An Introduction to Pain

How badly are you hurting? Please identify

your pain by weight and measure it from

end to end, please rank the force and

flavor of this guest that’s wedged itself into

your life. Your memories of pain won’t

help you, since the hurt you’ve been

ignoring is a slippery, constant, keening

thing that’s in between your bones and

underneath your fingernails and in your

skin and woven tightly through the minutes of

your day. Familiar reference points are

useless here, but still: Try to remember how

you would have ranked these moments, if

you’d only known the scale of one-to-ten

back when the pain was seated in your lap:

the broken toe, the day your mentor

died, your surgery that went a little

wrong, the afternoon of waiting for

the phone to ring (you wondered if

he’d made it out alive), ballet en pointe

(the time your toenail cracked right

down the middle), falling off

your bike and landing hard and hitting

gravel, falling off the wagon, reading through

her emails even though you knew

already, biting deep into your lip to

keep from saying something that would

make him yell, the sound the deadbolt

made behind you after she had closed

the door. The knee you skinned, it

wasn’t half so bloody as it felt, but there

was no one who was willing to acknowledge

how it hurt, and no one there to tell you

it would be okay, so you just sighed and put

the bandage on yourself.

Remember how these wounds were

things you knew would fade with

time, would weather into memories,

would be the pain you lived through

moved past walked away from, don’t

forget the way you recognized

those injuries as things that time

would settle into scars. That pain

was not like this, it wasn’t every moment,

every day and every step and every

shallow breath, it wasn’t like this constant

passenger you’ve gathered.

Now: on a scale from one

to ten, describe the way

it feels to know that this

will never be a

memory