Milestones and millstones

Every so often you see them. Fingerposts. They point the way not merely with a sign but with a finger, like the manicules you find in old books, red hands in the margin pointing to some salient piece of information. They’re old, and ragged, and not necessarily particularly accurate as indicators of just how far one is to travel to reach one’s destination. They are similar in many ways to the semi-pyramidal stones one sees which assert one’s position, yet these are accurate to within seconds, geographically speaking.
Both indicators of position, relative or absolute, pale somewhat in the face of the humble smartphone, which happily tells you where you’re at wherever you’re at – there is no need to wait.
Today I found myself both fingerposted and milestoned and placenamed and satnavved. Irritatingly, it took place at Sainsbury’s. When checking out, the personage always (but always) asks whether you need any help packing. For years this has irritated me, as even though I know that it’s a thing they must do, it still makes me think they think I’m incapable. For years I’ve made a joke about it, complained at their professionalism, how they outrun me so easily. Naturally, they pack a bag.
I do this because they’re so bloody quick. In the old days, the days when going to the supermarket meant having twelve pounds and seventeen pence and counting as you filled your basket, the checkouters had to tap everything in by hand. You could keep up easily. Now it’s all super-efficient, but the shopper remains the same.
Today, she didn’t ask. The couple behind me (the male half of which berated his partner when she smiled at me as we acknowledged the bloody torturous screaming of several children in the vicinity – there were about ten. All screaming. Yowzer) waited as I packed. Or tried to.
It starts with the bags. My fingers don’t want to open them. The items stack up.
It continues with the holding open of the bag while placing items in. My left hand starts to shake. The aperture of the bag changes, my right hand joins in. the bottle of wine/juice/whatever hovers shakily and catches the edges of the bag.
The items stack up.
They begin to form a very disorderly queue, tumbling like rockfall, the terminal moraine of a glacier of groceries.
My hands shake ever more as I see them stack up. I feel the opprobrium of the couple behind me. I slowly fill my three bags full. I have no wool, just woolly limbs, ever descending into uselessness.
I am yanked back to the day of initial diagnosis, when I had gone straight from neurology to nurturing students, lecturing on the Fairie Queene. I had wanted to scream at the assembled throng, in between talk of the Redcrosse Knight and Duessa’s fowl dugs and loins askirt with foxes, or whatever: ‘I’ve got fucking Parkinson’s. FUCK!’
I didn’t. Either time.
Every so often, something happens that reminds me not only that I’m ill, but that I’m getting iller. Milestones become millstones.
One day, I’ll simply drown.

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