There was a time when I felt I could laugh, or at least snicker, at Death; after all, I'm three-for-three against that scythe-wielding son of a bitch. Still, the Reaper, despite his presumed grimness, is a devious sort of entity, and I'm starting to think that after the failure of obvious attempts on my person, he's going to take the slow and painful approach: a little bit at a time, until I no longer have the strength or the will to resist.

The first blow, I think, was last spring, when my ongoing sleep issues took a turn for the worse. At the time I noted:

I'd lie there for whatever time period, and suddenly it would dawn on me: This isn't going to work, is it? My heart raced, pounded, eventually subsided, but there would be no rest for me that night.

Things stabilized after that, by which is meant that they didn't get any worse. They certainly didn't get any better. And in November, something new struck:

About half past three I started to get up from my desk.

And stopped.

Waves of pain ripped through my midsection, starting at the left and working halfway around the back.

I kept going, and so did they.

It took somewhere around three minutes to get close enough to the telephone to call my doctor. And when I got up, I didn't dare get back down, lest the cycle repeat.

Which I did, and which it did.

Whatever this was spot diagnosis and/or scientific wild-assed guess was "infection of the connective tissue between muscles" it responded fairly well to antibiotics, and I did my best to forget about it.

Until last week, when suddenly just rolling over in bed produced a sharp, almost stabbing pain. There is now no position in which I can sleep comfortably, to the extent that I can sleep comfortably at all, which isn't much. Current speculation: bursitis, left hip. Treatment: same old muscle relaxers, same old pain pills. Improvement: so far nonexistent. I can sit without too much difficulty, so I have been trying to sleep sitting up, with not a great deal of success.

Which led to this wail:

I simply cannot function like this. I apparently don't have the strength to fight these battles anymore. And if all I have to look forward to is more of the same, then the best I can hope for is not having to live through it.

Add to this a mindless attack on my financial structure, which basically insures that if I wind up hospitalized, I will wind up even closer to having no reserves at all, and suddenly I can see a gaunt figure in black carrying a Rozsutec stone. He might even be chuckling, the bastard.

Now I'm scared. I remember what I wrote on my 49th birthday:

Early on, there are hints of the standard-issue Fear of Death that comes as a free gift with every birth. And while that's disturbing, it's not extraordinarily so: most people tend to wilt just a little when contemplating the Grim Reaper. Some of us are better at sneering at it than others "Yo, Death, I got your sting right here," said James Lileks but we laugh at Death because we know Death will have the last laugh on us. (Christ, I'm quoting Lou Grant now. And it's not "I hate spunk," either.) The passages above, though, make it pretty clear that knowing I'm going to die isn't what scares me; what scares me is knowing I'm going to die alone. Some day, more likely some night, that "finite number of breaths" will be reached, everything will come to an end, and no one will know until two or three days later because some mundane task wasn't performed on time, some phone call wasn't returned, or, most absurdly, because this goddamn Web site wasn't updated.

Maybe I should quit hoarding blog posts a day or two in advance, or something.

The Vent

  8 February

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 Copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Hill