Gregory House has discovered, over the years since he was hurt, that his friend James Wilson always notices that it is incredibly difficult for him to elevate his bum leg on its own, not even with the aid of its faithful friend, Vicodin. However, James postulates, if he sits down and lifts both legs together quickly in an upward-swinging motion, the hurt one will follow the sound one like a faithful dog follows its master.
Wilson says he looks less pathetic that way, and House has noticed that Wilson doesn't make such an empathetic face. House would rather ride out the spike of pain this action inevitably causes anyway than endure the pitying looks he receives if he has to lift the damn leg with both hands.
Wilson still looks at him funny and winces with concern.
Wilson truly gives a damn, but House wishes he wouldn't. That's what the damn painkillers are for! This is known as: "House Logic".
When House is spending time at home alone, he sometimes indulges in the not-so-safe practice of walking around the apartment without using his cane. To him it is a matter of pride by which he is able to maintain that he can still control his ability to navigate without a walk-aid.
In his heart he knows he's fooling no one but himself. Wilson has told him over and over again that this habit is a really bad idea. He already knows this, but doesn't care. The pain it causes is secondary to the self-justification that he can still get around okay with a sandwich in one hand and a can of beer in the other. It proves that he does not have to be one-handed if he chooses not to be, and the Vicodin helps him believe that this is so.
He tries this experiment at work from time to time, just to gauge reactions, and then smirks to himself when colleagues frown at what they believe to be his total disregard of common sense. At home he can careen dangerously into the furniture or other familiar supports when his leg gives out. He can rest awhile, then straighten and try it again. The chance that he could fall and injure himself is a real danger, and he can imagine Wilson's worried dark eyes upon him, half angry, but holding his tongue.
"Look at me, Wilson! See? I'm walking!"
Going to bed at night is an ongoing battle he will never win. House spent nearly forty years as a healthy man, an athlete, a both-ends candle burner. He was always fiercely independent and over-the-top intelligent. He always pushed his mind and body to their limits and beyond … just because he could. He would push until it gave, then push it some more. When at last his physical resources ran out and his body screamed for rest, he knew he could flop down and sleep almost anywhere, then awaken refreshed, however-many hours later, and start all over again. He didn't need drugs.
Then the infarction betrayed him. It turned his physical identity into a strange hurtful reality he did not know how to handle. So many things changed overnight, and in his anger and confusion, he found that he could not even choose the way he would lie in his own bed anymore. He could no longer curl into a ball with knees drawn up beneath a comforter on a cold winter night. After a time, the ache in his thigh and the burning sensation that accompanied it would force him to straighten and lie flat.
More than a few minutes in almost any "un-prone" position would not work either. The burning ache would return and the pain would move to a different stronghold. To try to lie for any length of time on his right side was impossible, and so was any attempt to sleep on his stomach. The leg would cramp, and on some occasions even go into spasm. After exhausting experimentation, House found that his only recourse was to lie on his back, or turned slightly to the left, with a bed pillow wedged beneath his right knee. If he moved in the night and dragged the leg to a place it did not want to be, likely as not he would jolt awake with a yelp of pain. Only the Vicodin would help.
Saucy Stacy, the love of his life, endured his misery for months, knowing he blamed her for taking away his power of choice. After a time she could no longer ignore his accusations and fled for her sanity, leaving him alone.
James Wilson, however, did not leave. His best friend was never more than a phone call away. For years House fought Wilson the same way he fought the restricting influence of his altered reality. He rebelled. He would not be dictated to by physical betrayal. He tried sleeping on his couch with his leg propped over the back. Bad idea! He tried the big leather lounge chair with both legs stretched out on the low ottoman: didn't work for more than an hour. He went to his spare room and tried sleeping on the twin bed he kept in there. Soon the muscles of his neck, back and shoulders went into revolt and forced him off the hard mattress.
The "my way or the highway" domination of his bum leg prevailed. His friend Vicodin told him he was still in control. It lied. "Everybody lies!"
Once in awhile, however, he would take an extra pill just before going to bed, and when he was riding high on a Vicodin rocket booster, he would curl into the position that he dictated, and enjoy it until the buzz wore off before returning to his back and bracing the leg with pillows again. At least he'd had a say in it for awhile.
Wilson told him to be careful so he wouldn't become addicted to painkillers. He screamed at Wilson: "I won't!"
The worst thing about getting dressed and undressed is donning and doffing socks and shoes.
It hurts, and there is no relief for it.
He has tried every trick he can think of, and there is no way he can do it without pain. No way to touch his big feet and avoid abusing the infarction site because of his long, long legs. Standard handicap dressing aids are useless in his case. Sometimes he thinks of himself as a strange creature composed of nothing but knees and elbows. He is too slender and long waisted with dense bone structure; too lanky and scarecrow-like. This has been the nature of his particular "beast" for too many years.
He has not figured out a way to resolve the problem other than to hire a caregiver to assist him in getting dressed and undressed every morning and every night.
He would rather be shot at close range!
He could ask Wilson, and no doubt Wilson would willingly help. But House has his pride, and there is something just so wrong with that idea! That's not what best friends are for.
And so he endures the misery it brings as he fiddles around pulling on a sock. He holds his breath. "My God!" It takes forever, and if he does not get it right, his foot will be blistered by evening.
Underwear is not quite so bad, but still the length of his legs hinders any vestige of comfort. The infarction site pulls, and the leg is weak. Sometimes it feels as though the skin will come apart and tear open the surgical scar all over again.
He still has to pull on his jeans and wrestle them to his waist. They hurt, even the worn and comfortable ones. The only alternative is sweats, and the pockets of sweat pants really suck! The jeans tighten around his scar and the pants rub across the infarction site no matter what he does to ease it, and he is tired by the time he stands up again.
He gaps the laces on his shoes a little, but they are still difficult. Then he has to tie the laces; pull tight that which he has just finished loosening.
The act of dressing himself pre-infarction took two minutes. Today it has takes him five times that. Sometimes he would like to weep with frustration, but he doesn't dare. He doesn't dare give in to the difficulty or the anger or the hatred of his frailty. He has to suck it up and go on.
Pop a pill, Gregg! It'll be okay … just one extra pill!
He desperately needs someone or something to blame for his sorry state. But he knows he has no right. Not Stacy. Not Cruel Fate. Not God. No one pointed a finger in his direction and commanded the infarction to happen. No one made him a cripple on purpose, and no one did anything less than what they were able to do for him at the time and under those particular circumstances. He'd drawn the short straw and had to pay the highest price.
He still pays a price every day of his life. He wishes he could see the logic of the situation, but it takes everything he can do just to control his emotions and not allow anyone to see the hurt, the despair, and the fear. If he can be nothing else, he can be sarcastic, angry and blunt.
Don't let anyone see you sweat!
Wilson would smile at that one, unless of course, he saw the desperation behind it.
His shower is fitted with every handicap convenience known to man. He hates it with a passion. He hates it when other people use his bathroom and see all his "cripple" accouterments.
Wilson has seen it all, but ignores it. House hates the grab bars and the rough surface of his shower floor, the fact that there is no threshold to step over to get in. He hates the little chain that hangs down his bathroom wall; the one with the red "panic button" at the end of it in case of emergency. He hates the thought that someday he might even have to use it. He hates the damn rails on both sides of the toilet bowl which enable him to lever himself up and down to maintain balance on the sound leg.
"Bathrooms can be dangerous to people with disabilities …" says the little blurb on the literature that came with the bathroom installations. He makes fun of it, but down inside where no one can see, he is grateful for the accommodations because as he gets older, he is noticing that his leg's instability is increasing. It's getting worse by increments. And that's why he has been so damned careless with his disability lately.
That's why he bites down on his lip before he lowers himself onto his knees. It's no longer the way he did it back when he was still healthy. It hurts like hell, but he will do it if he wants to!
He sits cross-legged in the locker room, working on a case, just to prove that the pain doesn't always hold dominion. He buys a used crotch-rocket motorcycle and rides it like a bat out of hell, wondering how painful his death might be in comparison … if he ever decides to fly it over a cliff like Thelma and Louise.
His leg is losing this war he's been fighting with himself for so long. But by God he can still pick and choose his battles … and even win some of them by sheer force of determination.
It's the only way he can face the mockery of "monkey bars" in his bathroom, and he is still, after all, the "monkey with the bottle of Motrin".
Oh yeah, man, but make that 'the monkey with the bottle of Vicodin …'
He has pushed all his friends away, so far away that sometimes he pictures himself as a castle with buttresses and a moat full of crocodiles. And the moat is a mile across. He is the flag with the snake, which announces: "Don't Tread on Me!"
And no one treads anymore!
He is the scruffy, dying-of-thirst bramble bush that stands alone in the desert. One stubborn leaf remains at the end of an emaciated twig, fluttering weakly, but somehow still hanging on. Trembling, waiting to be blown away by the harsh, dry wind. Just a pale reminder of the green it had once been. He looks at it with disdain and wonders why this single leaf still holds fast, even after everything he has done in an attempt to dislodge it. That one leaf refuses to let go of the tree, which is in need of a miracle to sustain it. House looks at the tree, looks at the leaf, and contemplates how such a thing is possible.
But he knows! He knows the leaf is Wilson … and what it means to him in terms of wishing for a miracle.
Sometimes, he reasons, things just happen. Sometimes dreams go south and turn into nightmares. Where there is a nightmare, there is probably a stupid crippled guy who must finally learn to ride out of the box canyon where he has tried to imprison himself. Nightmares are stupid also, but the rider can take control if he has the audacity.
The bum leg doesn't work so well anymore. He is playing with fire when he tries to walk without his cane. In bed at night he must position his body a certain way or sleep will not come. It hurts to get dressed in the morning, and get undressed at night. The simple act of taking a shower could kill him sometime, and the grab bars are there for a purpose. Even the damn motorcycle is safer than soap spilled accidentally on his bathroom floor! Some things have no rhyme or reason. No justification. No excuses. They just are!
He sighs. He closes his eyes and allows the hint of a smile to soft-pedal the harshness of self-indulgence. The haggard features soften a fraction. He is in desperate need of a certain familiar face … needs to hear a few soft-spoken words of encouragement … taste some Chinese food and indulge in a stolen hour or two of a friend's laughter.
Oh so much better than Vicodin, but he takes one anyway, his last one of the night. It's time to call Wilson:
"Bring the beer! Life is for the living!"
0o0o0 END 0o0o0