It’s Not a Competition, but I Compare Our Knees

by Wendy BooydeGraaff

I’m not sure how it happened but one day, squatting to get the cat kibble out of its hidden space, my knee wouldn’t hold me up. I couldn’t balance on my right leg to put my left shoe on. I bent for the mega-sized potting soil, hefted it onto the lower rack on the car, and then couldn’t stand up again. My knee. It screamed.

It wasn’t the kind of ligament thing that needed surgery, or even a doctor consult. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as that.

Pain, only in certain activities. I could climb the stairs, but not two at a time the way I like. I could sit on the couch, but not cross-legged. I could walk around the block, bike the trail, do yoga on zoom. Later, I’d lay with my legs raised against the wall to alleviate the swelling. I You-Tubed physical therapy, did daily leg raises and quadricep exercises. You found me medicine, a topical rubbed in the knee, twice a day. It helped.

Then, you hurt your knee. The outside edge. Lateral collateral ligament. The right knee. For a day, we commiserated. How did we both have the same pain in the same spot? You rubbed your knee tenderly, did the squats with me, talked about strengthening the surrounding muscles alongside me. You used my medicine. You told my sister about your knee (I hadn’t said anything about my knee to her, not once), how you were taking a break from running.

The next day, your knee felt better. It was sunny. You checked the weather. Tomorrow’s forecast: rain. You deliberated, quickly. You went for a light run. You felt fine. Your knee, healed.

I lay on the carpet, doing my leg raises. Sets of fifteen. More, on days I want more progress. I can squat and rise semi-easily now. I can do tree pose now, with hands lowered and big toe caressing the floor. I’ve found a new way to put on my shoes, a new way to sit. The potting soil will last me a long time, into next year.

Wendy BooydeGraaff's fiction, poems, and essays have been included in Another Chicago Magazine, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, NOON, The /tƐmz/ Review, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, she now lives in Michigan, United States.

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