User’s Guide to Physical Debilitation
Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis last longer than forever or at least until your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart or the culture of death, which really has it out for whoever has seen better days but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching, you, or your beleaguered caregiver stirring dark witch’s brews of resentment inside what had been her happy life, should turn to page seven where you can learn, assuming higher cognitive functions were not pureed by your selfish misfortune, how to leave the house for the first time in two years. An important first step, with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor. When not an outright impossibility or form of neurological science fiction, sexual congress will either be with tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy, performing an act of sadistic charity; with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas; or with someone blindly feeling their way through an extended power outage caused by summer storms you once thought romantic. Page twelve instructs you how best to be inspiring to Magnus next door as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit above Alberta. And to Betty in her dark charm confiding a misery, whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours. The curl of her hair that her finger knows better and beyond what you will, even in the hypothesis of heaven when you sleep. This guide is intended to prepare you for falling down and declaring détente with gravity, else you reach the inevitable end of scaring small children by your presence alone. Someone once said of crushing helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that. We agree with that wisdom but gleaming motorcycles are hard to turn down or safely stop at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note are sections regarding faith healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy, and what to say to loved ones who won’t stop shrieking at Christmas dinner. New to this edition is an index of important terms such as catheter, pain, blackout, pathological deltoid obsession, escort service, magnetic resonance imaging, loss of friends due to superstitious fear, and, of course, amputation above the knee due to pernicious gangrene. It is our hope that this guide will be a valuable resource during this long stretch of boredom and dread and that it may be of some help, however small, to cope with your new life and the gradual, bittersweet loss of every God damned thing you ever loved.
From My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge by Paul Guest. Copyright © 2009 by Paul Guest. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.