The remainder of the passage was thankfully easy and the approach to Tanjung Puting hinted at the promise of interesting explorations. But, by the time we have our anchor down, I am beset with back pain. I crawl into bed and don’t get out. There is howling, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I try very hard to follow my Plan for Engaging a Sunnier Disposition as deployed in Belitung, but I am incapacitated to the point where I have to call Andrew in to the back berth to help me roll over in bed. “Okay, if you…could…just…
YEEEAAHHHWHWHWHWHOOOOOOWWW!” I grouse as he ever so gently grabs my hip and my shoulder and helps me roll onto my side, only to find that is too painful, too, so I fall flat to my back, knees propped with pillows.
He looks down at me with concern.
I stare up at the ceiling with concern.
What am I going to do? There is no pain physician here, if I want one of those fancy-schmancy steroid shots to my spine, I’m going to have to either take a ferry, sail Sonrisa, or fly to Singapore. If I can’t even roll onto my side without yelping - how am I going to engage in public transportation. A ferry bouncing across ocean waves is absolutely out of the question.
Days go by. I try my usual exercises to stretch my spine and strengthen my core, things get worse. I try new exercises to extend my spine, things get worse. A fellow sailor suggests I hang upside down from the Boson’s chair, and I am seriously considering this option, but at this point things are so bad I can’t even shuffle from one end of Sonrisa to the other.
After days being Sonrisa bound, I think: “Maybe I need to do some walking. Maybe walking will help.” So, Andrew ferries me across the anchorage to the dock where I feel dry land beneath my feet for the first time in at least ten days. We walk, and though it hurts, it sort of seems like a “good hurt,” right? We sit down to eat a lunch and that’s when more trouble begins. As I sit in my chair, my muscles and nerves spasm every few seconds, I bite my lips shut to make sure I do not release a “YEEEWOOOWWW” Into the wild and embarrass myself and others. I can’t lean over to my soup bowl, so I string soup noodles the two and a half foot distance between my bowl and my face.
“Why are you eating your noodles like that?” Andrew asks, abhorred by the noodles raining out of my face like walrus whiskers.
“We have to go,” I lean across and whisper, “Yeiiip!” I wince. He nods with understanding and concern. We finish up our wonton soup and delicious onion flavored noodles with chicken then clear out of there. I go to stand, only to find I simply cannot. I am frozen in the position of a chair. “Ahhh…ugh….help?”
Andrew scoots around the table and lifts me upward from my shoulder. I try to walk, but every few steps my back is threatening to toss me into a pile on the street. I hang on Andrew’s arm and shuffle the smallest steps away from the restaurant. “This is not good.” I say. Three blocks later, I’ve loosened enough to stand upright on my own, but that’s about it. We stop by the dock and the gents who have been entertaining Andrew with a nearly continuous game of Dominos see us approach.
They greet me and ask what’s wrong. “I hurt my back! I’m like an old lady!” I do an impression of someone shuffling with a cane and a bent over back. They furrow their brows as if they don’t understand, and I’m sure they don’t. Old Indonesian ladies do not shuffle, they carry 20lb rice sacks on their heads. When I realize how wrong I am, I stave off a wave of despair.
The longer this goes on, the harder it is to accept as a temporary state. I worry this is my destiny, and if it is my destiny then this sailing trip is over. I fight waves of panic and sadness that bring a rush of tears; frustration and resentment that just when I had finally embraced a positive attitude, this befalls me immediately thereafter. To make matters worse, I’m getting a sore throat. Then, I snap back. “This too shall pass, this too shall pass…”I repeat it over and over again. I make a solid commitment to watch the entire first season of Deadwood nonstop and accept this period of convalescence.
Andrew is bored out of his skull. He’s done all the projects he can think to do on Sonrisa and then some. He starts tearing apart Sonrisa’s fans. I tell him to go explore without me, it’s okay. It’s time to pick up the laundry, anyway.
A few hours later he returns, a big smile on his face.
“You really shouldn’t let me out alone.”
“Why? What’d you do?”
“At least three car loads of men stuck their heads out to tell me I’m handsome. And, I may be marrying the laundry lady tomorrow. She wants to come see the boat so she knows what she’s getting herself into.”
I laugh. Even when I am around he gets marriage proposals. “Did you propose or did she?” I ask.
“The laundry wasn’t quite ready yet, so we were chatting with Rudi the taxi driver. She reached across the countertop and grabs my Greenstone necklace, pulling the necklace and me closer to her. She stares deeply into my eyes at an uncomfortable distance for an uncomfortable length of time then says, ‘You are so handsome. Have you ever considered taking on an Indonesian wife?’”
“Well, did you say yes or what?”
“I told her I’d have to check with you…and, she recommended someone who can fix your back.” Andrew scowls with uncertainty, “I think she said he is a Lucky-Lucky Boy.”