Level 10 Pain

I’ve gotten fatter. I thought about this as my dad dipped his giant spoon into the ladder-end of the pool. He stirred it around as the steam rose to his nostrils. He took a deep whiff. The winter was hard on my body. National holidays are set-up to induce mass consumption. Okay, that’s way too conspiratorial. Let’s try this instead: our holidays encourage the packing of candy into one’s mouth, then turkey, then candy, then turkey again—and sometimes turkey smothered in candy. Or, a caramel glaze.

Fat goes to my face and love handles. I retain skinny legs, a skinny neck, little arms. But my waist looks like a bag stuffed with mashed potatoes and lumpy dog shit. My grandpa on my mom’s side had the same genetic disposition. We turn into a form of weeble-person, replete with wobble and all. My dad knows all about this, so he uses it to his advantage.

I wade around the pool, watching as he stirs the water with his giant wooden ladle, then he takes a sip from the cup after adding some spices.

“I just installed the pool heater yesterday,” he said. “It’s going to bring this baby to a boil.”

I don’t mind him as I continue to splash around. I don’t want to be skinny, I just want to lose the paunch. I get this plastic bag full of water that hangs off of the front of my body like a bag-lady’s cache of perishables. That and my feet hurt from the rapid displacement of weight to my stomach over the course of four months. A startling shock like that to my body can only throw off my equilibrium, which, of course, will place uneven strain on my feet, ankles, and knees.

You can imagine why I’m not quick to jump out of bed first thing in the morning.

I would rank it as a Level 3 pain on the comparative pain scale. If you’re unfamiliar with this scale, it goes from one to ten as follows: one being very mild and ten being unimaginable. Pain level one is a mosquito bite while pain level ten is like having your foot crushed and losing consciousness.

I was relayed a story years ago about a man who lived in Northern Michigan who had a strange neurological disorder brought on by an accident during a ski-trip. Something happened in his brain that tricked his pain sensors into believing they were undergoing a pain level eight at all times, morning-noon-night.

His poor wife, it was said, had to help him with all of his daily functions because he could barely move from how intense the ongoing pain was. Knowing how intense pain level ten is, one wouldn’t think pain level eight is that severe. However, let’s just consult the comparative pain scale itself to see what it has to say.

It states: “Pain so intense you can no longer think clearly at all, and have often undergone severe personality change if the pain has been present for a long time. Suicide is frequently contemplated and sometimes tried. Comparable to childbirth or a really bad migraine.”

Consider a conversation between he and his wife:

“Honey, how are you feeling today? Do you need some medicine?”


Sometimes I think about tooth pain and wince at the thought of experiencing it everyday, all day without abatement. Experiencing never-ending pain would literally drive me more insane—like nuthatch insane.

My dad pulled me out of the water by my hand and checked my belly fat with a pair of tongs. At that moment, I imagined that being boiled alive would be similar to Level 9 pain: “Pain so intense that you can’t tolerate it, and demand painkillers or surgery, no matter the risk or consequences. If this doesn’t work, suicide is frequent, since there is no more joy possible in life. Comparable to throat cancer. If chronic pain patients report level 9, take it very seriously, as they tend to under-report their pain because of relativity.”

At least it would be for a few moments before the unconsciousness took you and you drowned choking on your own screams of pain.

“Almost ready,” my dad said licking his lips, and he shook a pinch of salt on me from a shaker before releasing me into the water as if he was some kind fisherman. I swam to the center and started to tread, determined to lose some weight before it was too late.