My early warning rheumatoid weather system alerted me to something on the horizon. The Pineapple Express was on its way. This expression is deceptive in its meaning – when I first heard the term “pineapple express”, I envisioned white sand beaches under bright sapphire skies, palm trees swaying in gentle breezes and tropical flowers basking under the warmth of the sun. Imagine my displeasure when I found out it was a weather phenomenon that delivered torrents of rain. It arrived swiftly, battering the meek west coast with a vengeance. The temperature shifted from cold and dry to mild and wet – “wet” seems like a puny word – it was more like soaked, drenched, and sopping. Ditches and drains overflowed, creating massive puddles and little rivulets over the roadways. The sudden change in pressure caused the dikes in my joints to burst, allowing the pooling inflammation to puff up my fingers, elbows, wrists and knees like sandbags swelling against the deluge along the river banks. It was time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm of arthritis – but unfortunately, instead of taking cover, I had to face the storm it all its saturated frenzy.
Timing is everything – in the midst of this tropical deluge, I had the vexing task of driving to an appointment. In mild weather, my destination would take 40 minutes – during the Pineapple Express, it became an agonising 90 minute journey. Driving with arthritis at the best of times is challenging enough; driving in the midst of a rain-soaked flare was downright harrowing. The rain teemed from gloomy low-hanging clouds, snuffing out the usual glow of daylight. Roads turned into streams, tires from other vehicles hurled water over my windshield with loud splats, impatient drivers zoomed past in the left-hand lane. My muscles tensed around my swollen joints at the thought of encountering those same foolish drivers a couple of miles down the road flipped upside down in a roadside ditch. A creeping stiffness seized my joints, demanding movement to free them from their restricted prison. I clung to the steering wheel like it was a life raft, frozen in position; my right knee and foot launched their complaint at remaining still for so long. I was an arthritic statue, destined to be immobile for another thirty minutes. The drive was unbearably long and arduous due to the harsh weather. I drove cautiously, my senses finely tuned to other drivers on the road and large puddles pooling in the potholes. I listened to upbeat music to take my mind off the mounting discomfort of my sore swollen joints.
I made it to my destination and home again. I soaked in a hot bath to shatter the stiffness that draped over my body; I did some gentle stretching, listening to the music of tiny cracks as fluidity returned to my limbs; I soothed my puffy joints with ice, watching them shrink back to an acceptable size. That evening, I visited with friends at a Thai restaurant where vibrant drinks in elegant glasses glowed beneath the restaurant lights. I took a sip from a fruity cocktail, delighting in the warmth that percolated through my veins, carrying me away to tropical lands and white sand beaches swept with the tepid waves of an azure sea. Now that’s my kind of pineapple express. Cheers.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.