physical therapy


High above the sky, many warriors were waging a fierce battle. Such a speed they command. It looked as though it was a flock of birds sweeping around, but actually a dogfight was going on. Sometimes a warrior, knocked down and unconscious, could be seen falling down. I was looking at the scene from the ground. I was just staring it vacantly.

I used to move about in the sky freely and downed many enemies. I had led many soldiers and showed off my skill in aerial combat. But I, by that time, had become unable to fly. Looking back now, it wasn't that I had become unable to fly, but rather I could not find it necessary to fly.
Why do they go that far, in wanting to fly and attack the enemy? Do they want to show off their strength among their peers? Win a battle and a stronger enemy will appear. Show off one's strength to the peers and new talents continuously appear. And it goes on. Do they know that? Are they flying knowing that? Are they flying knowing of their defeat or believing in their victory? Is fighting meaningful in the first place? There I was, alone and thinking these things vaguely staring at the aerial combat.
When I woke up I found myself lying in a hospital bed. Where am I? It looked like an unfamiliar hospital but the scenery outside the window, the layout of the ward and TV set in the room seemed vaguely familiar, as if they were constructed of fragmented memory. Is this a dream? No, I thought. It's not a dream. I clearly had a physical sensation. No, this is not a dream. Then I found an I.V. needle in my left arm and a big cast on my right leg. After a while a nurse came into my room to take down the I.V. drip.
“You are unhooked now. Take a good rest since you are going to start physiotherapy tomorrow. Have you ever used crutches?”
Remembering that I had fractured a leg when I was small, I nodded slightly. I must have had a major fracture in my right leg. That's the only thing that would make sense. I decided to walk around the hospital trying the crutches. Opening the door, I found an old man in a wheelchair waiting there. My room faced onto a corridor that connected two wards. The corridor was on a slope and it seemed he could not ascend by himself. He was just there, waiting silently without any expression on his face. Our eyes met for a brief moment, but he didn't say anything, as if having decided a patient with crutches couldn't be of any help.
It was such a strange scene. Not just that old man, but the most of the patients in the hospital were elderly and there, at the open space with a TV at the corner of the corridor, elderly patients on wheelchairs were congregating and watching the live broadcast of a Sumo tournament in silence. They were watching the screen motionless and expressionless, even when a bout was won by a dramatic throw. Using the crutches, I slowly passed them. The watched my every move in silence. I lightly bowed to them, feeling uneasy. The sound from the TV echoed loudly in the corridor.

I was floating at the bottom of the deep sea. It was a hopeless situation. I tried to move my body but I couldn't, as if I were in a dream. I couldn't move my arms and legs to swim, but all I could do was go with the flow. My body couldn't resist at all against the ever-changing tide. Sometimes my face was dragged against the bottom of the sea, but it was all I could do not to swallow the mud. At some point my body was lifted and twisted as if I were an astronaut in space. I sometimes saw a twinkling light somewhere, but there was no way I could believe it was a light at the sea surface. I just didn't have any means of confirming that.
Strangely, it wasn't pitch dark there. It wasn't light either, just dim. I could see somehow, but didn't have a sense of perspective. I could not figure out whether the darkness in front of me was at a distance of a few meters or a few kilometers. I also could not figure out the passing of time. I could not see the movement of the sun, weather or seasons. Rather, I should say, that my awareness towards the weather or the seasons seemed to have stopped. But I still had some sense of time. I hadn't lost hope of getting out of that place, however faint. I was vaguely thinking I could get out of here, in other words, if I waited long enough somebody would come and rescue me. By that time I seemed to have already lost the option of getting out by myself. I had completely given in.
The state of brain freeze. It starts when you abandon your own physical feeling, your emotions and your way of life in exchange for a longing for stability.

It was about one month into my stay in the hospital. I now knew most of the in-patients' faces and names. The cast had gone now and a course of physiotherapy had started. My right leg, after one month in the cast, looked horribly thin. Since the leg had been fixed straight from the thigh to the ankle, the knee had stiffened and I could not bend it myself which required another month of physiotherapy, approximately 60 minutes every day. It was hell. Unless you have experienced it yourself, nobody would understand how painful it was, when the knee was manipulated. The scene must have looked like a pair of wrestlers practicing a ground technique. Not just this hellish manipulation, there was a full menu of rehabilitation, including parallel bars, electric and low frequency massages and so on. One by one, you tackled these, as if to fulfill a quota.
One week into this, the knee joint gradually became flexible and the pain lessened. Friends with whom I chatted increased too. These friends were all elderly. They all talked about the past, when they were young, during the war, as well as their circumstances, and why they were in the hospital. Though they had different lives, the things they said sounded very similar. To my astonishment, the cause of their hospitalization was almost the same. Initial fall by some careless mistake. Hospitalization and in-patient physiotherapy for the fracture. Then second and third fracture after going home. They were repeating this cycle with their lives certainly shortened with every hospitalization. It was ironic that a place where treatments were performed has become a place where the cause of the treatments was created. An unstoppable circle. A real Catch 22 situation. Maybe not just in this hospital, I thought. Every situation in the world might be auto-generated in this way.

I wandered for a long time. I was conscious at last but everything was still blurred. I seemed to have moved for some distance, maybe because of the tide. I seemed to be nearer to the surface and it was not as dark as before, but I still couldn't move my body freely. Sometimes I could even see shadows at the surface. Several people seemed to have been looking into the water. I thought I would be rescued but my hope diminished quickly. To my horror, they just looked in and went away. I wanted to shout; “I'm here! Help!” but I could not make my voice heard. I tried hard only to find that I could not make any sound at all which made me more and more tired. In the end I gave up. Why is nobody helping me, I wondered. Well..., I started to think. It could be a natural thing for them just to leave me. Rescuing me would not benefit them, it would be just a burden. They must be thinking, why get involved? No need to invite trouble. If I were in their shoes, I would have done the same. In that case I just have to find my own way out of here. But how? I had no idea. I had to keep on wandering under the sea. I might just have to give up the idea of going back to dry ground. That's the conclusion I had to make.
I wandered around the same place for several days. Not several days, it could have been several weeks or several years. I didn't know. Sometimes I lost consciousness, only to find myself woken up again. Still nothing. Nobody was there and I couldn't do anything. It was a world where you could not imagine yourself doing something.
I was almost reconciled to getting out of that place. Or should I say that I was almost trying to justify my existence in that world. I might have been trying to find some happiness and joy, which were fast disappearing from my memory, in this nothingness. Only to realize now, I, at that time, was still thinking that the meaning of life, that a place for me, as well as happiness and joy, would be provided by others.

I had now been almost two months in the hospital. I got used to the physiotherapy that I dreaded so much. I was using a crutch, not crutches. The doctor in charge said I would be discharged the following week. If you stay in a hospital for two months, you'll know all the residents. You hear the same stories again and again in the treatment room and the corridors. But the details of the stories accumulate as you go. To my astonishment it turned out that the old lady with whom I was most friendly was a classmate of my late grandmother at their elementary school. A hard faced old chap, who came into my room without knocking the door, also turned out to be a work colleague of my late grandfather when they were in their twenties. With these strange coincidences, I had a strange feeling that my admission into this hospital itself might have pre-fixed in some way. The old lady always concluded her talk with, ‘Everything's an experience'. She always did. And the hard faced chap always said, “the character meaning ‘busy' consists of two parts; ‘no’ and ‘heart’. If you say ‘I'm busy' too often, you'll become a person with no heart”. He said this every time we had a chat. The strange coincidence and these fixed scripts. I could not but have a feeling of foreboding.
The day of the discharge finally arrived. That sounded good but then I realized I had no place to go back to. Still I had to go somewhere. While I was thinking this, there was a knock on the door and the doctor and nurse in charge came in. “You can go now. Good luck and take care”. The script was repeated.
Bright morning sun was coming from the main entrance of the hospital. I walked towards the light slowly with a crutch. Sensing a shadow, I turned back. The old lady and the hard faced chap were standing there. Reflecting the morning light their eyes were shining in rainbow colors. I registered them for a moment but my body was starting to be surrounded by the outdoor sun light.

When I noticed, I was lying on a beach face down. It was a very ordinary looking beach. My right leg was in the lapping water. I could see a bowl shaped mountain in distance. I thought that there might be a meadow over the mountain. I stood up slowly and started walking towards the mountain. My right leg was numb; perhaps it had been in the cold water. No need to hurry, I thought and walked slowly one step at a time.
After a while I came across a monk with a traditional straw hat. He was standing there with a walking stick in one hand, expressionless. When I passed him I thought he said, ‘Everything is written down’. Doubting if I had really heard it, I turned back but he was still motionless and expressionless. I repeated those suggestive words and walked along the shoreline.
Everything is written down.