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When Migraine Is a Game I Never Agreed to Play

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I think of my younger self as the dog from the Disney movie “Up.” Determined and easily distracted, but determined. So maybe I was distracted when someone explained the rules. A squirrel-filled kind of day, because I don’t remember hearing the rules.

I don’t remember agreeing to play. 

I don’t even remember the day I first was forced play. It’s a blur.

It took a while to get into the rhythm.

After this many years I’ve got the rhythm. I can play it for days without anyone, except those closest, even knowing that I’m playing.

But then again how would I know if they notice… I’m too busy with the game.

It always draws huge crowds of people. A coliseum. I have never seen the fans, but I can hear them. Ever so quietly they build. A whisper. If I pay attention… I can hear it. I hope I didn’t hear it. Maybe the janitor is just cleaning up from the previous bout. And sometimes it is him, but the memories of the last time have me worried.

My eyes don’t have to be open. I check for the whispers before I even open my eyes every morning. Are they taking their seats? Is today another round? Had they been there all night just waiting for me to show up? My consciousness is the sign the crowd was waiting for. The deafening sound. 

And it’s go time. 

Should I even lace up? 

Go through the motions again. Play like I have hope. Maybe if I push I can make it through. I’ve only recently found this hope. This rhythm. I would just sit on the bench waiting for the final blow. Just listening for the crowds to leave. To leave without ever seeing their faces. Who would come to such a game? 

This game doesn’t have a timer. No shot clock. No quarters. No periods. Although I sometimes wonder if it’s just a very long halftime and it’s going to start again with renewed vigor. 

Some days it’s Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson or Babe Ruth. Maybe it’s a grandmaster chess champion. A shiny blisteringly bright knight covered in the most beautiful loud armor has come to slay a foe.

Only the best.

I never know. I never see them. 

I guess it was in the rules I missed.

Those close to me know I play. Know that I don’t have a choice. People are rejoicing in their lives.

Happy birthday to you…

Merry Christmas…

It’s a boy…

All the while I’m standing tall as the game rages on. The shots are good. The shots are hard. But I’ve got the rhythm. I can take these shots. I can take the shots while cooking a dinner. I can take the shots while playing volleyball with my children. I eat the shots. Full on eat them. It’s dark. I can hear it. It comes on in a full roar. I can’t dodge it. 

Maybe it was explained… but there must have been a squirrel.

I eat the shot. Sometimes I go down. 

I’ve gotten up every time, though. 

I stand… and raise my gloves. I stand and raise the bat. I stand. 

It’s all I can do. It’s going to happen if I stand or if I curl into a ball. So I stand.

How it starts, how it ends. Does it matter? The result is dark. How can I explain a game without ever seeing the game? 

You have never played this game. No way. How could you have played this game? This is mine… There has to be more but they must also be good. They must have their own rhythm.

The pain. The knowledge that I have no control over the engagement. The absolute exhaustion… Just waiting for the next time. It sears the brain. An imprint of pain.

Some days it’s a spike. It enters slowly. Being driven by loud hammers. For hours. The friction of the hammering must heat the spike because it burns. Not at first… but it burns. John Henry pounding the huge spike. 

Oh he’s got a rhythm, and the faceless crowds love him. Down I go.

I’ll get up. I always do.

It’s a unabomber. With the most advanced weaponry. An explosion that lasts for hours. The accuracy is incredible. Nobody nearby even knew it happened, But I can feel it. 

A sniper with the most impossibly slow, undodgeable, bullet. It’s silent to all but me. 

Evil Michelangelo chips away while the crowd roars until a pile of chipped granite and dust is all that’s left. 

The screw. The rusty screw. It has to be rusty. The pressure it creates is incredible.

They are the best at what they do.

Life goes on. 

Down I go. 

Some days I can make it to the corner before falling. Other days I didn’t have a chance to brace myself.

It’s not the game that’s the worst. It’s knowing that it’s going to be played. Is it today? Possibly. I can play the game. I’m damn good. I get up. I can’t retaliate in any other way.

I wait, listening for that whisper. 

F*cking squirrel. 

It’s just a game. Suck it up. Take two of these and smile.

I think I’ll take four. Have anything stronger? 

Maybe I’ll just beat my own head against the wall so I don’t feel the shot. Maybe I can just sleep through the crowd’s cries of jubilation.

Sooner or later there has to be an end to the challengers. 

I wish I could speak with a ref. 

This game sucks. 

Maybe if I had paid attention to the rules…

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Originally published: November 3, 2016
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