Sunday Stories: “Lumbar Radiculopathy”


Lumbar Radiculopathy
by Tyrese L. Coleman

The Doctors call it sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy, that pain burning my hips when I stand up in the morning or the numbness when I’m driving and cannot feel when my toes press the pedal along with the rest of my foot, or the stiffness when I don’t exercise for a few days and my back feels like a board is strapped to it, and if I try to bend forward or backward or pick up after the kids, I age instantly in mere seconds, and I cannot believe I’m thirty-one and not seventy-one, and I want to give up being anything, that pain I tell you about in the mornings when your hard-on stabs my lower back, right there at the straight line that proves someone cut me open and turned me spineless, and I cannot turn around to look you in the eye when I say, “I can’t, my back hurts,” and your sour breath heats my neck as exasperation escapes you mouth, even when I’ve told you so many times that the morning is when I’m most stiff, but apparently, so are you, so then I feel your body jerking beside me, without me, which you do to punish me because the bathroom, the shower, privacy, is literary outside the bedroom door, and there is nothing wrong with you and your ability to walk, but you jerk and moan, and I can’t turn around and participate — pinch your nipples even rub your thighs — because it does hurt that much, that little bit is more than I can stand, that pain I feel in the side of my calves when I wear anything higher than a kitten heel to your work parties, the ones where Shanelle stomps around in platform hooker pumps that I think maybe you paid for because I saw you staring at them, and I saw her staring at you stare at them and the shape of her legs — much shorter than mine, really — went on and on and on, and I know now why you’re fucking her, because the pain gave you permission, that pain is called sciatica, and it left me on the floor, unable to move except to crawl to the dresser, grab my phone, text you, HELP, because I couldn’t walk down the stairs and into the ambulance, and instead, a group of paramedics found me on the ground in my period underwear unable to move after “yoga,” and three men had to dress me before carrying me out on a stretcher for the whole block to see, that you witnessed, that just like childbirth scarred your understanding of me so that you no longer see me as anything else other than that pain, that trauma, that immobile woman on a stretcher who couldn’t move, so that you think I have no strength, can’t fight back because the pain is just too much, that pain, that numb ringing feeling in my toes that took my dignity and my husband so that the both of you are mere tremors, neuropathic shocks, one day so strong and then the next disappear — off and on — like how they diagnose it in the first place, and I mentioned this to Shanelle, you know, at that last party where the both of you decided you needed a cigarette and left me standing in kitten heels, goddamn kitten heels, for an hour, the pain that she thinks I need help with — Shanelle wants to help me – and she called me, she called and we went to kick boxing because I think she thinks I cannot kick, but because you would be there along with the bone deep grind in my back, the reason she wants to be my friend, that pain, it radiated down my thighs as I bent forward to stretch, seeing her perfect round ass bump out toward me, your face appearing inside the gym mirror, smiling in the same smug curvature, that sciatic pain, stinging with every strike of the punching bag, radiculopathic radiating pain, which always sounded like “ridiculous” to me, that pain lit my feet, flames from my scar, down my hip, down my thigh and calve and foot, moved through me, the opposite of your fading smile as you saw me punch, as you saw me kick, that ridiculous radiculopathy ridiculed every neuron used to propel my leg higher and higher, stronger and stronger, until my heel made contact with her face, and I fell down in exuberant fearless paralysis, laughing hysterically until the pain was the only pleasure I knew because I knew I could, I would kick you too, all the way out. I’m letting you know, I thank God for this pain.


Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, attorney, and writing instructor. She is also an associate editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, an online journal dedicated to flash fiction. An essayist and fiction writer, her prose has appeared in several publications, including Amazon’s Day One, Catapult, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, and the Kenyon Review. She is an alumni of the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University and the Tin House and Virginia Quarterly Review writers’ workshops. She is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow. She can be reached at or on twitter @tylachelleco.

Image original: Wikimedia via Creative Commons

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