Indescribable pain racked my body, shooting white-bolts of blistering agony from the low of my back down through my legs and up to the top of my skull. Each spasm caused by body to convulse, twisting like a burning scrap of paper, compounding the torment. I slowly shifted to my other side to lay panting, sweating, terrified of the next attack.

The possibility of rising from my inflatable mat was remote. Muscle contractions had left me spent, near vomiting and pissing. While there was little I could do about the former I groped behind me in the dark for my water bottle. We stared at one another in this sudden calm. I drained the last of its contents. We stared some more. I experimented with pulling myself up using the bed next to me but this sent me perilously close to another seizure. The two sleeping girls shifted under their covers.

Trying to get to the bathroom would trigger another attack which would cause vomiting, urinating or both. The water bottle pleaded with me but there was nothing else to be done.

After another hour laying, waiting, attempting to prepare myself for the inevitable pain, I was able to climb from the ground. I emptied the water bottle in the toilet, pissed again, and lurched back through the darkened apartment to prop myself up on the edge of the bed. I grabbed someone’s leg my mistake, almost falling face first as I tried to correct. She slept on.

A couple days ago the apartment was a little crowded and the only place for me to work was sitting at the foot of the bed. I was not being careful and the only breaks I took were to descend seven flights to smoke a cigarette or laying on my stomach listening to music. It had grown bitterly cold and I felt my back stiffen as I walked to the metro. Grabbed an available seat but when I rose to transfer trains there was sharp pain almost preventing me. Staggered to the stairs and, trying to keep pace, began taking two at a time. That was an incredibly stupid thing to do.

Starting my day with an angry water bottle, little sleep and post-traumatic stress, I wondered what I should do. There are pharmacies nearby, the typical first step for any health problem. But I have this concern because I’m not French. I can’t afford to get involved in protracted medical treatment and although I’ve heard they don’t behave differently toward you in service or at the register the concern lingers.

My status also causes hesitation. I’m not technically illegal but I’m not exactly legal either. While the gendarme aren’t going to come collect me I would rather not build a paper trail of doctor’s visits and prescriptions. The French have two major concerns when it comes to immigration. Okay, three, but I’m not black so it’s two. They don’t want you to work and they don’t want you to get on welfare. I’m doing nothing but contributing to the tax coffers with every baguette, every espresso, every metro ride, and expect nothing in return. How do you explain to some civil servant that you’re not here to take advantage of anything but what life offers?

X-Ray photo courtesy of flickr user Damclean, Creative Commons

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