A Knife In The Back

February 19, 2009

    I am a social oddity in that I have a knife sticking out of my back.  It doesn’t hurt, except a little now and then.  The doctors are in agreement that it would be too dangerous to try to remove it.  Left where it is, it is not life-threatening.  It is merely an inconvenience and an embarrassment.

    You want to know how I ended up with a knife in my back.  Who put it there, and why?  I’m afraid I can’t explain it very well.  It happened in high school.  I was in a crowded hallway, and suddenly I felt a pain in my back.  I turned around, and this guy I didn’t know was walking away quickly.  It might have been him, but I couldn’t be sure.  I was confused.  Nobody around me said or did anything.  It was as if they hadn’t noticed.  I couldn’t reach behind my back to feel what was hurting me.  I asked a girl what was on my back, and she said, “Oh, my God! Go to the nurse’s office!”

    The nurse was not allowed to do anything, so I was sent to the hospital by ambulance.  The doctors took an X-ray and sent me home, with the knife still in my back. 

    The police came to my house, but I was not able to furnish a description of the person who did it.  And there were no witnesses!

    My mother was very upset because having a knife in my back might hurt my college application, and she went to the school to complain, but nothing happened.  My father was habitually drunk and never said a word about it — ever.

    So there I was with a knife in my back, permanently.

    I sleep on my side, so sleeping wasn’t a problem.  The main problem was how to wear my clothes.  If I tried to wear my clothes over the knife, my back would look like a tent, and I didn’t want that.  So instead, I cut a slit in all my shirts and outerwear for the knife to stick through.  That was better.  Over time, I learned that certain colors and patterns would make the knife “blend in” visually and be less noticeable.

    When I go out, it’s surprising, but very few people say anything about the knife.  Maybe they’re just not paying attention, like the students in the hallway.  Some people laugh because they think it’s a novelty item I bought in a joke store.  Others have said it’s disgusting or in poor taste.  And others have accused me of seeking attention or — still worse — having a self-pitying attitude.  I don’t get into discussions or arguments with people any more.  I’ve found it’s best to keep my mouth shut.

    The other day I went into Holt Renfrew on Bloor St. to shop for a tie.  Within two minutes, a security guard came up to me and said, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to leave the store.”

    “What have I done?” I asked.

    “I’m not saying that you’ve done anything, but you have to leave.”

    Well, I never make a scene in public, so I walked out without saying another word.  Then I was standing at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, waiting for the light to change, and someone called me an asshole behind my back.  I didn’t turn around.  He called me an asshole again.  Then the light changed, and I crossed the street without looking back.  This sort of thing doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

    Now, if you’re expecting me to turn this into a moralistic social commentary, forget it.  I don’t have anything wise or profound to say, although others think they have something wise or profound to say to me.  I’ve been told that there are people with knives in their backs, knives in their heads, or even worse conditions, but they still lead happy, productive lives.  I guess that’s possible.  I’ve also been told that it’s all “mind over matter.”  If I obsess about it, then it’s a problem; if I don’t, then it isn’t.  Huh.  And some people have suggested various self-help therapies, such as yoga, Dianetics, or some Chinese thing I can’t pronounce.  But what relevance do any of these things have to me?

    If you had a knife in your back, what would you do?  Tell me.  Actually, I only want to know if you really do have a knife in your back.  If you don’t, then I don’t want your advice.  Can we leave it at that?  Good.  Thank you.

    Copyright@ 2009 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

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