Category Archives: Sickness

Touchy, touchy, touchy

A funny but not ha-ha funny thing happened to me today on the bike trail. I took a ride of about 20 miles, starting on North St, and moving south to the end of the Razorback Greenway, then back north. I must’ve gone just 2-3 miles when the trail came to an abrupt, if temporary, end. Suddenly the asphalt gave out and a patch of white rock began, on the road where workmen had excavated the asphalt and a few feet on either side. A sign proclaimed, “Trail Ends.” As I put on my brakes and came to a halt, I saw a young woman jogger stopping ahead of me. “End of trail!” I called out, as much to myself as to anyone.

She turned to look at me — a slim young woman, 20 or so, I’d suppose — and said, “I can read. You don’t have to read it to me!”

“Whoa!” I countered. “Aren’t we touchy?”

She turned toward me a couple of steps and spat out, “I know your kind!”

“What kind is that?” I inquired.

But she wouldn’t say. Just continued to sputter venom. So I muttered, half under my breath, “Idiot!” — and sped away.

sex offender
Jesus, is this what I looked like to the girl?

I was hoping that was the last of her, but though I went to the end of the trail, and detoured also 2-3 miles out of the way, I came upon her again, going north, just as I hit North St. I’d just gone by a young jogger, but didn’t think this was the crazy lady. But it was! She ran by me, wearing white jogging pants and a chartreuse top, as I waited at the light to get across the street, and then, when she was 30 feet down the street from me she turned to me and hissed, “Sex offender!”

So that’s the kind I was! A sex offender in her mind!

“Fuck you!” I returned, and went on my way.

Rising and falling, inevitable as breath

Today a friend with breast cancer is entering the hospital for a mastectomy. This is a cruel development in her life, as it would be in anyone’s, though it is precisely a development. Our bodies change as we grow older — aging, augmenting, strengthening, declining. And illnesses and setbacks are part of the process, too, however unwelcome they might be. Seems we cannot rise without a fall, in our little corporeal empires as in ancient Rome (sorry, Edward Gibbon), no matter how much we might cry out in protest and sorrow.

Which is not to diminish the terrible costs to anyone suffering from a disease like cancer (think Jimmy Carter, think your friends and relatives). As old as we are, we don’t want to exit this life through excision, whether the surgeon’s knife or a switch blade in a dark alley. And how do we learn, in this fraught time and place, to resign ourselves to our fate? We are a youth culture, and will live forever, won’t we? That’s the message of the pop media, anyway.

Technology and medicine have many gifts to bestow, and we are happy beneficiaries, but even these quasi-religious powers can’t bestow miracles or overnight transformations. (See, for example, “Quyen Nguyen demonstrates how a molecular marker can make tumors light up in neon green, showing surgeons exactly where to cut.” Dr. Nguyen explicitly acknowledges that scientists are not gods.)

What we can do as we go along, mere mortals rising and falling, is help each other up. It’s a hike, after all, isn’t it, this via dolorosa et jocundissima? And if one falls, we help her up. Gather her up, in our arms and help her stumble on and straighten up.

So here’s to you, brave friend and fellow sufferer. (Raising a cup of wine red as blood.) We’re with you, don’t you know, all the way?