The horridly squirming thing in my seven year-old hand was very real, visceral. I let it go but the lizard was already skittering away from me. The wretchedly broken off part kept wriggling and writhing like a living little snake on the bare concrete. Fascinated, I looked at the lone tail's wild gyrations, but caught a glimpse of the damaged creature's bleeding stump just before it disappeared. I felt a resonating remorse. All I'd wanted was a pet.
At twelve years old I had my own tail removed. The coccyx (embarrassing word) was rubbing against my pelvis and causing me great jolts of pain; in fact, the stenosis and disc degeneration of my life had begun. But I was determined to overcome this congenital condition; my bedridden mother and her plethora of pills as well as the care she needed bothered me. So despite pain I played rugby, cricket, tennis, and rather stupidly, showed off in weight-lifting. I bicycled, tried gymnastics, and even ballet. Then the South African army conscripted me; the real torture to my spine was to have little surcease. Five years later I was a stowaway aboard the S.A. Oranje, biked my way up Britain and worked cattle and hay and potatoes and cemented in a massive bollard on a dock in the Orkney Islands. Then I found refuge in Canada, but at twenty-five I needed a spinal-fusion with chips from my hips. Regrowing that old tail was not going to be easy. Initially with a contraption under my chin (to keep it up, ha!) and plaster-casts and braces I again hiked and biked and canoed and kayaked and cross- country skied and then even played squash, but the chronic and inescapable pain increased quite dramatically. After eight years of seeing various gurus who all told me I'd have to live with it the rest of my life I decided no more meds, no more docs, no more babying myself. So even at fifty-two I danced in shows, then pushed a car, and crushed my discs. They put two rods and ten screws in me, and as Titanium Man I tried to walk again, but it was short lived. These past six years I've been in a power-chair, since I cannot push myself. I've lectured and theatre-directed from it, and gave up my bike, my kayak, my skis, my squash and tennis racquets, my hiking and my dance shoes, and I've gone through successive jerks and jolts and stabs and burnings and unending pain in the name of what? Karma? Ha! Would that I had never done that lizard wrong!
That they regrow their tails now invigorates me! More than half a century later I recall that bereft lizard and get excited by the possibility of our regaining that which we've lost, not just metaphorically or psychologically, but physically! Imagine if we were to know of enough people who regrew their amputated limbs? Imagine if we, like the lizard, were simply to believe we could grow it back? Imagine if I were to stand and walk again, go longer, dispense with my chair, my cane, my lean on things, and my need of some help.
Well, a long languid curve of pier, like a giant lizard's tail stretches out into the sea and on past the ships' berths here in my new hometown. Broad and flat, it beckoned. It took me half an hour or more to walk its concrete length to the lighthouse and back, albeit with my cane and many rests along the way. I pay, yes, but from hardly able to stand I've been increasing my walk, step for step, over the past three months. And now I'm trying not at all to rely on my old crutch-stick. The quest for yet more endurance grows. Imagine, one day the x-rays may even show that I've regained my old tail! Ha! Now wouldn't that be a positive tale to tell!