Bronco

What does it mean that last month’s curry still clings to my apartment?  What is clinging and where?  Everyone remarks on it, at least those who care to.  Team Filipina.  Volunteer Paul.  Does the past cling to us in the same way?  Or is there nothing metaphorical and message-laden in this at all?  The answer, the only one, comes on a day like this.  A blustery day.  No Winnie the Pooh, just the aftereffects of cardamom, garlic, tumeric and others.  And opening the doors wide when the morning show starts at 6:45, all it takes is a few windy seconds through my apartment to blast some curry molecules off the carpets, drapes and walls.  Grief blows out the door in the same way, or maybe not.  It clings.  That is all we know.

We know even less about soil.  Paul has volunteered to dig holes in my raised beds, to bury the contents of the compost tumbler deep in the earth.  Friday being a big day, after all, when Team Leaf Blowers put down their mechanized implements in favor of mere pitchforks.  I can see it now, the cover crop getting chopped, it’s greenery lifted skywards, turned, dropping earthwards.  Destined to decompose one layer above the just buried compost.  Immensely satisfying.  The compost has been composting itself, with nothing removed, for easily eight months.  Eight months of not using the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.  Reducing flow into the plastic rubbish bins in the carport.  Contradicting everything we have been led to believe about garbage, an immensely satisfying liberal, love-the-biosphere moment.  And what a good boy am I.

And there is more.  Every indication, validated by Jane, that I am ascending into Winged Fury less often these days, minor failings pushing fewer buttons.  So maybe today’s appointment with dermatological fate, my every-four-months skin check, well if something is wrong, maybe I haven’t failed.  Train or van, that is the question.  Whether it is nobler to take Caltrain just over one mile to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation or drive?  I opt for the latter, a balanced choice in a balanced life.  Important to keep my driving skills well honed, keep the van’s batteries well charged.  And what a good boy am I.

No, I shouldn’t really park next door at the Town & Country Shopping Center.  But I am throwing legal caution to the winds.  Let them see me, the parking authorities.  Fuck authority, I say.  As the van door slides open I can feel that the day is what it was before, blustery.  The wheelchair, being a little big for the lift, needs to be maneuvered into place.  I drive forward, then back.  But, no, the position still is not right.  The wheelchair’s stick control must clear the safety bar on the lift.  Another backing, then we are almost there.  Just a little more from the speed control, and the wheelchair will slide into place, shoving the telescoping lift platform out where it should be.  Bam.  Speed set to high I burst forward.  An upward, the wheelchair’s front wheels lifting in the air, me tilting back under the safety bar.  I tilt the joystick back, the front wheels drop, and more or less in place, the wheelchair descends.  

Like most terrifying moments, this one is over before it can be fully sensed.  Down, down the lift goes, a reassuring feeling when the safety gate behind me hits the pavement.  Splendid, easy to roll backward now.  But not.  I reverse the joystick and the chair slithers, making a giant S motion on the lift.  In the end, I am almost facing sideways, a strange, inexplicable experience.  Until I see what has happened.  The safety barrier at the front of the lift, the thing my front wheels push against to make the collapsing platform extend…well, it has failed.  In its mission.  The smaller casters of this wheelchair have lifted up and over it, smashing the thing down.  It folds, although why, I am not certain.  Perhaps for moments like these.  Although there has never been a moment like this.

For in its battery-powered push forward, that extra juice needed to extend the lift, back wheels jammed a little too close to its telescoping sides the wheelchair bucked, like a bronco.  And when it dropped, the front wheels fell straight down on the safety barrier.  Which, fortunately folds.  Although I have never folded it before, not in 14 years of using this thing.  Because, it is four inches high, this metal strip at the front edge of the lift.  There is no way a set of wheels could get over it…unless they rise at least five inches in the air.  Which they obviously did.

Do I get a new wheelchair lift?  Or a modern van with a fold-down ramp, as my siblings keep urging?  Maybe the latter.  I am considering this.  But even more, I am considering that my life, maybe any life, is precarious.  Safety devices that prove unsafe.  The impossible proved possible.  Which cuts both ways, of course.  Summing up my neuromuscular survival, my life.

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