A List of Aches and Temporary Ailments

Following a list of daily writing prompts for April to push myself to write more and this piece is for “Ache”.

What are the parts of me that hurt? Let me count them for you.

Yesterday I woke up with a stabbing pain in my lower back – the result of sit-ups done incorrectly. But it’s actually been a reoccurring injury, the last instance happening when I was getting dressed in my bathroom and reached down to get a piece of fallen clothing. A pinching pain blossomed into a full-on muscle strain which went away on its own after a few days. A professor teaching chakras once said chronic lower back pain was a sign of poor financial management.

My ankle. The result of a fall five weeks ago in a McDonald’s in Baguio where I missed a step down the stairs and twisted my ankle so bad I almost blacked out. It makes a clicking sound sometimes when I rotate it. I wear an ankle support but I still can’t jog or dance properly because of it.

My head. I haven’t had sleep in the last few days. My eye keeps twitching from all the screen time.

Sometimes, at night, my chest hurts. The left part, the area near my heart. Before the pandemic, I went to a cardiologist whose name I picked out from a directory presented by the hospital receptionist. Her name was Dra. Del Poso, which I had thought apt since it was so close to the Tagalog word for heart (poso also comes from the Spanish word pozo which is an old-style water pump). She listened to my chest with a stethoscope and then poked me firmly near my left armpit. “Does this hurt?”

“Ow, yes,” I answered.

She nodded and said it was swelling of the cartilage in the rib cage which happened sometimes when the weather grew cold or when the body got strained through exercise or any other physical activity. Costochondritis she called it, and prescribed an ointment to control the swelling.

“And to be sure,” she added. “You can also get an ECG.”

I didn’t. My doctor friends tell me it’s just to rule out any serious heart ailments, reassuring me it’s probably nothing like that. I’m not so worried, though. John, my fiancé, on the other hand, is exasperated when I occasionally complain about stabbing pains, berating me for not getting an ECG before the pandemic.

But compared to the many aches of the world today, of the pain of millions of other people, I know mine are minor grievances. They come and go, causing temporary distress, sometimes real panic that dissipates as soon as the pain goes away. There are moments when I wonder whether these are signs of getting older, of bones getting weaker and the springiness of youth slipping from my fingers.

But then I remember I’m just about to turn thirty and maybe I’m just too clumsy for my own good. And who’s to say growing old should stop me from having my fun?

My mother, who injured her knee a few months ago and who had to take therapy for a couple of weeks, moves a little slower now when she goes down the stairs. But she loves to dance. I showed her an online tutorial from one of my favorite dancers the other week and every night for the past days, she has been learning it slowly. “Break my Heart” by Dua Lipa plays constantly on the speakers, my mom and I performing the choreography together despite her injured knee and my sprained ankle.

Sometimes, we just have to power through and dance the hurt away.

Yesterday, as I was lying on my tummy and applying ice on my back, John sent a message that a delivery was on the way. He had made pasta and was sending me a portion of what he cooked. When the notification from the Grab driver came, I leapt out of bed and rushed out the door to receive my package, leaving the ice pack on the bed.

Before I had even gotten back inside the house, I took the food containers out, searching for a note or letter from my fiancé (he said there would be one). The bag was empty. I was just about to text John when I tipped the container containing the pasta upside down and saw a piece of paper taped to the bottom. I unfolded the letter.

“April 9, 2020. Hi Trish!” It started.

My heart swelled and ached at the same time.


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