The Amazon Trail

Lee Lynch
Photo by Sue Hardesty

Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/Author-Lee-Lynch.html.

Standing On My Own Two Feet

Since childhood, I have been looking forward to growing old enough to know pretty much which end is up in life, to reaching Social Security age in order to write full-time and to tackle mature subjects in my work. I find it strange that just when I’ve reached something like that balance, I’ve lost my relatively reliable physical balance.

I’ve never been with a lover this long, and now I’ve pledged a permanence, called marriage, that I’ve learned to respect. Since the age of eighteen, I’ve never lived in one home this long. My recent stability has enabled me, I believe, to write more complex stories that feature more thoroughly developed characters and, because of my years of travel along the roads of lesbian culture, especially with my sweetheart, I can offer readers more varied and detailed settings.

But I fall over. I traverse our home like a metal pinball looking to bump every target if only to score a jackpot of bruises. I adore my sweetheart, but when I go to hug her or dance with her, it’s only, thank goodness, my still-quick reflexes that cover mild floundering. She doesn’t need to catch me yet, though I’m not too proud to take her hand when picking my way up or down rocks, driftwood, and slick sand to and from our wild beaches. It’s my sweetheart, after all, who’d be pushing my wheelchair and cleaning house should I break a leg, a hip, or my dizzy head.

I know it’s not just me. Strolling the beach yesterday with my sweetheart and our much-loved friend, the walker, the Pacific Ocean supine in its pacific glory, its ripples tipped with sunlight, my sweetheart tried to lead us to firmer ground, for easier trekking. The walker and I, both typically unsteady on our feet, missed our cue. We trodded onward, bumping shoulders as one or the other of us teetered while the other tottered.

The walker laughed and said she often bird-watched with two other women, one of whom shares our balance problems. The third goes on ahead to escape the pinball effect.

I’ve always had problems with balance, in every sense of the word.

Plantar fasciitis was diagnosed by a salesman at a Buster Brown shoe store when I was a little kid with painful arches. The stores used wondrous X-Ray Shoe-Fitting Machines (known as fluoroscopes in doctors’ offices) and were ultimately banned because of radiation leakage. After consulting the infernal machine, the salesman stuck instruments of torture called pediatric arch supports in my new shoes. I ditched them asap.

I was athletic: running, tennis, fencing. The pain would disappear for a while, then come screaming back, benching me. Today, I wear orthotics designed with new-fangled CAD/CAM software, but, due to bilateral knee replacement surgery, I’m cautioned not to run, play tennis, or fence.

Most people who grow up gay are inevitably strangers to balanced lives. You’re proud and scared. You’d better learn to run. You’re out prowling, obsessed with seduction, or seal yourself in your closet until you can’t breathe. You might reject your true nature to live a pretend life. Some of us can’t take the opposing choices we’re faced with an exit entirely. Love too often cancels itself out because we’re apparently terrible at choosing partners who are good for us—until we find the one who leads us to solid ground.

I once tended to walk on the least stable sand emotionally. We counted last night and so far, have come up with at least eighteen moves I made in my life’s hike. Many of them were down to breakups or new loves. One to death, another to move to the groovy west. Wherever I went there’d be a therapist to help me recover my equilibrium, an acupuncturist to get my qi going again.

My sweetheart and I try to find balance in our diets, but deep down we agree that means potatoes and ice cream. She abhors vegetables but will cook some under duress. I seldom coerce her.

I’ve had vertigo, tinnitus, and panic disorder since I was a preschooler. All three come and go, and signal asymmetry of mind or body. Psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, can cause dizziness—which I never knew until researching this piece. I’ve managed to add hallux rigidus to my physical problems, meaning I can’t flex my big toes without pain. The docs want to fuse them. Back problems send misery into my legs, but I have no interest in robots with scalpels messing with my spine.

I’ve always wanted to outgrow the travails of youth. Now I have, and it turns out that the body wears out as the mind wises up. Where is the balance in that?

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