Returning to my hometown after a couple of years in a tiny mountainside village, I immediately sign up for a dance class at the Ballet Academy. Dancehall, Beginners Level 2, surely that will not be a problem for a dancing queen like myself? The first session, the teacher- a total fox in African braids rollcall all women gathered: sixteenyearolds with tousled hair in ’casual’ buns, a 50-yearold sans bra, two very ill-matched students (good cop, bad cop) and then me- an enthusiast in softpants and thick trainers. ”And a one and a two and a three, let’s start where we left off last semester!” Fifteen minutes or so later I receive two epiphanies. First: the mirror adds ten pounds?!! Secondly: I have not felt so exposed in a very long time.
In between humiliating sets of ”Work in pairs- half the group performs, the rest of you sit by the mirror and evaluate their achievement!”, including being filmed with cellphones by friends of my fellow classmates (for Facebook no doubt), we’re instructed to stretch while the fox goes down in splits. I am so bad and everyone knows. It’s rather impressive, actually, that they’re able to keep from laughing. When the horror’s finally over the teacher advises me to change level, there’s been an opening in the class for very beginners. When I pass the good cop in the doorway she sets off a compassionate smile followed by a small applause, a thumbs up and: ”Well done today, you.”
Three Saturdays later I detect the disctinct sensation that there is something non-funky goin’ on in my legs. Fast forward to December 13, two years later: Surgery! After oceans of rest, seeing doctors and physiotherapists, being x-rayed and squeezed on, having had needles put in my legmuscles while rating the amount of pain on a scale from 1-10 while running a theradmill, AND, after opening the paper to find an article about a young patient being sent home with an injection of cortisone due to a war between the same two doctors who treat me and apparently hate each other. In the newspaper pic the patient’s legs are placed high up on a chaiselong and he can’t take it no more. I realize that I do not want to end up like this person.
The day of Surgery
One of my aquiantances, a 6-yearold returning guest at the hospital play therapy (where I work in a project), has informed me of the routine: ”You become sedated, then you wake up and have a poo.” Knowing this, I feel pretty calm when entering the OR- section. More worrying is my driver friend’s disbelief in her dysfunctional car (will it start? Will it last all the way to the hospital?) and her question to the receptionist: Will the whole thing be over by 3 pm or ought she cancel her bridge?
The anaesthetist wishes to know my hight and weight and whether I am hypersensitive to this or that. I answer his questions but all I can think of is the odd paintings on his office walls. Letters forming female contours supposedly of 1910 style judging by the shape of the hats they’re wearing. The letters say: ”…And last but not least, the incomplete image of your worshipped breasts as seen through a cloud.”
From my bed I’m offered an excellent view of what’s going on in the room, it can’t be a coincidence. At anytime I may look up from my copy of ’The Great Gatsby’ and glance out the window at the still snowfall while intravenous stuff sips through my veins. A competent nurse keeps asking me if I need to pee. My answer may cause some impatience but I just want to lie there, be taken care of: ”Not yet!” Somewhere between Gatsby and Daisy’s first encounter and the great party at his mansion a lady with the bodyshape of a beaver and the confidence of a panter- naked except for a pair of lowcut Björn Borg briefs- gets up from her bed behind the next curtain and announces a strong need to vomit. After being forced to use the loo one minute after she’s done in there, I’m being rolled into the OR. Lovely ladies in shower caps welcome me in unison. I am the center of attention. Could I possibly get up on the stretch by myself? I reply by jumping up, landing elegantly on my bum. ”Wow, I believe we’re doing with a proper high jumper!” This makes me feel very good. ”What do you do for a living?” I do get what it is they’re doing, but this interest in me is very seductive. ”I’m a librarian.” ”Oh, books, that’s lovely, I just love a good book…” and that’s all I remember before opening my eyes in the recovery room. I’ve scarcely buttoned the green, snakeskin bra I’ve of some obscure reason chosen for the occasion before the surgeon pops his head in and orders me to rest for 2 weeks. I must not be still, but I can’t take longer walks than to the letterbox.
Back home, after another shaky car ride, I settle in the sofa where I’ll be spending the next week with painkillers and tv-dramas. Every night I wake up from the pain of blood not being able to run through my legs due to the tightly wrapped bandages. One day I stumble to the mailbox and find a letter from my fifty+ friend in the mountains who writes that her hip replacement has given her the life back. I rejoice at these news. The next day I head for the airport to go to my parents for Christmas. I’ve booked a wheelchair service and special seat for disabled folk on the train. A handsome young man with very straight back pushes me around at Arlanda. (Yes, people do stare at people in wheelchairs.) I eat a lot of candy and 6 months later I run the half marathon in Dundee, Scotland where I’ll encounter a very cleanly 60-yearold and a larger-than-life-scrotum. More of that in an upcoming text…