Friday, August 29, 2008


Apart from the fact that you have to walk differently – indeed, LIVE differently – one of the many interesting aspects of corporeal whiplash is that you can’t breathe deeply, because it hurts too much to stretch all those tenterhooked muscles around the chest and abdomen. As a corollary, yawns, coughs - and above all, sneezes - must be avoided. To sneeze in such a condition, or even try to stifle a sneeze under way, is to scream reflexively, moan/groan, arrrgggghhhh and what not, WOW that hurt, you gasp in the aftermath. So I microyawn, I nanocough, and I haven’t sneezed in a week.

Still, one grows the more complacent with the gradual return to the quotidian, where a sneeze is an old friend and the guard goes down, as it did yesterday morning when I was in the supermarket in the big city picking up some stuff, just one of the routines of daily life, when I felt a sneeze coming on there amidst the busy morning crowd, as sneezes often do, what the hell, reaching for some tea or something, paying no attention to the new sneeze rule, when I remembered what would happen if I did sneeze, right here in the rush hour supermarket with one arm full of purchases, the other holding my bag, what a sight that would be, and what could be weirder than to see a grown man writhing on a supermarket floor after sneezing, except to BE that grown man.

I quickly worked my right hand free and upward, to press my fingers on the vagus nerve just below my nose, don’t want to fling my purchases and moan in agony, another one of those weird foreigners, so I just stood there in a corner with some wannabee English muffins and stuff under one arm, hunched and contorting, trying to discourage the sneeze, defeat the sneeze, send the sneeze back where it came from, making faces, finger pressing, would I sneeze and scream or would I succeed in silence, it was touch and go, a sweaty brow, the issue in serious doubt, the sheet of pain hung by a thread that led who knows where, as shopping workers walked by staring at the odd impromptu behavior of that muffined etc. foreigner acting strangely over there in the corner by the pastry section, but who cares what fellow shoppers think? I care what hurts, and in time the sneeze went away; I was stronger than a mere reflexive expansion of the diaphragm.

A new light shone, the world returned to normal muzak mode, people buying things... But now, somewhere inside me, there is an extra sneeze, a sneeze denied, a sneeze with experience, waiting...


Elizabeth (Beth) Westmark said...

Great description of a "sneeze denied" -- brings back memories to me of a time in 2001 when I fell partway down a mountain while hiking. The resulting "corporeal whiplash" and broken rib, etc. gave me a reservoir of memories to draw upon & empathize with your current situation.

That experience caused me to live in awe of folks who live with debilitating pain or crippling disability every day and yet go on to live, love, work, and create.

And, yes, to have a grateful heart for ease of movement, breath, being loved and the ability to love.

ted said...

I like the idea of a sneeze slouching toward septum, waiting to be born. During my waiter days, it was rough to be walking between tables with plates stacked up one arm, and feel a sneeze just aching to get outdoors. I recommend mentally repeating, "Raspberry raspberry...' until it retreats.

Hope you feel better soon Bob. It's great that you can laugh at your situation. Just try not to do it out loud. Ouch!

Lin said...

It helps to have a husband with a rounded stomach in your back when you can't get to a pillow! Whoops, you don't have one of those! I am so sorry you have been hurt and hope for quick healing!

Martin J Frid said...

I've heard a sneeze and an orgasm are pretty similar in the mondane, physiological sort of ways. You take care.

Spiritually, I have no doubt that you are fine.

Anonymous said...

"what could be weirder than to see a grown man writhing on a supermarket floor after sneezing, except to BE that grown man"

You wouldn't've enjoyed the raucous, unrestrained laughter that this line caused. :)