American Shithole #26 — A Remarkable, Unremarkable Day
By Eric Wilson
Imagine you’re standing in the middle of a busy airport. Passengers crowd past you in every direction. Looking up at the arrivals and departures; all flights delayed. Suddenly, the entire board changes — rows and columns of numbers and letters flip with the familiar clickety-clack, clickety-clack of the old, analog displays — revealing only destinations on your bucket list, as the throngs of weary travelers part before you like the Red Sea.
That’s how I felt today.
“Oh, this is hopeful!” I had said to myself, hands on hips, staring down at my toes this morning, tapping in approval. The muscles, ligaments and tendons in my lower body that refused to function just weeks ago, quivered, but held.
“Nice job legs,” I whispered, “you too, feet.”
It’s been quite a remarkable, unremarkable day — here’s what happened:
It’s pretty nondescript really; I walked (back and forth between two rooms) in a way I haven’t been able to walk for years.
That’s it. Seems anticlimactic I’m sure, but I was told a very different story about how things were going to go for me and my shitty legs. In fact, my particular medical condition was expected to take a turn for the worse some time ago (it’s a degenerative condition, or so I’ve been told, repeatedly) with looming surgeries, recovery, blah, blah, blah; and yet today — here comes this ray of sunshine — slashing through dark clouds I once believed to be permanent fixtures on the shitty legs horizon.
It’s been so long, I had honestly — no hyperbole here — I’d forgotten what actual, bona fide, body-waves-of-joy, hope felt like.
So when I think back on my frustrating experiences with the privatized (read: for profit) healthcare system in America over the last 50 years, it finally occurs to me how thoroughly my generation has been brainwashed into believing we don’t deserve access to affordable, quality health care; unless it’s an absolute emergency.
“Walk it off, kid.” That was Boomer parenting mantra. We soaked it up. Instead, we should have been furious for decades.
Also, I trusted doctors; something I’ve likely been socialized to do, and that was a mistake. I foolishly thought they could all be held to the same level of excellence and accountability.
Sketchy medicos from Big Pharma funded pain clinics (they’re fucking everywhere now), or even just overworked physicians struggling to provide adequate care within an over-stressed system, are better met with a dose of skepticism, than blind faith — these are not the hometown general practitioners you grew up with that have a vested interest in your community, and have known you since you were in the womb.
Far too many doctors took bribes from pharmaceutical companies to push OxyContin and other opioids, while others in the medical community looked the other way, or did too little too late. We are buckling under the weight of an addiction crisis that runs roughshod in crippling waves across this nation, and those partially to blame swore an oath to never knowingly, willingly harm patients under their care.
Yet here we are.
I was lucky enough to sidestep an intentional effort on a medical professional’s part to hook me on painkillers (I suggest that a pain doctor instructing me not to see a specialist about my condition, and instead just doubling my prescription strength to be an intentional effort), but it was only one sidestep in what turned out to be a seemingly infinite number of dance maneuvers required to navigate a healthcare system indifferent to the effects of profit on human suffering.
It wasn’t a week or two later I decided to tackle this sans opioids after two months. That was three years ago.
The details since aren’t particularly noteworthy — I will spare you what would most assuredly devolve into a tedious slog through a medical info dump — suffice to say, I no longer believe the American healthcare system provides for a patient’s best interests. I am a bit embarrassed I believed it ever did. It’s a betrayal that cuts deeper than the Trump disaster; a harsh reminder that all humans are slaves to greed.
All I know is that I have to double my efforts. I have to trust my instincts and keep working the physical therapy regimen I’ve developed for myself, and somehow find a way to succeed with my diet (fuck you diet, you sandcastle bully from salad-hell beach).
I need my energy levels up; writing about horrible people is exhausting.
During this past spring I felt fairly well-armed tilting at the windmills of the Trump horde — lobbing flaming paragraphs of cynicism and derision from the parapets of American Shithole, with the Literate Ape banner flapping furiously in the wind — but over the summer I felt I’d emptied the armory, and I’d been scouring the castle for weeks, raiding the larder even; looking for any pots and pans I could throw in desperation at the filthy barbarians still gathering at the gates of democracy.
“Look my liege, here’s a social media post you wrote two years ago, shall I lobeth it at thine enemy?”
“Well, throw it down the murder hole already, knave!”
“It’s just harmlessly bouncing off them, my king.”
“Well trebuchet some memes, do we have any memes?”
“All we’ve got left in the Armory are a few pages of poetry you wrote when you were but a prince…”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake… okay, throw it at ‘em…what’d they do?”
“They’re mocking your shitty Haiku from freshman English, m’lord.”
My poetry from high school deserves to be mocked, by the way. It was fucking terrible. I’m not being faux self-deprecatory either, I am one of the worst young writers of poetry I have ever read. I’m tempted to track down the one that went into the senior-year program, which — if I remember correctly — lifted heavily if not entirely from Bono.
I just don’t want to ever feel like I am phoning it in; and it’s not as if there’s a shortage of topics for this column, it’s just that the people I typically cover are revolting, and telling their stories makes me feel dirty and shitty and soulsick and grumpy — so some weeks I just want to make it easier on myself and not do that; which in turn, makes me feel like I’m copping out.
Then, today happened. I felt so focused; not only on the reemerging possibilities for a better quality of life, but on the awesome, terrifying power our failing health wields over us all — and the relative insignificance of other challenges we face.
Everything else I had been worried about faded into the woodwork this morning when I felt the weight of disability replaced with the possibility of recovery.
I am thankful, humbled, and hopeful.
I don’t know if this is some sort of medical “Indian Summer” I’m experiencing, and frankly, I don’t care — I could wake up hobbling my way to the coffeemaker tomorrow, just like I have for years now, and still be a mostly happy fellow. Either way, I am energized by the experience, and I wanted to share that with you. I don’t care about Kavanaugh, that rapist fuck; I’m glad I didn’t write about him this week. We’re going to get it all back, I can feel it. I walked twenty feet today without looking like an afterschool special. Fuck him. Fuck the lot of ‘em — greedy, old, crusty motherfuckers.
We’re going to get it all back, and then some.