My Love Affair with Pain: A Lyric Essay

Submitted by Richelle Allen

Tags: Chronic Pain Lyric Essay pain poem

My Love Affair with Pain: A Lyric Essay

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Pain throws his leg over mine and pulls me to him. Hard, he presses into my hips and his weight crushes me, rousing me from a fitful sleep. As I turn my head to the window, my friend darkness stares back at me. Gone are the days of my youth where I slept until the sunlight pried my eyes open. Gone are the days where there was no transition between sleeping and waking. Gone are the days when my children, all knees and elbows, crawled their way through the covers to nestle in beside me or to wet my face with kisses. Gone are the days of waking to iron my husband’s clothes or to pack his lunch. All that was familiar is gone, and now I’m left with Pain.

Pain first flirted with me several years ago. I didn’t find him attractive – no, not at all, yet there was something about him, like my college English professor who was old enough to be my grandfather but who had a certain worldly air about him that drew the young female co-eds.– a je ne sais quoi. When Pain first came around, he began to find excuses to touch me – a brush across my knee, a faint pressure at the small of my back, a helping hand at my elbow. A few times, when he thought we were alone, he traced his finger across the nape of my neck. At first, I was amused by his flirtations and joked about the situation with my friends. Then, as he grew bolder, I became alarmed. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t put him in his place when it all first began. I tried to avoid him, but he went out of his way to seek me out and summon my attention. Little by little his persistence wore me down, and eventually, he conquered me.

Now, here we are, having spent another sleepless night together. The sheets are twisted, knotted, and sweat- drenched, announcing to all that this is not a bed for sleeping. When my husband was home, he and I would tumble into bed and love. Afterwards, tugging the covers over our shoulders, we would spoon and fall into the slumber that only lovers know. Now, here I am, consumed by Pain and his desire for my body. His hold on my lower back pins me to the bed, the slightest movement leaving me gasping. He reaches out and grips my buttocks, prompting me to cry out, “Oh, God.” Tears course down my face at the forcefulness of touch.

Like a twenty- year old, his arousal is greatest in the morning, and with reluctance, he lets me leave his bed, his arms trailing after me as I head to the shower. His bed. No longer my bed or my husband’s bed, but his. He has moved in and claimed dominion. His power over me stretches across the day and follows me to work. As I teach, I still feel his breath on my neck and his hand pressing into my lower back. My face flushes, and I worry that my class will hear, “How much longer?” reverberating in my head. As I sit at my computer, he kneads the muscles in my back, causing my toes to curl and cramp. I promise myself I will grade papers at home and hastily scribble “Off campus meeting” on the whiteboard on my door. Driving home, I tap impatiently on my steering wheel, opting yet again for the drive-thru instead of cooking. Yet again, I pass the post office without stopping, leaving my mail to pile up in the box and prompting the clerks to cram a note into my box admonishing me to pick up my mail, as if I care whether they toss my power bill, or sweepstakes entry, or church bulletin.

Parking the car, I leave my book bag on the floorboard. No time for grading tonight. Pain beckons. I open the door, let the dog out, and once again I surrender, leaving the take-out cartons unopened on the counter and the dog whining to be let back in.

I find myself avoiding family and friends. “Oh, I’m just watching television,” I lie when they call. Turning away from the trail of clothes leading from the front door, I struggle to make small talk. Concern for my aunt’s upcoming medical tests and what I’m supposed to fix for the church’s potluck dinner is pushed aside by Pain’s throbbing touch. Silently, I scream at the telephone, thinking of excuses to end the call and tumble into bed.

I’ve sought professional help. The neurosurgeon says there are no guarantees; however, he is confident he can lessen Pain’s reign over my life. But is that what I want? Rushing home to Pain, I am free to ignore other obligations. With Pain as a convenient excuse, I no longer feel guilty over forgotten promises or neglected duties. With Pain, I know my nights will not be spent jumping at the slightest noise. My senses, once dulled by the monotony of middle class Americana and middle age, have reawakened. I am keenly aware of every inch of my body, of my every movement in some sort of kinesthetic epiphany. Do I want to trade all of this for a life free from Pain? Could I learn to live without him? Would I want to? I’m no longer sure if I am his obsession or if he has become mine.