Well that’s it. My break-dancing career is officially at its end. This, of course, changes everything. No longer can I define myself in terms of the way I shimmy, move and shake. For I confess that I have had a secret life – one that existed solely whenever I had the house to myself. Whilst I realise that this charade could not continue forever, I find myself mourning its sudden passing.
Lost to me now are the days I could throw down a piece of cardboard and start performing back spins on the living room floor as the sounds of The Rock Steady Crew pumped from the speakers of my ghetto-blaster with the force of a 747 jet. Gone are the afternoons spent popping and body rocking. As for the Electric Boogaloo, I will bid it a teary-eyed goodbye. I must now look at myself in a way that is entirely and wholly inert.
It was a neck injury that did it. Like a junior footballer that never quite realises the full promise of his natural talent due to a crippling knee injury, so too has my dancing career been snuffed out like a candle in a hailstorm. The producers of So You Think You Can Dance have no idea what they’ve missed out on.
I knew I was in some trouble the moment it happened. After going for my morning run and just before my daily callisthenic routine, I felt a pain in my neck. Whilst I have often been accused of being a pain in the neck, I was to learn that having a pain in the neck is an entirely different kind of experience. It soon became apparent that this was no mere transitory ailment that would vanish as quickly and unexpectedly as it had appeared. Rather, upon realising that I could only move my head by using my hands, it became clear that something much bigger was occurring. I’ll admit that it’s a very odd and somewhat confronting thing to need your hands to move your head. It’s as though you’re a giant piece of claymation.
As unpleasant as it is to have a pain in the neck there is, at least, a scientific reason behind it. The long and the short of it is that I have a long and short leg. This, in turn, was the product of a brief and disastrous period during which I convinced myself that I could fly. And, for about two seconds, I was absolutely right. But when I plummeted to earth with all the grace of Skylab, there was the neat sound of my leg breaking. That was not the worst of it.
As my parents drove me to Frankston Hospital, I realized that the unsealed road from our house must hold some kind of record in the ‘most potholes’ category. Things went from bad to worse when, in the emergency ward, they cut my gumboots off. Naturally, I protested, but it was to no avail. Often and to this very day when my sneakers are coated in mud, I look back in fondness at my fallen gumboots.
Being possessed of legs like a mis-buttoned shirt, I get the occasional problem with my back. When it seized up last week, I was faced with the prospect of making numerous trips to the chiropractor of the most serious variety – the type during which the adjustments to your spine sound like someone stepping in a puddle of cornflakes. That, however, would not prove to be enough. Sadly, I was sentenced to something far worse – I was condemned to life with an orthopaedic pillow.
For those of you unfamiliar with an orthopaedic pillow, to understand the unique kind of misery it brings you must first forget everything you ever knew about conventional pillows and reject traditional notions of comfort. If Marty the Monster were to cut up into tiny pieces as part of a bizarre voodoo ritual and you were asked to sleep on what remained of his battered carcass after it was dipped in concrete, you’d start to get the idea. It’s like trying to sleep on a hardened piece of foam.
But sleeping on an orthopaedic pillow is not solely something you do. It’s something you are. For whilst it feels about as comfortable as sleeping on a telephone directory, I know that before too long I’ll get used to it and this will become my new normal. In the not so distant future when confronted with regular pillows, I will screw my nose up in horror and tell people that I have to use my special pillow. Indeed, those to whom I make this impassioned declaration will tell others that I am special, but in the worst possible way.
So whilst only a few short weeks ago I was a hipster b-boy break-dancing colossus, I am now reduced to little more than an orthopaedic pillow-toting nancy pants. How the mighty have fallen. Then again, perhaps it’s our weaknesses that define us. If you were perfect, you’d probably not get anything done. There just wouldn’t be a point in trying. It’s your ailments that drive you to try harder, to think more deeply and consider just what it is to be the person you are.
Perhaps my break-dancing career need not be at its end. Even as I’m writing this, I’m listening to the greatest hits of The Rock Steady Crew at a volume best described as ‘hyper drive’. Perhaps it’s time to flatten out a cardboard box for one more spin. As for my neck, it still occupies the space between my shoulders and my head and is becoming quite accustomed to the awesome and unfailingly firm support of my orthopaedic pillow.