It was just after noon on Saturday, I'd just parked the car, and Trini and I were getting ready to look at the first structure on this year's Architecture Tour. I grimaced a little as I clambered my way out of the seat, and I was definitely poky getting across the street. Trini wasn't too concerned: she's seen me in Slow Mode before. (I am, after all, twice her age.) For some reason, I felt I had to explain the situation, but what came out was less of an explanation and more of a manifesto: "I have to do this," I said. "If I stop doing it, I'll never start doing it again."
This was, apparently, one of those times when the blurt was basically the truth before editing. The years take their toll on a body, and this particular body seems to respond by doing less and less. A couple of years ago I outsourced all the lawn work, an expense I then could not really afford; I saw literally no movies in actual movie houses last year, and it now seems hard to imagine that I used to have season tickets for both the local orchestra and one of the resident theatre companies. Even the World Tours, which used to sustain my sanity for eleven months at a time, now seem a distant memory; the last one was in 2008, and the thought of hitting the road for three weeks brings with it enormous dollops of trepidation: "What if something goes wrong while I'm away from home?" I never said things like that when I was a mere lad of, um, fifty.
At least some of this, I reckon, is caused by having my existence tethered to the pharmacy; I now have ten different prescriptions in force, ten weapons of otherwise marginal utility that supposedly keep me upright and breathing. Now there's nothing at all wrong with being upright, or with breathing; but I am slowly coming to grips with the notion that neither of these happy conditions is going to last forever. Intellectually, of course, I knew this all along: the death rate in this species, I have noted on occasion, is fixed at 100 percent. (Yes, there was that fellow back in the first century A.D. who managed to leave the tomb one Easter morning, but even he was dead for a while.) But knowing this and dealing with it are two different things entirely.
I can't discuss this with Trini, though of course she must know; there is nothing I can tell her that would surprise her anymore. And she's not going to bring it up on her own, because what would be the point? It's not like we've had to make adjustments for one another all these years: she has her life, I have mine — or what's left of it — and occasionally those lives intersect for what I believe is our mutual delight; the one year she was unable to join me on the Architecture Tour, she was at least somewhat distraught. Still, we're on opposite ends of several spectra, and the most important one, I suspect, is not the obvious one. She works hard, and she plays hard; I don't do much of either anymore.
Perhaps I could argue that I'm just pacing myself, that I'm trying to conserve my strength for the days to come. This would make more sense if I had any idea how many of those days I might actually have: it might be five thousand or more, or it might be only five. But this is not the sort of information to which we, as a species, are generally privy. And there are times when I think that the end of that last day isn't as scary as the beginning of it, that I won't be able to tell the Reaper, that scythe-wielding son of a bitch, to take his blade and shove it. (My model here is James Lileks: "Yo, Death, I got your sting right here.") The most curious aspect of all this is that I've ended up asking myself the same question rude boys used to ask Catholic girls: "What are you saving it for?" Having never before asked this of anyone myself, I have no idea what answer I'm waiting for.
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Copyright © 2016 by Charles G. Hill