Unwelcome visitors have a tendency to pop in at the most inconvenient times. The telephone is just such an intruder, its shrill ring interrupting sacred downtime. Back when we were still tethered to landlines, sans caller ID, and Sarah’s was the voice on the other end of the line, I would slump into the adjacent chair dreading the next forty-five minutes of whining and wailing.
My current unwelcome visitor is a virtual one and chooses to interrupt me at the most vulnerable times. Most frequently it’s at first light, cocks crow time I’ve heard it called. She slips into my king-size bed and spoons with me, whispering softly in my barely awake ear. I watched this totally weird television show for a short while. It was called Braindead (only lasting one season). Extraterrestrial insects invaded the brains of politicians in this satire, taking control of their lives and political views. Their point of entry was the ear. My early a.m. visitor does the same thing to me. Like smoke, she wafts into my ear and I begin coughing and choking from the doubt and judgment she imposes.
My companion spells her name A N X I E T Y. Anxiety is really non-gender specific, but I would feel a little unfaithful to my husband if I were to attribute male characteristics to my virtual visitor as she slips in bed with me in the wee hours of the morning.
I am accustomed to her periodic pop-ins, but my intruder’s relentless presence during the past year has propelled me into a dark place. It’s disconcerting because, residing in Florida, I live in the light. This darkness feels unfamiliar. I wonder if this is what it feels like to live near the Shetland Islands or a Nordic country close to the Arctic Circle. But I suspect what I’ve been feeling is not geographically induced.
A spate of injuries precipitated her persistent visits. After years of gel injections, cortisone shots, and lots of ibuprofen, I could not take the pain, the limping, and bowlegs any longer, so I signed up for knee replacement surgery. Friends and acquaintances used expressions such as “life changing” and “new lease on life” to describe the aftermath of the surgery. I guess because the outcome is so good—the new knee recipient can miraculously squat like a toddler and hike the Inca Trail—people don’t really mention how much it fucking HURTS! I also awoke with nerve damage causing foot drop or palsy. My flappy foot was a source of humility and anxiety.