I weave through the downtown crowds passing by miniature grocery stores, fast food joints and bright flower shops. A homeless man lingers on the curb outside a corner store. A few hours later, I pass the same man outside the entrance of a coffee shop. The next morning, he loiters beneath the red awning of a flower shop; in the afternoon he turns up at the bus stop. He drifts from one place to another, searching for that prime spot that will garner him the desired results of his labour.
The old lady reminds me of that homeless drifter; she shuffles from one joint to another, one day to the next. There are certain places she likes to haunt, but I never know where I’ll find her in the morning; just like that wandering hobo, the old lady shifts her position in my body, keeping me guessing as to where she’ll turn up next. There’s the rare day I don’t see her, but often she can be found dillydallying in one joint or another. She likes to spread out, attacking the knees, elbows or hands; she loiters in my lower back, and then steams her way through to my knees or pops up into my wrists. Unlike the panhandlers on the street, the only hand-outs she receives are anti-inflammatories and DMARDS to cool her hot temperament. Ice can sometimes send her scurrying away to the darkness of a hidden alley somewhere within me. She has adopted my body for her home but I am always seeking another shelter to secrete her away. For now, I am her lodging, and the best I can do is to try to make each joint she inhabits an inhospitable environment; maybe one day she’ll pack up her rucksack and vacate the premises.
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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.