I threw my back out Monday morning, partially self-inflicted. After an unnecessarily late night I rushed into a yoga session, and early in the practice as I bent forward I suffered a ripple of pain as my lower back seized up.
I’ve barely been able to move the last two days. There are few movements that do not result in some kind of agony. I have decided that the colour of pain is white, with streaks of bright blue.
It’ll work it’s way back to normal in a couple of days, but it’s a good reminder that I’m getting older (39 today) and that starting preventative health measures after I turned thirty, like quitting smoking and changing my diet, were probably a good idea.
The main thing I’ve been reminded of, with accompanying laughter – though not too much because that hurts right now – is the last time I had this much back pain – a couple of years ago.
I had a first date arranged in the evening, with someone I’d met on the Internet.
We were ready for in real life: that awkward and exciting first encounter that could go anywhere. Probability and experience said I had a ticket to Nowhere but for some reason I was confident we’d get on.
We’d graduated with honours from e-harmony chat to flirty SMS banter. We had a mutual friend who had separately assured us that the other was well worth getting to know. It was the right time.
I had a morning’s work in Ultimo booked that day. My back was a little tender from sitting a few days in a row, so under a cloudy sky at 4.00 I wandered up to Glebe for a massage at Pure Botanicals. The date was set for 6.30, across town in Surry Hills.
When the massage was over I tried to get up and discovered I couldn’t. My lower back had completely seized up.
More than half an hour later, with some embarrassment help from the staff, I shuffled onto Glebe Point Road. Every blink brought blinding flashes. In the Summer dusk the now heavy rain on the day-warmed road rattled the awning and cooled the air.
I hailed down a cab. Or, rather: I gruesomely raised my arm from my stunted and twisted frame, brows furrowed against the agony each movement brought. Having taken so long to extricate myself from the massage table and hobble the dozen metres to the front door, there was no time to walk to Surry Hills as planned.
I went to step into the car but stopped. Pain lanced from my sacrum and swept through my skin. Clutching my man-bag under one armpit I dropped gingerly into the gutter and lowered myself into the car butt first, rain slapping the back of my neck and swirling around my heels.
Pulling the door closed I shut my eyes, breathing shallowly, waiting for the blinding white behind my eyelids to fade to a cool calm black. The driver was patient; the meter was running.
Take me to Marrickville, I said. Home.
As the cab shuffled away through the peak hour rain I began to text her. Even then I knew that it would end up a funny story, the kind of how-did-you-meet anecdote couples dream of: it never gets old; it can be told together; it’s the type of shared legends bonds are built on.
I thought about the moments that led there, from our pictures and witty pseudonyms on a website, our curated online selves, to sitting in the cab with my phone in my hands, hesitating at that last moment to send that text and cancel.
Now, when I’m talking to people about my experience of modern dating or debilitating back pain – and the relative joys of each – it’s a story I turn to for a laugh.
I’m not sure I would have gone out with me again either.