The Privileged

by Nikola Wrzolek

I lie in my bed. The silence pushes me to the ground as if it was drilling in my guts; yet, my thoughts clash with what my mouth cannot utter. The raindrops fall on window panes with a bang like that of a tree falling on our car back then. Local kids had set the tree on fire for fun; they regretted it later. My legs are shaking at the thought but it is a good sign. It means they are here. My legs, my previously broken bones; I am here.

 

Ironically, your mind screams most when no noise can reach your ear. I realized what had happened to my body when I was in the bathroom. The only place that was unbothered by the crowd of people gathering around me and debating what to do next. My legs were not so enthusiastic about that place. I fell over the threshold. “Lie on the cold floor defeated by a protruding threshold,” I thought. In my native language, my parents would ask: “did you catch a running hare?” to downplay the situation. No, I did not catch anything. It was rather the weakness and imperfections of my body that caught me. Or was it my strength waiting to show off when I tried to stand up?  “When you cannot deal with the difficult situation, laugh at it. Its seriousness will diminish, and you will feel better. It’s a mechanism of defence. Why do you think people laugh during funerals? In order not to shatter into pieces completely” my mum’s voice rattled in my head when I was complaining about my numb legs. I did nothing.

 

Firstly, there was the stage of denial. The world of fantasy films enchanted me like a magic spell. The nurse drew heavy curtains and turned on the TV. I could feel the gravel of a path in a whimsical forest, talking animals’ words were flying in the air, and the wind was brushing my hair whispering the secrets of witchcraft. It was a colourful mix of emotions and adventures; the world so different than my black clothes, and grief. An escape from reality. A place where all your dreams may come true. Nonetheless, every magical trip can eventually wear you out.

 

The second stage appeared: acceptance. Being chained to bed meant more free time than I ever had in my life. “Do something for yourself” I heard. I have always wanted to be in contact with the whole world. I created an account on the pen pals website and began chatting. Others wished to speak about their problems. I learned about low wages, redundancy, pollution in the cities, and politicians’ incompetence. The forum for bored introverts, as others perceived it, became the forum for sharing grief. Regardless, if it was Europe, Africa or Asia people had serious problems. They lived with families on a breadline in dilapidated houses because they earned little; or suffered from diseases caused by water and air pollution, the consequence of politicians’ negligence. They needed to talk about it with somebody neutral, with somebody like me. “At least you have a decent flat, a decent job, you can buy what you want, and pay for the medical care. We are working here to death. Be glad, woman. You are privileged!” they kept saying when I said I was sad. I had a better life than them. “There are others in a worse state; life goes on; you are given the chance!” my parents words’ echoed in virtual friends’ messages.

 

The third stage appeared: a fight. I began taking first steps in the swimming pool; then I trained using a stationary bike. I had surgeries. I sweated and I cried of pain; nonetheless, I did it as every prolonged period of no action can eventually wear you out.

 

The success was announced when I began to take some steps on my own after months of physiotherapy. Hurray! I conquered my body; made it obey the rules! I returned home. To my decent flat filled with commodities such as the dishwasher set by one of my Asian friends. I returned to my decent job and worked even harder. I have got a promotion, so they have paid me regularly what my African friends could earn during a 10 years’ shift, probably.

 

Nonetheless, each day, I return to that silent and empty space, my well-equipped flat. I smell coffee prepared by a coffee machine made in China. I look at my elegant business jacket made in Bangladesh. I caress the soft paper of Emma and Adam’s drawings on the fridge. I open the wardrobe to sniff Robert’s shirts. I survived that car accident, I am privileged. Still, during silent nights, I wonder: what for? And I laugh.

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