Over the Hill

It’s not something you can really prepare yourself for. Even though you know it’s coming. You think you know all about it. That you’re ready for it. That it is already happening, that you will just gradually grow old and the incremental changes will not come with a sudden sting because they all do not come at once. Because if age is just a number then aging is just the gradual accumulation of abuses and self-destructive behaviors you once called fun. And you knew this was coming a while ago. As early as your 20s or your teens even. But its not like you think about it day to day. It is not on your mind for longer than a second – a tangential fleeting awareness. Because whereas the aging itself is predictable, gradual, your physical experience of its gravity is sudden, shocking. Like slipping in the bathtub or jumping into ice water.

Like the Christian calendar, there is the Before Feeling Old and After Feeling Old. And frankly, the first 40, the good ol’ days, weren’t a fuckin’ picnic either – enough shit there with the stench of it all still lingering in your nostrils.

Then one day you wake up and catch your profile in the mirror and realize your belly sticks out further than your dick. Sure you see yourself in the mirror every day but not like this. Maybe it’s the angle. So you turn this way and that way and any way you look at it, the news is in – you’re fat. But it doesn’t feel like fat because even though the belly is round and big, it is not soft and flabby but hard and taught. Like a woman with child in the third trimester. And maybe it’s just the first time you’ve really looked at yourself. Actually thought about it. Remembered what you used to look like and really compared it. Jesus. When did you even get chubby let alone fat? And you stand there as you look down at your feet only to see the big toe slightly beyond the protruding belly. And maybe today, you think about it more than other days. But then, like always, the thought of being late for work distracts you from the meta analysis, and you push the thoughts and realizations away. Gotta keep going with the regularly scheduled programming. But the thought is there now.

But maybe something stirs in you and you decide to start again. So you go to the gym after work. Eat a light salad for dinner. No red meat. Go to sleep earlier. Hell maybe you even quit smoking cold turkey. And at first, it seems like you found the answer and you feel alright if only from the superiority of trying again. Unlike all those other fat slobs your age who continue to smoke. Don’t they know about COPD? And you keep going to that gym. Daily. For a few weeks…

But then one day, you wake up with this horrible back pain. And when you reach for the iphone to email in sick, you realize that you’ve used up all your sick days this year. And not the same way you used to use them 20 years ago – to stay in bed with a new girlfriend or to drive up to Vegas for the night – but on actually being sick. “Honey! Where’s the Advil?!” So you take some and you head on in to work.

And after a day or two, you think you’re getting used to the pain, to the point where its bearable. But then a week or two later it spreads down to your leg. So you take a week off from the gym but it doesn’t really get any better. And you start to think more and more about that pack you still carry in your jacket pocket, the pack you deliberately bought and didn’t open so that you would feel like you’re the one in control. And maybe one daym when the pain gets so bad that you can’t even sit at that desk anymore, you pull the plastic string and take out the aluminum foil cover and you even reach for one but by the time the elevator gets downstairs, and you breathe in the fresh air, the pain subsides a bit and you think “hey it’s not so bad after all.” So you try the gym again that night. But 2 days in, the pain is back and worse than ever before. So you say fuck it to the gym and the salads and the red meat moratorium. But you still stay on that wagon. And you still carry that pack. Except now, the plastic wrapper is gone. “Maybe it just takes some time” you think, as you lay there in bed with a cold sweat covering your brow. And the thought comforts you somewhat, because time is something you’ve always had.  “Honey! We’re out of Advil!”

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