I feel it thick in her overly casual glance in my direction. She’s worked at the store for long enough that she probably remembers my last descent, my first Parkinson’s stumble into the abyss, but the reality is that I have no idea whether she has a clue about my story.
I carefully unload the shopping cart onto the checkout conveyer belt, taking great care not to break anything. Ambushed by a wave of familiar emotion, I twist an already overworked expression into an unbalanced confusion of pain, frustration, anger, and resigned determination.
“The hell with it,” I slur silently, working jaw and lips in an unnatural curl on the right side of my face, inadvertently lending authenticating detail to the drunken meth head reflected in the strangers’ eyes that hem me in. Concentrate on getting through the parking lot to the car without dropping anything; focus.
I struggle to contain the writhing that wracks my body from head to toe. The car starts. As I concentrate on holding the steering wheel with my relatively calm left hand, I attempt to gauge my driving abilities accurately.
I don’t know.
The car seems to be tracking steadily forward despite the violent jerks and twists of limbs that catch my attention in the mirror. As near as I can tell, I’m good to go.
The attack is unrelenting, exhausting, yet boringly familiar, I realize as the car reaches the top of the last hill before getting home, the spot where I wrote that poem seven years ago before brain surgery. The end of the poem begins to auto-recite in my voice:
“In timeless cacophony’s wisdom,
The test runs its course and subsides,
Sudden end to intensity’s shudder,
Quell urgent desires to die,”
“The battle won with the knowledge,
That unwinnable war lies ahead,
With ease forget the last hour,
And marvel at life as it’s led,”
“It’s just a few portions in hours,
Spread even throughout the day,
Not worthy of long-term attention,
A bump in the road on the way.”
I turn in the driver’s seat, body lining up square with the road ahead as an honest smile of earned grace crosses my lips:
“The hell with it,” I beam; life is good, the hell with it.