"You're walking. And you don't always realize it
But you're always falling
With each step, you fall forward slightly
And then catch yourself from falling
Over and over, you're falling
And then catching yourself from falling
And this is how you can be walking and falling
At the same time.”
- Laurie Anderson
Oh Laurie, I wish this were true for me these days. As you describe it, a weird act of peril and safety tied into a simple process most of us let happen autonomously, like a heartbeat. But its true, we bipeds take awful chances every day, every minute we move. The falling part never leaves us. It’s the catching that becomes a problem.
Very few people fall on purpose. A purposeful fall is rehearsed, expected and was probably meant to be entertaining. It is an art, falling, and those who do it, do it well. I am not such a person. I have only fallen accidentally and dramatically with great damage to my psyche more than my dumb skull.
To fall accidentally, I have been surprised in some way, by some obstacle or variance in my forward progress. Usually it goes like this: something caused my foot to abruptly stop without the time or wherewithal to correctly transmit a proper message to my brain and knees and hips, who were still happily tromping along as if nothing ever happened. But its too late, my panicked lower parts, toes, feet, thighs just gave up, threw their hands in the air and sat down and quit. And me, Jenga tower that I am, top heavy and unbalanced, buckle, crumble and fall. I will most probably hit the deck and my head will clonk against some surface or another. And a saga unfolds.
Not everybody will fall because of this. Some of you will catch yourselves, will stumble and regroup: walking and falling at the same time. And there is no premium on falling, anyone can do it, you certainly don’t need a fancy autoimmune inflammatory muscle disease to help. But for me, if I encounter even the smallest road block like I described, a pebble or quarter sized depression in the lawn, I will definitely fall. And you already guessed why, the Poly, the polymyocitis, which in today’s sad story renders my stupid Iliopsoas muscles inadequate to do much else than sit around and make stupid comments from the sidelines.
I normally tell people the Poly has fucked up my quads, since everybody knows what quads are, and it cuts down on me saying words like “psoas,” “sartorius,” “tensor fasciae latae”, and god forbid, “rectus femoris.” But in truth it’s the iliopsoas group which is mostly responsible for sitting, standing and the forward locomotion, and those are the fuckers who fail me regularly, force me to make sounds that my dad regularly made, and changed my life forever. My quads are actually not so bad, thanks for asking.
To be surprised and to trip is now my biggest fear. It used to be spiders, but now it is falling, because I’ve done it, lived it, and it has marked me like a frightened cat. True surprise is true helplessness. Of being surprised. Of living, for a stretched out second, within a surprised state - a bubble of slowed time, molasses, bees circling in slow motion, their wings visibly beating, peering into your bubble, wondering what the fuck is wrong with you in there? You see them, the bees, as you see everything. The sky, cloud formations, and the ground approaching. Blades of grass. You emit a gasp, you see fog leaving your lips, you have instantly calculated complicated trajectories and vectors in your head, and know without knowing of where and how you will land. If you are around after landing that is. You may die. You may never find out if your trajectories were accurate. Your head, melon that it is, may hit and crack open on the pavement and all the good stuff will spill out. In the park, in the parking lot, the red, seedless pulp a mess on the sidewalk.
Scared cat? If you have survived several falls, as I have, you will forever more be afraid of those spots and situations. Like a cat who once had a spoon drop on him from a kitchen counter, and will never again enter the kitchen, I mean never, its off the list, no use discussing or negotiating, cajoling with favorite treats. Cat is done. That is me, after surviving a fall. Fell in the garage? The park, the bathroom? Then those places are to be avoided as death traps, pools of fear and peril, and the only way to traverse them will be with tiny, stupid, shuffling increments, that truth be told, actually increase one’s chances of falling according to experts. But too bad, the path is now lined with spiders (and centipedes) scuttling around before me.
It isn’t so much a fear of pain. Pain will come, the hitting ofthe head, the bouncing of the ol noggin off the pavement, or the hardwood floor - that shit hurts in very deep and heavy way, in a way that makes you moan, even though you’re not a moaner, Your brain will literally hurt and not because Trump is president or people won’t wear masks, your brain has become a thing, a body part, not an abstract identity, a construction of ego and personality, but a thing that hurts. This makes you moan – not forever, usually just a minute or two, but moan it is. But this is not what I fearfully anticipate. No, while I’m in the bubble falling, what’s gnawing at me is how the hell I’m going to get back upright. That if my SKULL has done its job and held hard and true and afforded me continued and blessed life! I am somehow going to have to rise, and a tedious, and odious set of tasks it will be.
In fact, my inclination is to just stay on the ground. But onlookers, concerned passers by don’t go in for this strategy very well. They see an unmoving person on the ground and spring into action. Thank god for these people too. They are the best, our only hope for humanity. But by now I’m weary and have a sudden desire to just be left alone. Its amazing how comfortable the ground can be in these situations. After the moaning and if people would stop hovering and asking me questions, I might just take a nice nap there wedged between a car wheel and the curb. Or half way in the shower. Or there in the nice park, green grass for acres, you can smell it, the earth, dirt, so green you somehow missed the quarter sized divot in the lawn, that sudden tiny down slope that stopped one foot cold and the rest blah blah blah. So there you lie until it has been decided by others that you must rise to face the day.
It has been documented here that I cannot rise under my own power, due to the Latin named tenderloins within my torso which were attacked and conquered by my OWN IMMUNE SYSTEM! Right? You’re my immune system, and you’re so good at attacking shit, viruses and germs and such, why stop there? Keep on attacking everything till there’s nothing left, why don’t you? Then where you gonna go you idiot? There’ll be no body. You’ll be out of a job for good. But immune system doesn’t care. As smart and savvy as it is, it’s also a dumb fuck.
No, I cannot sit up, cannot get on one knee and roll some way or another. Maybe in the past, but not now. Falling means my bulk is now classically dead weight. A sack of very heavy, salted semi-solids and bones sloshing around awkwardly. To get up, somebody, more than likely two somebodies are going to have to lift me. And when they come, hopefully in paramedic form, and maneuver me into a liftable sack, they will hoist! And for a brief moment I will be free! Floating up! Free of having to stand, or walk or think about falling. I give myself over in blind trust to other humans, and can only enjoy the sensation of being lifted for that beautiful second. It is like flying, though not for the forever second I experienced during the fall, but over rapidly and rudely. Feet are righted and life in the fall-prone world comes rushing back, bumps and bruises, and a new fear-place added to the roster. All too soon I will be asked to walk on two unpredictable legs, shaky, and with maybe only five lives left to worry excessively over the spiders in my path.