Saturday, July 22, 2023


I got to my doctor's appointment just a bit early, but after signing in, I had to sit for quite awhile, so I started scrolling through the photos on my phone and deleting things that were useless. As I scrolled further and further into the past, I was chuckling softly to myself at the feelings that the memories evoked.  Just then, Christmas and the fabulous autumn of last year seemed ages ago.  Oh, ha!. . . I'd forgotten about that one.  There it all was, the fantastic remembrance of days gone by. . . as they say.  

I was watching a video I made when my name was called.  Shit.  Here we go.  I stood up trying not to raise my blood pressure.  First, of course, I was asked to stand on the scale.  Holy shit--this was bad news.  I hadn't eaten solid food for a week, and I weighed a pound more than I did last time.  How in the hell is that possible?  There were only two explanations--the calibration was off or. . . God hates me.  I could think of no other possibilities.  

"Well. . . this is starting off poorly," I said to the amusement of the nurse.  She took me to another room where I sat in the only chair while she clipped a machine to my finger and rubbed the digital thermometer on my temple.  Then she broke out the blood pressure cuff.  Fuck. . . fuck. . . breathe. . . stay calm.  As she wrapped my arm, I took in an audibly deep breath.  I let it out slowly.  They say this helps, but it never has so far.  Last time I was there, just over a week ago, my bp was WAY too high.  

"130/80," she said.  I jumped out of my chair and did a wild dance, arms above my head like I'd just scored the winning goal.  

"You might want to try to stay in your zen place," she said.  "You know she's going to take it again." 

In a bit, the doctor came in with two young women.  She has some deal where she trains student nurses, provides them with some practical experience.  Quite often she likes to get you naked and start showing you off to the room.  Oh, you get to wear a little gown, but that gets pulled up to your belly button quick enough.  I remember the first time she did this, there were two cute girls with her and I started cursing my big fat gut.  Oh, well. . . what the hell.  The girls seemed to be getting a kick out of it, so what the hell.  I'm not against nudity. . . but man. . . getting fat and all. . . . 

"How are you doing?" the doctor asked.  

I don't know what's wrong with me.  I began with the truth.  "Well. . . I had a stomach thing this last week."

She turned and looked at me.  "Yea?  How long did it last?"

Fuck!  Why did I bring it up?  I'm an idiot, that's why.  

"The first two days were pretty bad, then it dissipated over the next couple," I lied.  

"O.K.  It was less than a week."

Whew!  That was close.  

"How's your energy?"

"Well, you know, I was dragging.  I only had clear liquids and. . . do you mean in general?"


"Oh. . . I'm a tiger," I lied.  

One of the cute girls blurted out, "What did you say?"

I looked at her.  "Tiger.  I'm a tiger," I grinned.  Her giggle was cute.  I liked her.  

I think the doc might have laughed, too.  Maybe she was on her meds today, I thought.  

"Which blood pressure medicines do we have you on?"

She named a few.  "Yes. . that one.  No, no. . . yes.  Those two."

For real.  My doctor doesn't know what she has me taking.  Always encouraging.  

"Neither of those are ACE inhibitors, are they?"

"No."  Then the paranoid look.  "Why?  Who is telling you you need ACE inhibitors?"

"No one.  I read.  I'm trying to become an internet doctor."

The girl giggled again.  I really liked her.  

The doctor explained that she did not like the ACE inhibitors, that the new generation of drugs was better.  Sure, I thought.  I was picturing the drug rep bringing lunch and a wrapper full of hundreds.  I just shook my head. 

Then she broke out the blood pressure cuff.  My pulse doubled.  We were only here to look at the results of my cholesterol test.  Why all this?  But I knew why.  She was charging my insurance for every goddamned thing she did.  It is all on the bill with time stamps.  

"140," she said.  

"It was just 130," I blurted out in a panic.  

"I can live with 140," she said.  She was definitely on her meds.  Last time, she was telling me I was going to have a stroke.  "When should I see you again," she queried, "three months?"

"I thought I was just here to see the results of my cholesterol test?"

She paged through the chart on her clipboard.  Obviously she had no idea.  

"Oh. . . " she pulled out a sheet of paper.  "Yea. . . it's a little high, but it looks o.k."  She handed me the sheet.  Yes. . . it looked miles better than the last one."

"Nobody told me that I needed to fast for the last test.  I don't think I did."

She turned to the girl I liked and asked her to pull up my last test results.  

"You look good.  So. . . three months. . . six. . . . "

"How about two years," I offered.  "This really stresses me out."

Everybody in the room laughed.  Good god, they had all timed their drugs, I thought.  This is not how it usually goes.  

"Let's do six," she said.  

My mind was racing.  "How about I just send you a check and you tell me I'm good and will live forever?  That's all I want.  You just need to tell me, 'Wow, it is unbelievable.  You've been run over to near death, lungs punctured, all your bones broken. . . and look at you!  You're phenomenal!'  That is all I want.  I just want you to make me feel good."

That is what I wanted to say, but you know. .  .  I didn't want to push my luck.  But that is truly all I want.  I just want to be told something positive.  I want to be told I'm doing well.  My doctor doesn't appreciate the psychological damage she is doing.  I'm going to have a stroke she said, and so every day and every night, that is what I think about.  And I feel bad.  I'm anxious.  Death is my constant companion.  I don't like my companion at all.  

But goddamnit, I skipped down the stairs as I left the office.  It felt like. . . well, to use a cliche. . . like a shroud had been lifted.  I danced across the parking lot turning a little pirouette.  A blinding pain shot through my knee.  It didn't matter, though, that was simply structural.  I'm a structural mess. . . but, man. . . I have good numbers.  

And it is true!  My triglycerides are at rock bottom, superstar levels.  She runs a gamut of blood tests, and mine are all good.  

I stopped by my mother's and gave her the news.  We were both happy.  I hung out a bit, and when I got home, I got a call from Tennessee.  He was on his way to the dispensary.  Did I need anything?  

I told him about my doctor's appointment.  Everyone at the Physical Fitness Club was aware that I was dying.  I was very vocal about that fact.  

"I'm alive, motherfucker!" I shouted.  "Listen. . . you want to meet up at the Pig for a drink around five?"

He'd asked me earlier if I wanted to get a drink, but he now had plans with his wife.  We chatted for awhile, and he said he'd stop by later with some supplements he thought I might want to try.  

It was mid-afternoon.  It was 95 and sunny, just too hot to move.  I grabbed my Kindle and sat in one of the leather reading chairs.  I got up and looked at the clock.  3:30.  I went to the library and pulled out the rum bottle.  I hesitated.  I put it back.  It was too early.  

I went back to reading.  I looked at the clock.  Four.  Four-thirty.  It was almost five, and I was thinking about getting dressed and going up to the Pig alone.  I decided to make a Campari and soda and light a cheroot.  Kit-Kat came by to feed, and so the two of us sat in the late day's fading heat.  It was so hot, not even mosquitoes were out.  But I felt myself in Orwell's wonderful novel, "Burmese Days."  I was all anglophile, a British Imperialist enjoying a first cocktail in the dreadful tropical heat. It all felt good.  I was alive.  The young girl at the doc's had looked deeply into my very blue eyes.  

But what about my weight?  "You're still fat, Pudgy.  What about that?"

I looked at my phone.  Nothing.  I've lost contact with much of the earth.  My New Old Friend has become my Old New Friend and has gone back into the ether.  In the morning, I had texted the girl who won't ask me out that I it had been a rough week but I was feeling better and just wanted to say hi.  "How are you?" I asked.  

"I'm glad you're feeling better," she wrote back hours later.  Hmm.  It was either a cold response or something more was going on with her.  

"It's not always about YOU," I heard a little voice in my head say.  

"I know that.  I know that."  

But, you know. . . I think it was the cold shoulder, not the other.  That's fine.  That's fine.  

Had I told Red I wouldn't be out?  I think so.  I hadn't heard from her for awhile.

I looked at the phone.  I scrolled through old messages to see where I had left things.  The cheroot was out.  The wine was gone.  Should I go up to the Pig?  

I went inside.  The air was crisp and cool.  I poured a glass of wine.  I was feeling better.  I would be out with and among the throng for each of the next two days.  I looked over at my new beach shirt that had not made it past the dining room table.  I would wear that.  Maybe I wouldn't look fat.  

The phone rang.  It was Tennessee.  

"What's up, homes?"

"Look out your window." 

His truck was in the driveway.  I went out throwing jabs.  His window came down and I could see his wife was in the cab.  

"Look, he's wanting to fight," he said.  I switched gears into relaxed formal mode.  He handed me a bag of things and we began to chat.  His son flies out to L.A. tomorrow to work on a new album with some famous rapper.  

"Play some for him," his wife said.  He backed up the song that was barely audible and turned up the volume."

"Listen to this shit," he grinned in his very southern accent.  "Do you hear this?  He's talking about fucking his friend's girl, getting out the Vaseline. . . ."  He started doing the lyrics of the song.  His wife grinned.  

"We have to pack him up tonight and take him to the airport in the morning.  He's staying with his buddy in a Santa Monica mansion.  These boys have more money. . . ."  

They, too, were leaving on Sunday for a couple of weeks of work.   They were in no hurry, it seemed.  They stayed and chatted for a good long while.  Then with fond farewells and until thens. . . . 

I decided I didn't want to go anywhere.  What could I cook up for dinner?  I looked through the fridge and decided to make up a dish of stir fried tofu, broccoli, and brown jasmine rice.  I sautéed the tofu while I chopped garlic.  I plated it and put more oil in the pan, then added in the garlic and broccoli.  In a few minutes, I dropped in the rice and browned tofu and poured in Teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and some hot sauce.  Stir.  Fry.  I was making this up.  When I felt it was time, I put it all in a big, deep bowl and topped it with sesame seeds.  I sat down in front of the t.v.  Not bad.  Really.  Not bad.  

I feel like a different person today.  I've moved to the Land of the Living.  I want to get out into the day.  I'll meet new people.  Women will want me, men will envy me.  And well they should, because man, for a fellow who's been so beaten up, banged up, busted up and such. . . "I'm phenomenal!"

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