Over the course of a naval career, you meet a lot of interesting people. In mine, there was a fellow we affectionately called El Diablo. He was the Pied Piper of risky liberty. His manner was easy, his words soft-spoken. He knew all the places we should avoid, and how to get there. People of questionable scruples knew him by name. Back alleys and dimly lit bars were his turf. We followed him without question, even knowing the next day would bring headaches, pain and regret.
Today I met a new Diablo.
Like the original, he was soft-spoken and friendly, but his easy manner belied the devil within. In some circles he is known as a Physical Therapist. In mine, he is Diablo Nuevo.
When I first met him after knee surgery, he was caring to the point of being coddling. He didn’t push me. He showed me a few exercises I could do, and admonished me to “take it easy” for a few days. He praised me for my progress and set up the next appointment. As a novice to PT, it seemed to me that the gruesome stories I had heard about therapists had been exaggerated.
Today, he showed me his evil side. He took my poor, injured body and ran it through a wood chipper. He added weights to the machines and made me do exercises that brought tears to my eyes. He stressed my hamstrings. He flexed my quads. He assigned me unachievable exercises, then left me to suffer alone. During the endless cycle of leg lifts and horizontal squats, he would wander off to talk to others, getting a sick satisfaction in prolonging the conversation so I could do a few more reps. I got light headed. I got nauseous. I wobbled from one machine to another, grateful that the previous exercise was over but apprehensive about the pain that awaited me at the next.
Somewhere on his head is stenciled “666”.
The first time we met, he was all smiles and the visit lasted about 45 minutes. Today I was there for twice as long, and he was all business. Before, he treated me like a long lost friend; today I served as the catcher’s mitt for all the pent-up anger in his life.
After an hour and a half he let me go. But as I hobbled out the door he reminded me that we will meet again in three days and, “…see about adding a little more weight.”
He didn’t have to say it because I already knew.
When I see him again, there will be hell to pay.