I couldn’t relax, or lie flat, or breathe. Susan googled heart attacks. We thought she should check, maybe, just in case.
We carried the microwave—the new one—into the kitchen. It mounts under the cabinets, above the stove, doubles as an oven hood. It’s not too heavy, maybe fifty pounds, awkward, but manageable for two people. Reaching out to slide it into the empty space, the cavity between two cabinets, and settle it onto the bracket I already screwed to the wall, I froze. The expression on my face told Susan to panic. Nothing popped, nothing snapped, a wave of agony washed over me. I stood still holding the microwave, paralyzed by pain.
Earlier in the day, bent, uncomfortable, trying to measure and mark where the holes get drilled, my body torqued so my bifocals could focus on the ruler, my chest muscles began to nag at me.
In 1995, riding my bike to work, I collided with a van. My spleen split open and blood flooded my chest cavity. My lung collapsed. In the emergency room, doctors with scalpels poked holes between my ribs to drain the blood. I almost drowned. Twenty-five years is a long time. Bodies adapt, make do. My rebuilt shoulder rarely troubles me. I stopped getting inflammation in my lung a decade ago. I know what to expect from my brain injury. But those scars between my ribs, man, those are a pain in the ass.
What’s wrong? Are you OK?
I pulled a chest muscle.
You’re still holding the microwave.
I can’t move.
We slid the microwave onto the new countertop—freshly installed, afforded by our home refinance—I worried about scratches. Last week, the guy who painted our cabinets used the counters as his work tables. Micro-scratches cover the surface. They say we can buff them out with a Scotch pad, but we haven’t tried.
Unsure what to do, I crawled onto my back on the carpeted floor in the next room. Susan propped pillows around my sides and under my arms, trying to counteract gravitational pull, trying to help me release my seized muscle. A few minutes later we eliminated a heart attack as a possible scenario.
The microwave install remains incomplete. Eli plans to finish it with two friends after school, before they head to the gym. Mark, the strongest one, claims he can do it by himself. I cancelled my afternoon run. Legs up on an ottoman, back erect, propped on the couch. Susan fetches what I need.
Today is a sorry new episode in my realization that as I age, I can’t do what I once did. Like I needed more proof.