Monday, November 3, 2014
Twenty Past Midnight
It is 20 past midnight and I am sitting in my kitchen with a now empty jar of Maillot gherkins, a half-loaf of pumpernickel bread, a battered hunk of Icelandic butter and some Port Salut that's been in a baggy too long. I can't sleep. My leg hurts. I have been diagnosed with a herniated L4-5 disc and attendant sciatica. It’s not as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago when I went to the emergency room at 3 a.m., but it remains painful enough to wake me in the middle of the night. I am still wary of taking opiate- or diazepam-based painkillers. They really don’t seem to be doing much good, and, of course, I am terrified of getting hooked on little blue, orange or white tablets. There was a time a couple of decades ago when my main goal in life was the acquisition of such pills, and I had a retinue of doctors prescribing them. Those were not good times.
I have to go for a cystoscopy tomorrow because for the last couple of days there was blood in my urine. I’m worried that the cancer has come back.
I worked most of the day on the rewrite of a book I was commissioned to author. Over the past couple of weeks I have trimmed more than a hundred pages from the original manuscript, and there's no doubt the work is better, tighter, a more pleasant an interesting read. Right now, though, I'm sick of it. I have re-read the thing from table of contents to bibliography six times now, always finding more little glitches, dropped quotation marks and misplaced semi-colons. There are niggling inconsistencies, dubious spellings of foreign places, and an army of unwieldy acronyms
At 20 past midnight, the choice of available actions is limited. I can keep eating. Somewhere in the depth of the fridge is a chunk of Camembert cheese and some kielbasa, but I'm beginning to feel porcine.
I can read. The last ten or so nights, I've been involved with Gavin Menzies' 1421: The Year China Discovered the New World. It's a massive book and slow reading, but it appeals to my belief that we know amazingly little about amazingly little. In fact, I’m close to certain that our understanding of early human history is at best vague or at worst downright erroneous. We get names and dates and locations wrong and we confuse winners and losers of battles both important and insignificant. Most history is guesswork. The rest is written by the generals who lost fewer troops than the other guys.
I can watch a DVD, but doing that is certain to screw with my circadian rhythm and every movie I’ve wanted to watch, I’ve watched at least three times already. I can, I know, rely on Seinfeld. I often do, and even though I’m fairly sure I can recite every line spoken by every character in every episode, I still laugh.
I can go for a walk, but the last time I wandered my neighborhood in the middle of the night, a police car stopped me and the man inside wanted to know what I was doing. He was very polite and when I explained that I couldn’t sleep because I was in pain, he nodded, said, “I hope you feel better,” and drove off. Still, it made me feel vaguely stalkerish to be the only person in the street at that time of night. I know for a fact that one of my neighbors likes to strut around our yearly community meeting openly packing a large caliber firearm. I don’t trust people who feel they have to carry lethal weapons around. Since I’m not sure where he lives, I can’t really avoid maybe passing in front of his house and I’d rather not do that.
Or I can write this blog.