Can You Tolerate This?

When being helped, that is all we need to be.

| Spring 2019

 chiropractor
Photo by Adobe Stock/Photographee.eu.

When you go to your chiropractor, he first asks you to take off your necklace. Then he stands behind you and puts his hands around your neck. He squeezes the vertebra at the base of your skull. The vertebra feels tender as if bruised. “Can you tolerated this?” he asks. You try to nod. You hadn’t known that vertebrae could reach so far up, right to the back of the brain.

“Oh yes. The vertebrae go all the way up to the head, like a ladder. Humans are really just highly evolved ladders.”

You like the idea that the human body is first and foremost a structure, like flat-pack furniture or a foldaway bed. The ribs, too, go up a long way into the soft fleshy parts of the back near the armpits.



You lie down on the stretcher, which is a low vinyl-covered table with a headrest that has two fabric-covered sausages on each side, into the center of which you put your face. From there, in a muffled voice, you talk to your chiropractor: about the foul spring weather, how you were knocked off your bike last week, maybe how you’re thinking of quitting your job.

You’ve known the chiropractor for two years. He’s a nice man. He’s someone who, when you say something banal — which is often — reacts as if you’ve said something extraordinary or very funny. But you’re not really paying attention to this conversation. It’s the other conversation you’re interested in: the one between his hands and your back. Your back feels as if it’s listening. You know his hands are close when you feel a tingle in the skin on your back, as if the nerves in your spine are reaching up to the surface.



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