I stretch my limbs after I dry off the water from my long, hot shower; it when I’m the most limber. Every day it’s my wish that by contorting myself when I’m most flexible the joints in my knees, ankles won’t ache. To be sure I take the ant inflammatory drugs, and pain medication prescribed by my rheumatologist. No sooner have I washed that down than I grab the pill for my insulin resistance syndrome, the one to treat the after effects of pancreatitis and the final two for GERD symptoms. Full of pills and feeling like a maraca, I finish dressing, thank God for another day and head out for the mile and a quarter walk to Newark Penn Station.
I must admit, I miss the freedom of hoping behind the wheel of a car and speeding off somewhere. But the walk not only keeps me in shape, especially since it’s the only real exercise I get, it also helps me gauge whether my body is going to be cranky all day or not. If I make it to the station without limping or wincing in pain, despite expensive insoles, I know I might make it through my 9 hour shift without additional pain medication. Otherwise, I hope on the bus and take it to the station and pray there’s a seat on the NJ Transit train because standing too long on bad days makes my feet fall asleep and an ice pick like pain travel up my legs into my lower back.
Nonetheless I plaster on my trademark smile and hop off the train at Penn Station. This is when I transform into a subway rat, scurrying through the maze of hallways, hundreds of people and litter covered floors over to the number one train.
I look up at the board, anxious to figure out when the next train will arrive to end my one hour plus trek. It’s often less than ten minutes before I’m packed into the metal cars, reeking of an unwashed human and irritating with the sound of someone else spilling their take if woe and asking me to give them my hard earned money.
Three stops and then I’ve arrived at 66th street, my final destination. I follow the throngs of people through the turnstiles and up the narrow staircase to the street. There, I’m greeted by the mouthwatering scent of the waffle cart, although, I’ve never actually had a waffle because the line is too long for me to want to wait.
I keep moving with the mob of people across the street until I reach my TV stations glass studio. The last and only time I was in it was at a ceremony to celebrate its opening. I often feel like I’m there, especially since the scripts I write for the anchors make it over.
I slow down in front of the glass just long enough to read the headlines of the day and wonder why so many people are in awe of careers in entertainment. Generally late, I shake my thought, walk pass the first revolving door leading to ABC network and over to the next one, which is the gateway to the local TV station and home to the Live with Kelly and Michael studio.
Exhausted by this point, I cross in front of our breaking news camera and flop down at my desk. As I hit control, alt, delete so I can enter my password it occurs to me how even my co-workers don’t fully realize how much effort it takes for me to make it in daily.
Periodically, I chuckle to myself thinking about how I fooled them and all the people I pass on the street who think I’m just like them. I’m reminded I’m not when I think about how small my Manhattan usually is; it’s mainly just the blocks to and from the subway. I regularly don’t have the physical stamina to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. The exception is when I schlep around to see my various specialists.
Sometimes I think I’m pathetic for not taking in all the city that never sleeps has to offer. Then, I remind myself that Manhattan is an obstacle I have to conquer everyday rather than the playground millions of others see as a place of enjoyment. I’m alone, struggling to get to and from, to get through a day at work and remain pleasant towards people I encounter, all while physical discomfort haunts me. However, I’m not complaining. My disability is hidden to the naked eye; it a chronic illness destroying me from inside while preserving the outside. Because of this I’m frequently spared pitying looks and unwanted sympathy. I don’t need it because I’m not missing anything. I take pleasure in knowing that I’ve learned to appreciate what I can do. I make it just fine in New York, New York. I just do it my way.