I met my Waterloo in the loo of a Waterloo, Ontario Shopper’s Drug Mart.
“It’s Senior’s Day,” I said to my husband and daughter. Presciently, on my list was a large bottle of Extra-strength Advil. Lured by the 20% discount and bonus points on my loyalty card, we stopped en route to Point Pelee National Park.
For years, I’ve wanted to visit Point Pelee in early May to witness the massive annual spring migration of song birds heading north for the summer. Our Air BnB waited for us in Kingsville. We’d signed up for tours and workshops offered by Friends of Point Pelee. Binoculars and journals were packed. We were ready.
A cup of cappuccino from a local coffee shop gurgled in my gut and, as is wont to happen, jolted the peristalsis of my intestines into action. Wearing a suitable expression of chagrin, I approached a clerk.
“I don’t suppose you have a bathroom I can use?”
Short of patting my arm, but addressing me as “Dear”, she briskly led me to a door with a code lock. My request, coming on Senior’s Day, was probably not a surprise.
Seated comfortably, trousers slightly puddled at my ankles, mission accomplished, I reached for the toilet paper and that’s when my quadratus lumborum, or some other monster Latin back muscle, decided to go out, along with my eyesight which was assaulted by bright white arrows bursting in my retina (or some other ocular ogre).
Sucking in my gut, activating core muscles I’d been diligently cultivating, I grabbed the waistband of my pants and hauled them up. Shuffling to the sink, I washed my hands, an underappreciated challenge when you can’t bend. It’s astonishing how the muscles in your hand connect to your back and fire like a cattle prod along your nerves.
I shuffled out and slumped against the nearest wall watching in amazement all the seniors, who appeared to be MUCH older than me, whisking up and down the aisles with ease. I hated them all. Where were those who needed walkers and canes who would offer me kind, condoling glances? Instead, as my husband, daughter and I minced out the doors and slowed down traffic crossing the parking lot, all we got were impatient glares of the 70-is-the-new-40 crowd. “Fuck you,” I muttered.
A Hyundai Elantra is not an easy car to get into when your quadratus lumborum is in spasm. Sitting was not an option so I leaned in, and faced backwards kneeling on the front seat. Off we went, bouncing over spring potholes as I wept and yipped and moaned, frustrated our holiday to Point Pelee was clearly not going to happen. We were still two and a half hours drive away.
Installed in a dorm room at Wilfred Laurier University’s vacated student residence in yellow-painted cinder block splendour, I spent two days listening to urban birds taunt me through the window. Robins and Canada Geese chorused intermittently, the scraping geese honks and the robins sweet trilling mimicking the cycle of pain. I was a helpless tit.
My husband and daughter left me with a lousy book (Don Delilo “Zero K”) and made the best of Waterloo without me. The first night they brought me dinner, a salad with a chicken breast plopped on top, and no utensils. I lifted the chicken breast with my fingers and felt sorry for the bird but ate it anyway. I ate it because I was bored which seems unutterably cruel to the only bird I got close to this weekend. I apologized repeatedly to my family. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorrowfully sorry, though not as sorry as the chicken on the salad.
Once I found a mortally wounded bird while walking the dog along the Sawmill Creek path. I should have put it out of its misery somehow but I couldn’t bring myself wring its neck or hurl it against a tree so I left it on a sunny rock wrapped in tissue and walked away. It was gone the next day.
I’m grateful for being too large to wrap in tissue.
This morning, as my husband left the house to hike with a friend, and I lay in bed bolstered by many pillows, looking, I hoped, regal and pathetic, I heard him talking to a neighbour.
“You’re home early.”
“Yes. Sue put her back out.”
Like I did it on purpose. The only reason I’d put my back out was if I could add it to the garbage.
“Honey, I put my back at the curb. Make sure the garbage men take it.”