Joan sat beside me, grinning, an acupuncture needle protruding from her forehead directly between her eyes. I turned away but it was worse. I was now looking directly at Joanne as she gleefully cracked open a case filled with gleaming metal points. She looked up at me and smiled, like a polite tiger asking her prey, “ready”?
You can punch me. Kick me with combat boots. Beat me with rods. I’ll gladly bleed before letting a needle touch my skin. I once made my friend Ori pull over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in Arizona and wait, silently, barely breathing, while I dug a splinter out of my hand because I couldn’t take it any longer. There’s something horrifying about a sharp object breaking the barrier, piercing through from what is not me into what is me.
In hospitals I give a little speech each time. Then I sing loudly, staring at an opposite wall and gripping the chair arm for dear life while the hapless nurse giving me a shot struggles not to laugh. Or doesn’t bother struggling. I keep explaining that it’s not the pain. There isn’t much these days beyond a quick pinch but that little sting tells me all I need to know: something sharp and manufactured is now a part of me and out of my control.
And now there I was: in a room full of needles. It was worse than a room full of cats.
OK, ok, a room full of cats when you’re as deathly allergic as I am. Maybe you cat lovers can imagine cats brandishing needles. Not knitting needles! OK, skip that, moving on.
Joanne showed me how simple the acupuncture needles were. Tiny. Wobbly. It didn’t help. “Just go for it,” I told her, gripping my knee and casting around the room for something to stare it. I started deep breathing and extended my right arm. I was supertuned to the slightest sensation, and so the moment of puncture was like a bone snapping. “Gah!” I winced and held my breath for a second, then remember to go back to deep breathing. “Did it hurt,” she asked, genuinely amazed. “No,” I breathed, “I can’t even feel it. I just know it’s there.”
Then I started the process. Just a peek at first. I could see it, a metal flag of the enemy having staked a claim. I was going to turn that into my victory flag. But first, I had to look away again as fast as possible and keep breathing. Bit by bit, minute by minute, I built up the courage to look longer and longer. The needle just sat here, in my arm on the couch. It was right in one of the points I’d learned to use when grabbing and throwing someone to the ground in Kuk Sool Won. That was so much easier.
Eventually I was able to get myself swept up in conversation. The needle got smaller and smaller. After about an hour I could look right at it. At last, I owned it. It was part of me.
This was round one. I have a ways to go. There’s something so invigorating about facing fears. In fact, my new fear is that I’ll love facing this one too much and soon enough you’ll see posts of me in suspension… Gah! I just looked at that site. Maybe not.
images always link to photographer’s site