The Stiff Neck

I was having difficulty turning my head. The doctor said it was because I pinched a nerve in my neck in the night. I tried massaging it, which helped a little. Then I applied a heating pad to it. Still, I could not turn my head. A couple of weeks went by. My face started to turn blue. I went to the emergency room. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this but you probably won’t make it through the night,” the doctor said. “Some things you just can’t fix,” I said. “You’re going out with grace,” he said. “The warrior of all warriors,” I said. He gave me some pain medication and I slept through the night. When I woke the pain was gone and my face had returned to normal. I turned my head to the left and to the right the way that I do. I made circles with it. It felt so good. The doctor came into my room and said how glad he was that he was wrong about me being dead by now. “It’s good to be alive,” I said. “Nothing like living,” he said. I asked him what was wrong with me and he said he still wasn’t sure, but maybe that something wasn’t aligned quite right. “I don’t think any of us are aligned quite right,” I said. “We’re like jars of broken rocks,” he said. “We’re like sandwiches just thrown together willy-nilly,” I said. “We’re like museum dinosaur fossils during an earthquake,” he said. “Like the shifting of tectonic plates on fast-forward,” I said. “Frankenstein’s monster while being electrocuted,” he said. We talked long into the afternoon. The nurse brought us spinach lasagna from the cafeteria. We had the most amazing discussion about the anatomy of sandwiches. Six hours later we were still talking. “Each part of a sandwich works together in the mouth to ensure maximum digestibility,” I said. “The club sandwich is the most perfect system in the universe,” he said. I said “There is no such thing as a perfect system, because part of what makes a system what it is also unmakes it.” “Then a club sandwich is the perfect balance of impossible contraries,” he said. We carried on like this long into the early hours of the morning, and had forgotten to unmute our phones and call home to let our spouses know we’d be home late and not to wait up. “I’m going to get it,” I said. “How will you ever make it out alive?” the doctor said. “The couch it is,” I said. “Exiled to the phantom zone,” he said. “Blown out the airlock,” I said. The sun was starting to come up over the trees again. I was so glad it was morning and that I’d made a new friend.