I’m on the stairs heading down from Peirene HQ to the kitchen. I’m precisely half way. I’ve counted the steps. Sixteen in total. I’ve done eight.
Peirene skips past me. At the bottom of the stairs she suddenly stops and turns around, looking at me in surprise as if she hadn’t noticed me standing there before.
‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m trying to get down the stairs,’ I mutter through clenched teeth, holding on to the banister firmly with both hands while I carefully lift my left leg in order to bring it down onto the next step. The pain is excruciating.
For a moment the Nymph appears to be rooted to the spot. ‘Oh my God, you have forgotten how to take stairs.’ She brings both hands in shock up to her mouth. ‘It’s the onset of early Alzheimers.’ She has turned totally white in the face. ‘I knew it. You’ve been forgetting so many names recently.’ She sits down on the last stair and leans her head against the wall. She closes her eyes. ‘Breathe, Peirene, breathe,’ I hear her say to herself in a soothing voice. ‘You have to help Meike. You’re a team, no one needs to notice yet.’
In the meantime I’ve managed to get both feet onto the next step. I, too, breathe in deeply. Out of relief. As long as I don’t move my legs, I feel no pain.
‘I’m perfectly OK,’ I mumble, mentally preparing myself to take the next step. My legs are like lead. I haven’t had such muscle pain for years.
Suddenly I hear the Nymph break out in laughter. ‘Don’t tell me – it’s the effect of your new Gym routine.’ She’s now clutching her sides. ‘Didn’t’ I advise you not to do it. Why change if something is going well. But you insisted. Your old regime was no longer effective you said. You had done it for five years without ever changing a single exercise, you argued. You had become complacent, you explained.’
I’m onto the next step. Six left to go. ‘Peirene, you are not helping.’ I throw the Nymph an irritated glance. ‘It’s good to keep on setting yourself new challenges. In all areas – intellectually and physically,’ I add defensively, although right this very moment, I wonder about the truth of my own words. It feels as if I will never live pain-free again. Ever. For the rest of my life.
Peirene stands up, wiping away the laughing-tears from her cheeks. ‘I’ll go ahead into the kitchen and make the tea. Don’t be too long. I wouldn’t want to serve you cold tea.’ She blows me a kiss and disappears around the corner. I concentrate on the next step. Only five to go now.
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by Richard Leeming, creative commons.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 24 January 2016.