The guy in the pickup truck behind me might have been seriously ticked off. I couldn't read his expression, and I probably didn't want to, but still, there he was, glued to my back bumper. I suppose he objected to my going a mere 60 mph in a 60-mph zone, which is something generally not done along this particular stretch of freeway, but the next vehicle in front of me was your basic 18-wheeler, toting a 53-foot box of whatever that wasn't going to be hauled down from 60 in much less than a quarter mile. There is a rule that they used to paint on the back of these trailers: "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you." This, I figured, was more than enough to justify keeping my distance. Finally, Mister Pickup darted sharply to the left and then slid in front of me, just in time to watch the semi hit its brakes.

Nothing remarkable here, one might assume. And really, there wasn't, except for one minor detail: at any of several moments during this particular procession, I could have executed a couple of perhaps-too-clever maneuvers to open up some room for our impatient friend out back. And I didn't, because — well, I didn't have the nerve to do them anymore.

Dial back just beyond one year ago. I'm going nowhere quickly, and I'm wearing a wristband that says "HIGH FALL RISK." People who can't walk, and I was one of them, are indeed a high fall risk. But after several weeks of that, that phrase was burned into the back of my mind: I didn't do much of anything, because dammit, I was a High Fall Risk, and I didn't want to be falling. This made me cautious, which is a good thing; after this month's fender-bender, in which no fenders were bent except my own, I seem to have gone beyond cautious, all the way to fearful. The ten-mile commute, formerly something at which I shrugged, has instead become a source of anxiety and elevated blood pressure.

This is not good. I have never really been hell on wheels; I've never been the sort to assume that I could do anything right off the bat. But being a High Fall Risk, I avoid attempting anything that might render me involuntarily horizontal. There's a light bulb in the living room that burned out last fall. I've made no attempt to replace it, because I can't reach it and I dare not try to climb the rickety old stepladder. (Yes, there are implements for this. They will not work unless you have direct access to the bulb without anything in the way. I have a sheet of plate glass that has to be moved first. If I could have done that, I could have changed the damn bulb.)

And I don't do fear well. During my bouts of insomnia, the inability to fall asleep would often be enough to induce an actual panic attack, which is to say the least counterproductive if you're trying to rest. I'm still not particularly ambulatory, which means that if I have to run, I'm good as dead. And should a new pain strike me (and there's almost always a new pain waiting to strike me), the most immediate reaction, beyond a scream and/or a cuss, is "Do I have to live the rest of my life like this?"

Nothing lasts forever, of course. I certainly won't. What I have to do, apparently, is to get through eleven months of 2019, after which I can presumably retire with something resembling enough to live on. But how do I get there? The main thing to remember, it seems, is Do Not Fall. I hope that's enough, but I'm afraid it won't be.

The Vent

  16 July 2017

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