I was relieved when Saturday finally arrived. I was physically exhausted after a week of firsts; first week back at work and my first week as an outpatient. My mind was working overtime dismissing the thought that another first was looming – the first week of lectures. My plan on the Friday night was just to lie on my bed for the most of Saturday while trying to finish a journal article that has been annoying me since the end of February. I’ve started writing and stopped writing this journal article so many times, I just want to get it finished and sent to my supervisor. That Saturday was going to be the day. But waking up that morning, in a mental haze, I couldn’t face lying on my back all day and focusing on that last haul writing the article. I also know myself too. If I’m exhausted, the last thing that I should be doing is writing, in a room, all by myself. I regain energy by being active. A slight problem when I can barely walk. And an even bigger problem, I should confess, as a junior academic.
I heard a kerfuffle outside my room that normally belongs to my brother and his family getting ready to go out. I was right. My inquisiveness won over any sense of obligation to my journal article and I found myself ten minutes later piling into the Subaru with the rest of my family. Our destination was Adelaide’s Central Markets, but before we hit the bustle of Gouger St, we went for breakfast at my favourite haunt in Adelaide, Cafe Troppo. I hadn’t been to Cafe Troppo since the end of lectures last semester, which was before this story began. The cafe was spilling out onto the streets, people keen to soak up the bit of sunshine that was beginning to emerge after a very gloomy week. The only table space left was a communal table outside, which was still a bit too cold for us. The height of the table also meant that I needed to remain standing, which by the way, I was quite happy to do. Cafe Troppo is an ‘order at the counter’ kind of place, so I went to order our drinks while decisions were made about food. I had actually forgotten that the staff of Troppo hadn’t seen me with my walking difficulties even pre-op. I was met at the counter with a few shocked expressions and two minutes later the staff had organised a table for us inside so that I was able to sit down. There are certainly benefits not only of being a regular but spending time chatting and getting to know the wait staff as well.
After a beautiful brunch, the food is always excellent at Troppo, we made our way to the Central Markets. I love places that hum with activity. My senses always come alive at the markets with the constant movement, the different smells, and with what my eyes can see. The markets were certainly busy that morning. The thought struck me that my mindset had changed within a space of a week. I no longer feared being knocked over in crowds of people. As we navigated our way between people and stalls, my mind was working that little bit faster so that I could react. I wasn’t necessarily moving or walking any better, but rather my mind was getting used to the thinking process and the care needed to avoid catastrophe. I actually enjoyed the challenge of dodging people. Standing by the stalls, while my brother procured the fruit and vege at his favourite places, for the first time I could pause and watch people around me. I could afford to look at the produce. I was freed from the constant worry that someone might bump into me. My reflexes were starting to kick in. I still found buying food though a bit challenging. I went to my regular cheese stall, I already knew what I wanted. But I couldn’t move around the stall to point to a particular piece of cheese and I couldn’t just pick up and hand pieces to the man serving me. I also needed help carrying the four items I bought. But the thought of an evening eating Shadows of Blue and a locally produced smoked Cheddar was just too tempting. And I didn’t know it then, but that Saturday was the last time of feasting on cheese with quince paste without the guilt of a very restricted diet. So I’m glad I had that Saturday, frolicking in the markets; the taste of what old life was like before this story started. Because what I didn’t know, in exactly one week, my new normal was going to change – again.