remember snuggling deeper into your blanket as you imagined everyone else shivering though pre-sunlight showers and then attempting to navigate all the subtle social politics of school (that thresher through which all fresh meat must pass)? Sure, the sniffles and the fever were uncomfortable, the stomach aches sucked, but didn't you still feel a kind of special?
When the doctor describes the "paramedian disc protrusion" as "significant," I get this pit of worry in my stomach. But then, like swarming antibodies, adrenaline follows suit. In other words, I get excited. It's a confusing feeling. Could be the way the body defends against emotional trauma. You can kind of understand the strange logic of Munchausen's syndrome, in a way. I mean look at the title of this article. I really made it seem bad, didn't I? I must have, on some level, gotten a kick out of making people worry (or even of giving someone that hates me false hope that I'm terminally ill, and letting them down. Delicious). There's a reason we all like movies where the main character almost dies, and the world almost ends. The thrill feels good. The more narrowly we escape death's teeth, the more alive we feel.
But of course, I didn't "escape death." I just have a hernia because I'm too tall for a fucking bicycle, and this is all me being melodramatic. Right. Back to Earth.
I've got this Vicodin prescription now, which I'm only going to use if I am absolutely writhing in agony over the next week or so. I've apparently already got a few addictions to the happy chemicals produced naturally in my brain (oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline). I probably don't need another one on top of that. Although, hypothetically, snorting a crushed up Vicodin in front of my sister to see her jaw drop sounds pretty appealing. Is it illegal to snort a medication for which you have a prescription, and actual medical need? Asking for a friend.