What we’re trying to keep track of, for now, in a casual way so that we’re not obsessing about things, so that we aren’t making things worse by worrying, are the symptoms. There was a crowd of school kids on the sidewalk downtown yesterday, drinking Super Big Gulps and moving in their slow I-don’t-give-a-shit way in the general direction of deeper into downtown, taking up the entire sidewalk. Moving in that sluggish way paper wasps fly late season, when the temperatures are high and they’re half drunk on fermented fruit. Girl turns towards boy to ask him a question, just as the scrum of kids ahead of her parts for a light post. She nails it, nails the post, both arms flying forward cartoon-like, and the Big Gulp leaves her hand and sails almost majestically through the air.
Which is what made me realize what this feels like… There’s the low thrum of what presents like a pinched nerve, but isn’t a pinch. In fact it’s demyelination along the nerves, which affects nerve conduction, which means loss of power, loss of coordination, loss of agility. More than that. It’s like if we drank a Super Big Gulp now, at this advanced age, how kids can drink one and be wired for three days, but when we drink one we feel like we're corroding from the inside out. There's a low-PH systemic burn. The nervous system just kind of hurts, low grade, top-to-bottom, as if we've been in the sun a bit too long, but affecting the insides.
And this pinched nerve feeling also presents as muscle weakness. Muscles don’t fire the way I'm used to having them fire. They tire easily. Feet impacting with the ground is time-shifted, only by fractions of a second but it’s enough, and maybe partly because of this there isn’t the same rebound. There’s no coil, no flight. I’m talking about running. When I am walking I feel normal. In the past, two separate and extended periods, I’ve had to be cautious descending stairs. Not this time. Not yet. So far it’s only when I’m running. I feel clumsy, like someone trying to run.
There’s the sleep. At night I fall asleep as though there is no dawn. I sleep endlessly, darkly, and what must appear to others as fatally. I sleep when I sit down. If nobody else is around, that’s when I sleep. At 5:30 p.m. I coach, so at 4:50 p.m. I rest my head on my pillow thinking I’ll just think, maybe about Roger Federer’s world number two ranking and the mathematics of how he can reach number one, or I’ll try to draw a character map in my mind of everyone in Infinite Jest, how they relate to one another. I do this, I actually do… I try to multiply two three-digit numbers in my head. This is what I’m doing with my head on my pillow for just a minute or two before coaching. My sheets are white. My pillow slips are white. The blinds are drawn and clacking a bit in the breeze. I think about hanging the rest of my paintings, and I think about acquiring another painting to fill out my mini-gallery. Then I’m in a gallery. I’m in New York in one of their galleries, I don’t know which one, there are so many; in Chelsea I think. Looking at the art.
The phone rings. It wakes me. I check the time and it’s 5:20 p.m. and I need to hurry.