Well, I suppose you could say I am on the home straights. I can walk. By which I mean, on certain days, and when the weather is right ( no one on the ward could do very much yesterday; I had thought all that was a myth), if someone is assisting me – standing right next to me, arm looped through mine just in case- I can, actually, walk with just one cane and often not even grasping the handrail.
I do not understand the mechanics of this. I know that I have had my bones broken, and plates inserted, and that it is very painful ( particularly later when they swell up and throb – it’s painkiller central here ), but that also I literally saw myself putting one foot in front of the other and moving along and I had to ask him am I dreaming this?
On Monday afternoon I managed to walk two whole circuits of the ward with my physiotherapist ( see photo above ) and was overjoyed. By the evening, I wanted to try it again. However, I couldn’t even get up from the bed despite the gruff exhortations of the beefy, go-for-it female nurse ( it’s got to the point where the natural human divisions into likes and aversions regarding the nurses has got quite strong: some,wiry, prissy, officious, I just want to boot out of my room; others – the more jocular, down-to-earth food-loving types I can josh around and have a laugh with but they also tend to be a bit thick and insensitive, as on this occasion when I was clearly in distress and extremely disappointed that I couldn’t stand up from the bed and repeat the miracle – my knees just felt like they were crumbling and locking but she was egging me on anyway, laughing- and I wasn’t in the mood for any of it.)
So a total rollercoaster. Elation. Deflation. Exulting in triumph, then miserable as sin. On Tuesday I wanted to prove that I could definitely do it. In the afternoon, with Tomoya ( who I have unfortunately developed a pathetic crush on ) I managed to walk two circuits again. He is just so angelically positive, so damn sweet, so endlessly encouraging, and I have always only ever fallen in love with goodness ( I just don’t understand people who fall for total bastards. How/ Why would you?)
In the evening, I wanted to show what I had achieved to Duncan – my true love; don’t worry, I know what is real – and, though he was scrambling about, bless him, trying to get obstacles out of the way for me wondering what the hell to do and how he should support me – I don’t think he could quite believe what he was seeing and was terrified I would fall over – we did walk two whole circuits of the ward arm in arm together, me sometimes stopping to hold the rail and have a breather, he thrilled and absolute delighted for me. I AM WALKING. I am walking!
It feels miraculous. This was the entire goal. The surgeon is a genius, as is my physio ( immediately more intuitive about my knee and leg situation than the previous one, who was sweet and who helped me through my bruised, post op vulnerabilities and we got on well, but Mr Murase has a stronger, instinctive grip. He has The Touch).
The nurses are driving me mad though. And so is the institutionalization. I think I have done well to get through it – after all, it’s more than five weeks now, and that is quite a long time you know, particularly when you are The Foreigner, alone all the time, but I can’t claim 100 % fine mental health ( when could you?I hear you privately exclaim).
I have been flying off the handle, though. Not at everybody, mind you. Many of the nurses are gentle and sweet and I instinctively like them. Others are just doing their jobs- which is not easy, and I respect them, but darlings, one thing you should know is that NO ONE TALKS DOWN TO ME, NO-ONE, because I will always react very badly and become aggressive: I just can’t bear being spoken to as if I am stupid, even if I know my Japanese language skills are far from perfect:DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND. WHAT. I. AM. SAYING. TO.YOU. Yes, I do – you patronizing fool ( this woman never listens to anything I say and just talks to me on autopilot, her way of dealing with the fact that there is an intransigent, messy, perfumed foreigner in Room 402 who doesn’t just lie there passively like most of the other zombie invalids). Japan is the S&M country par excellence; truly madly deeply all about sadism and masochism on all kinds of levels, about role and submission, and some people just lie there passively, and dotingly, aslittle lambs to the loving slaughter.
Ooh ,..you can feel my anger and frustration coming out now, can’t you, the nastiness. Well, excuse me. It must be this first cup of coffee. It has already made me more antagonistic, I need to tone it down. Perhaps it’s the sleeping pills, or the suppressed claustrophobia, the way the days just bleed whitely into one another, the muzak, the routines, the meals. It just goes on as my bones slowly knit themselves together invisibly.
The doctor and his team have told me I am scheduled for another x-ray today. The one on Tuesday had to be cancelled because I went insane in the x-ray room. Firstly I was escorted by the mad nurse you see pictured- I’ll deal with her in a minute- and forced to walk on the frame right to the other end of the hospital, which was too far; then, the technician : a fat myopic moron with no communication skills or knowledge of my medical situation whatsoever who was trying, with a bovine, booming voice – I am in here for knee, not ear problems you fuckwit, to get me to stand on one leg ( hello? bilateral closed wedge high tibial osteotomies motherfucker ! ), when I kept repeatedly telling him that I couldn’t – hanging there like Jesus on the cross, my vulnerable knees beneath me, about to fall down off the whole contraption, he just barking at me then, as though I were a dog, to just sit down. On this tiny stool, there beneath me, on the ground. Which would have meant just collapsing to the ground and possibly breaking my legs again and trust me, I am really NOT keen on going through this operation again : in fact I have realized that I have been really quite traumatized by it – I am terrified of the whole procedure now, the anaesthetic, the water… and so I just went APESHIT like a screaming madman with Tourette’s FFFF as the psychobitch nurse just stood there staring impassively, not doing anything, eyeing me coldly and weirdly because hell hath no fury like a scorned woman.
So let’s talk about HER, shall we.
In Japan there is a devastating phenomenon called ‘buriko’. I could write an entire book about gender roles and the various compartmentalizations in Japanese society generally, but essentially what it boils down to is the oppressive, sexist idea that women should always, if possible, be ‘kawai’, or cute.
This is expressed perfectly in the teen idol groups, where made to measure, factory produced pretty little twenty one year olds giggle and act like six year old girls with pretty pink little panties and speak in high voices ( there is something dangerously paedophilic about the whole thing: no wonder Tokyo is the center of child pornographers and human trafficking), and on single every level I abhor it. It degrades women, turns them into sex objects, and destroys ambition ( which is why I am so energetically encouraging of my female students: REJECT THIS BULLSHIT, GIRLS. You can do whatever the fuck you want. ‘Cute’ should never be your ultimate objective.)
Yes, so buriko is bullshit- embarrassing, silly, but particularly in a 55 year old woman. Giggling, cupping her ‘little hands’ over her mouth as she flirts ( and boy does she FLIRT, verging almost on harassment),, chortling with weird little sucked in breaths like Chucky ….. at first I found it curiously amusing in a way – quite camp, bizarre, and I do need some colour and entertaining in these dreary, repetitive, beige and grey confines, but it did then get a bit wearing to say the very least, particularly at the volume in which she was doing it:over and over again, cutesy cutesy cutesy, and the other day it was getting too much, but still kind of ‘fun,’ KIND of, when I then just semi- jokingly shouted out from my pitiable wheelchair
” You’re crazy!”
just to, you know, further the ‘amusement’.
The problem is, and I absolutely did not do this intentionally because I’m not that cruel, this all happened within earshot of the other nurses, who then all laughed. AT her. And wholeheartedly agreed with me. Yes, yes, she is crazy….So unfortunate….
You have to remember that this is THE bullying culture par excellence (even victims of the Fukushima radiation meltdown are getting severely bullied in other parts of the country, at the moment, as did the hibakusha atomic bomb survivors after World War II: Japan’s extreme conformity inevitably leads to this I am afraid, this nasty victimization), so this soon led to a chorus at the nurse station of yes! She is crazy!……..
This was NOT my intention. It was just a joke ( even if actually true). And in any case, ‘you’re crazy’ – I said it in English because all Japanese know ‘kureijiii’, the katakana equivalent, was said ( I think), in a jesting, lighthearted manner – is just something we say to friends when we are messing around, not some terrible insult.
Is it not ?
She, however, the stupid cow, really took it to heart. And put her widdle fists to her widdle eyes (now who’s the bully) and cwied. Or something. Whatever.
The next day, she was in a full blown five year old strop. I told Mr Murase about it during our one o clock physiotherapy session and he agreed, in a whisper, yes, she is strange, don’t worry about her, but then he guided me around the ward and saw her swish her hair in that ‘I’m not talking to you now’ manner and said wow, that is terrible, that’s really unprofessional ( none of the other nurses are like this, obviously), and seemed quite annoyed, almost alarmed on my behalf ( I am, after all, the patient).
It would be her, then, wouldn’t it, who was assigned to take me to the X-ray room for the aforementioned meltdown. Together. For God’s sake. With those petulant, downturned eyes. Whispering, ostentatiously, about me with a colleague standing RIGHT NEXT TO ME as I tried my best to walk the distance so far away, not helping – except to goose me – she copped a good feel of my balls as she ‘helped me’ into my wheelchair when she was finally done staring like a horror doll ( fuck her!!!! ) from the side as she saw me writhing and shouting from where I was hanging, terrified that my legs were going to break, and – this might just be my overactive imagination, but I swear as we walked along she was deliberately walking too close and trying to bump me. Maybe she wants revenge and wants me to start all over again…to keep me, like Kathy Bates in Misery, in my belittling wheelchair.
Anyway, stuff her. I will soon be out of here. Next Wednesday is the beginning of Golden Week: there will be no more physiotherapy – we will say goodbye on Tuesday, and god-willing – they seem to think I am doing really well- I will be discharged, new x-ray withstanding, on the next day.
There will only be a skeletal staff of nurses working during the holiday period, and I would much rather be at home practicing walking around our neighborhood, with Duncan and the cat and eating his food, under sunlight, in May trees, than just malingering here in my bed staring dazedly out from the window.
Plus, I don’t know which nurses will be on staff. If it’s her……