I’m rushing through the streets to my first appointment with a new osteopath. I’ve been suffering from various ailments lately: tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, numbness in both hands. Stiff joints. Back pain. In short: I feel like shit lately.
I’m running about 5 or 10 minutes late. Just as I jaywalk through an intersection only two blocks away from his office, I spot the figure of a human being sprawled on the sidewalk.
It was one of those disturbing urban scenes, disheartening and surreal: a very large Latino man, looking like he was trying to crawl on all fours but unable to. Both hands were on the sidewalk, supporting his weight. His legs were collapsed underneath him.
Adding a dash of obscenity to the scene were the numerous human figures walking to and fro around this man, ignoring him completely. A few meters from where he crouched, people drank beer and conversed on a terrace, perfectly okay to have this as their view.
I approached this man. His eyes were glassy and unfocused. “Sir? Sir? Are you all right?”
It’s funny: only when I stopped and addressed this man did others suddenly appear to notice his existence. That’s classic sociology right there. Within two seconds, a young man appeared. Then a woman in office clothes. Then another man came out of one of the shops to help.
The man on the ground mumbled incoherently. The younger man translated: “He says he’s on drugs.”
This man was huge: quite tall and very fat, with a huge belly that protruded out from under his dirty shirt. We each grabbed a part of him — an arm, a flank — and we all heaved together and lifted him up.
When we did so, his pants fell down completely, pooling around his ankles. There he stood in the middle of the sidewalk, this huge man in his underwear, unable to stand.
So now we set about the task of holding him up and pulling his pants up. No small feat. But we did it. The man directly to my right caught my eye and smirked. Maybe it was out of nervousness. But it pissed me off. People can be fucking assholes, even when they’re helping out. I looked away from him. I felt helpless and sad.
The man’s legs remained completely limp, as if they’d been broken. He wasn’t able to engage them enough to support his weight.
“What should we do?” I said. “He’s going to fall right back down again.”
“I don’t know,” the other woman said.
The other man, the one who didn’t smirk, suggested to the ailing man that he sit down and rest on a nearby doorstep. He didn’t go for the idea. He’d already gone through a lot just to stand up. Sit down again? Uh-uh.
As we discussed the options, the large man remained standing and seemed to gain a bit of composure. I gently backed him up against an empty lottery booth, urging him to use it to support himself. He allowed me do it. Once his back touched against the structure, I realized that the others had disappeared. I was alone with this man.
“Are you going to be okay?” I asked. His eyes struggled to focus on my face. “Yes, I’ll be all right.” He stuck out his hand. “My name is David,” he said, looking into my eyes. I shook his hand. “I’m Raquel,” I said. Then I wished him well and continued running to my appointment.
We should have called an ambulance. But I didn’t think of it then. You see? People can be shit, even when they’re being helpful.
I could feel my chest getting tight as I ran there. But not from the running. I was upset. I felt like I was going to burst into tears, as I’ve been doing for the past few months. Ever since I’ve been trying to make my show Flamenguiri perdía (“Lost Flamenca”) into a play — an attempt to tell my pretty fucked-up life story, the story of how I ended up in this country — I get triggered instantly. The slightest image or memory of certain loved ones sets me into a sobbing fit that comes as mercurially as it disappears.
I wouldn’t mind this if it made me feel any better, but it doesn’t. It just embarrasses and drains me, and then I’m bummed out for the rest of the day.
This is part of the reason I’m going to the osteopath. I think the emotional stress of digging up these memories could be manifesting in my body. I need help. But fuck, it’s my very first day with this new osteo and I’m sobbing before I even get there.
It’s so embarrassing. I hate not having control. I keep thinking of this poor, drugged man, twisted around on the sidewalk while people coldheartedly ignore him. It reminds me of how I was beaten in the street by a crazy woman less than a week ago in this same city. Two meters from where we were, two men who couldn’t have been more than 35 years old stood there and watched, amused. “Help me,” I yelled out to them repeatedly. “Get this psycho bitch off me,” I said again. “DO something, you fucking cowards!”
At that, one of them responded: “If you don’t want her to hit you, run away.”
I’d assumed they were friends of hers. Why else would they act that way?
Turns out they weren’t. Turns out the human race is just shit sometimes. Just like is was for the big guy, semi-conscious on the sidewalk.
I used to think that nothing could make you feel more abandoned than going through pain alone. But I was wrong; there’s something worse. And that’s being alone, going through pain, and being in the presence of other human beings who look on in amusement as if you’re a freakish piece of street furniture.
You realize, in that moment, that you’re alone in this world. You feel utterly lost. You feel like you’ve touched upon a core truth of existence. The truth of all truths. The feeling is so bleak, you feel you’ll be lost forever.
I manage to pull it together before I walk into the osteo’s office.
The doctor comes out and greets me. I go back to a small room with him. He shuts the door. “And how are you doing?”
I break down crying. Fucking fantastic.
He gives me a hug and I tell him about the drugged man. I tell him how I think people are shit and how I’ve given up on them. He agrees that they’re shit and that he’s given up on them as well and begins the session. He’s a very good osteopath with powerful hands and I relax.
About 20 minutes go by and I’m like a wet noodle. But then he squeezes some bunched-up muscle near my neck and sadness overwhelms me. I start gasping for air. Tears flow down my cheeks.
“Oh! You must have heard my question before I even asked it,” he says.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I’m saying, you’ve answered my question just as I was about to ask it. I interpret your tears as a response. You must have read my mind!”
This osteo came highly recommended from another osteo, and if he wants to be all hippy-dippy and new agey, I don’t care. I’m getting a fantastic treatment and this kind of talk is a small price to pay. I’ll humor him.
“What was your question?”
“Oh, I think you already know.”
“Come on,” I say, a little bit tired of this game. “Tell me.”
“Well, I was just going to ask: when did you first realize you were lost?”