Always Thinking of the Kittens


My back looks like a map of an alien plant. Lost is my pale white skin that has not seen the sun in decades. Gained are a series of deep blues, purples of sea with the yellows, gold, and brown of land in a topographic line that works it way up my spine.

He came highly recommended from a co-worker who had suffered for months with lower back problems. She got his name from her doctor. She reminded me twice that he was not a doctor. He didn’t return my first two calls making him an unobtainable and attractive like a hot night club I could never get in to.

When he finally called me, I jumped at his first offer and drove straight over. The wait outside his door left me thinking that even if he is unable to adjust my back, all of my leading belief to this point may act as a sugar pill in the absence of any real cure.

Never looking him in the eye, I carefully removed my shoes and gingerly lay my belly flat on his table. I could smell the fabric softener in the towel which covered the ring my face rested in. It was not Mr. Snuggles, but I appreciated the thought.

I expected a hippy, as most things mystical and non-traditional in Ann Arbor. He stood over six feet with long silver hair and the build of an Irishman who had been eight round. The room was a barely lit brick closet that over looked the historic streets of down town and filled with great Stevie Wonder music.

It started before the small talk but reassured me he would talk me through the process. After forty minutes of his life story, several phone calls while he worked, and a general statement about his last thirty years making people feel better – I took the little strength I had left and firmly said “Stop!”

Over that time he had been digging and rubbing and pushing, what felt like a hard wooden ball, but turned out to be his elbow, into my back. With a few pulls on each leg he asked me to stand. But I couldn’t. There were two more struggles to get off the table, or even turn over with out shooting pain, until I finally got up. The pain was now worse than the day it had happened. Control over my legs was minimal. Gravity was my greatest enemy and I was certain to loose at any second.

He spent a few more minutes on my lower back and asked me to walk to the door and back. It again was an unexpected struggle. He wanted to spend as long as it took for me to feel good, but that comment and a few episodes of HBO’s Oz playing in my mind, I waved him off. As quickly as I could my shoes were strapped on and he walked me to my car.

I made it up the three flight of my building to my apartment holding back tears and reminded of Thanksgiving evening. On my couch I had to wonder if this would last the rest of my life, if this were one of those challenges to test your character. Luckily the sweet voice of a good friend called and talked my through the next hour as she drove to see some family. I fell asleep or passed out after the call had ended.

Saturday I could stand. My movements were very smooth. The sharp pain in my back was mostly gone – but a dull throbbing soreness replaced it. I look in the full length mirror to find my alien map back. The make-up artists for a Farrah Fawcett movie of the week would be proud.

So I focus on the good times and the cute kittens.

Always thinking of the kittens – don’t think of the bad man you paid to beat the crap out of you. Think of the kittens. Always think of the kittens.

How cute.