Progress Report 11

Brian J. Sullivan

As I strap my leg on, I ponder how I long for the "Good Old Days." Just another day at the office has taken on new meaning as the once routine tasks have now become major challenges. Today is no exception as I head out the door and negotiate a flight of 15 stairs on crutches, balanced on one leg, while holding a hot cup of coffee, a full garbage bag, and my lunch.

I arrive 15 minutes early for my daily physical therapy session at an old armory. Betty, the receptionist, acknowledges my arrival with a glance over the top of her black cat-eye glasses. She was a receptionist for the army when they occupied the armory in the late 1950s and never left. The grey steel office furniture is a perfect complement to her personality.

I begin my warm-up on a stationary bike. There are no windows to offer ventilation or a view. However, an ancient industrial size floor fan moves the stale air from one area of the room to another. Its open steel mesh has long ago been outlawed by O.S.H.A. Taped to the lime green block walls are faded posters with slogans such as "No Pain, No Gain," "Be all you can be," and "Never cry or scream, because it only encourages us." On the far wall hangs a clock inside a square wooden box which loudly ticks away the seconds. Overhead, fluorescent lights flicker. Clumps of dust and dead bugs collect in the room corners and underneath the therapy beds. The old wooden gym floor creaks as people shuffle across it. Its painted boundary lines are all but worn away. This is my home for several hours each day. My tag-team bone crushers are currently with another victim; their larger than life silhouettes are projected against a partially closed, threadbare, curtain-like wall. Soon I will be behind the "curtain."

The one therapist, Maggie, is a stunning 24-year-old blonde and has a deceptively radiant smile. However, her manipulation techniques are legendary. Her low-cut tops and short dresses reveal intricate tattoos and give me a momentary distraction before her skillful hands have me crying, "Uncle! I can't take it any more." Her co-worker, Jessie, is a former "World Federation of Woman Wrestlers" champion. She weights a lean 250 pounds. And she needs to shave. Her large muscular hands are as coarse as any dock worker's and just as icy cold. Her piercing brown eyes and deep raspy voice command authority. Resistance is futile.

It's usually a coin toss which one I get, or rather, which one I prefer. Neither alternative is my first choice. Occasionally I am even double teamed; one holds a measuring gauge and the other torques my leg to the desired degrees, all for the sake of their "progress reports."

At the end of each session, they give me a sucker and the obligatory "I feel your pain" statement, as if that is any consolation, like that will ease my throbbing joints and impure thoughts.

The coffee cup is now empty, my lunch consumed, and the garbage disposed of. I climb the last few stairs leading to my apartment.

So, Dear, how was your day at the office?