Saturday, April 22, 2006
I never thought I'd be glad to be stood up on a date, but tonight was the exception.
It's miserable here in New York on this Earth Day, a cold, rainy, god-awful night and I'm sick as a hound.
Two days it was sunny and 80 degrees and now we're back in the middle of November. It's a great night to stay the hell home.
I've been feeling lousy for the last week and while I was starting to feel better, on Thursday I woke at 4:30 AM and I was suddenly sicker than ever. No fever, but congestion, upset stomach, the works.
I probably could have gone in to work and then chugged uptown to see the shrink, but I said screw it, I didn't feel like being one of the walking wounded.
Start Without Me
New York is a tough enough town to handle when you're at your best. When you're sick, I have a feeling word gets around real fast and everything you depend on goes on the fritz.
People are nastier, trains are even more crowded and even less unreliable than usual, and when you get to work you know you're going to get grief from a hundred different directions.
So I bailed. I sent my boss an e-mail, jumped back into the bed and let the world turn without me. I don't think the planet noticed my absence.
I didn't do hell of a lot with my free time. I slept, listened to Air America most of the date and then at night I watched a DVD of this rather bizarre movie called "Demonlover."
I had heard great things about this film, and when it didn't arrive from Netflix, I promptly declared it MIA and demanded another copy. Naturally, the first one show up the next day.
Of course, the upshot was I didn't like the damn movie. It seemed to have a lot of portent and posturing and precious little else. I could have watched it again, I suppose, to see if I missed something, but I was fed up. Whatever I missed couldn't possibly make up for what I saw.
Now during the last week or so I had been IM-ing this rather young woman I met through a dating group I belong to and we finally agreed to meet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for some drinks at the BAM saloon.
It's taking me a while, but I am getting smarter about dating. I made this one close to home, early in the evening and for drinks only--no sitting across the table from a total stranger for an entire dinner with absolutely nothing to say. I've been down that rabbit hole one time too many.
Now I've got this cold, virus, plague, whatever, and I'm not too anxious to go out. My head is stuffed, I'm not in a particularly good humor, and I'm starting to think this woman is not really into this. She backed off during one of our IM sessions (is there something wrong with the phone?) and it made me suspicious.
I toyed with the idea of cancelling the date myself, but I didn't want to be the one who threw the switch. Breaking a date over a cold sounded kind of wimpy and I figured it would be hard to get a rescheduled date after claiming a case of the sniffles.
So I do what I normally do in such situations: I prayed for God to intervene, make this woman break the date with me, and then I promised Him I will never ask for another favor again, even though He and I know that's a crock of horse hockey.
The day wears on and I wear down. I feel tired, achy and I every time I look out the window, the weather gets a few notches worse. I hate being sick, I've had a lot of problems of the years with my health, thanks to Epstein-Barr, so even a cold brings out the worst in me.
Back in the Day
When I was in the seventh grade I was going through a really bad period when I was sleeping all the time, when I had no energy, and the doctor, who was a first class dope, didn't know what was wrong with me.
He had this habit of turning to my parents during the examinations and asking, "how does he look to you?"
Later my father said if the guy had asked that question one more time, my dad was going give the doctor a bill for his services.
I remember at one point my mother looking at me and she seemed so frightened, I didn't know what was going on. I found out later she was terrified that I had some terminal disease; poor woman, always worrying about her children.
I missed so many school days that year. My grades suffered and I felt like a freak. I was being bullied by a fat ugly Irish kid in my class, but I didn't have the nerve to tell anyone, even when my parents asked me if there were any problems at school.
I still fantasize about skewering that bloated pig, wherever he may be, which just shows how much I need the shrink.
Yeah, that year really bit the big one, and my doctor finally decided to put in the hospital for a week, so I could get all the testing done in one setting.
This was the old Lutheran Medical Center on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. I remember going to the children's ward, this medieval-looking dump with peeling Disney characters painted on the world.
There was a man talking to a little boy in one of the beds, saying the kid's name over and over again, and not getting a response. It was so grim, so ugly, my parents took one look around and got me the hell out of there. I was put into an adult room a few days later with men in their sixties.
They were nice guys, and they did whatever they could to make me laugh. The names and faces are fading, but I remember how much they cared.
Oh, the few days I was crying and calling home every half hour. My brothers and sister came to visit me whenever they could and I was getting visitors twice a day. I see now just how lucky I was to have such great people caring for me.
I got more accustomed to being away from home, but there were tough times, too. I remember one of my friends had to get some kind of tube put down his throat and we could hear him gagging on the other side of his bed curtain.
Then another one of the old gentleman, sort of like the group jokester, had a stroke or some problem with his circulation. I can vaguely recall hearing him cry out in pain and then the next thing we knew he was dead.
Another man came into our ward, a huge Norwegian fellow, a former dockworker, I believe, and he looked so strong, I'm not sure what the hell was wrong with him. He said something to the doctors a pain in his arms "feeling like electricity."
And Lutheran Medical Center was the place where I had my first enema. Yes, you read right. It seems that all the dyes and potions they injected into me during all these tests had done a right proper hatchet job on my bowels to a point where they shut down and refused to resume work.
I will spare you the details. I will spare myself the details. Suffice it to say, it was a major under-taking, requiring a nurse to finally strap on the rubber gloves and make things happen, if you know I mean.
In fact, I had two enemas there, because I had to be cleaned out for some other test. Many things improve with repetition, but I'm here to tell you that enemas ain't one them.
Anyway, I finally got out of the hospital, on the very first Earth Day, so today is an anniversay of sorts. The doctors didn't find anything and they decided to call my condition "growing pains" and send me home.
There was a lot of excitement about this Earth Day, though I was just happy to be back with my family. This was back when people cared about the environment, before all the right wing pundit-whores started in with the "environmentalist-whacko" lines. And thanks to Bush Abomination, clear air, clear water, and national forests are all on the chopping block.
I went on to have other health problems, including mononucleosis, Epstein-Barr/chronic fatigue. It's really made my life difficult, but I confess I didn't handle it well either. Every time I got sick, I would curse the fates and actually wish I were dead.
I did a lot of damage to myself and I know I hurt my mother with all this negativity. There are people with far worse conditions--some of them terminal--who handled their situations with a hell of a lot more dignity and grace than I ever did. There's not much I can do about that now, except do better going forward.
Now tonight, 36 oh my God years after that Earth Day, I went out into a monsoon to have drinks with a total stranger. I was just pulling into Pacific Street on the R train when my cell phone beeped out the message signal, causing myself and half the train to check our phones.
I went to the upstairs level, played the message, and learned my date couldn't get a babysitter and we would have to reschedule. My prayers had been answered, about as close to the wire as possible, and not before a useless subway ride, but I wasn't complaining.
I was estatic. I crossed over to the other platform, took the R train right back home and here I am typing away, safe from the elements and the ravings of inconsiderate twits.
I'm not offended, I'm not angry, I am relieved. I don't know what this woman's story, but I won't be contacting her anytime soon. Dating is always a gamble and I really believe that doing it online only increases the freak quotient, as you "meet" people to whom you would not give the time of day if you had talked to them in person.
So I came home, put on the tube and guzzled diet cola. It sucks to be sick, but I've been on a good streak recently, knock wood.
I got through the Christmas holiday for the first time in years without being sick and I haven't missed a workout at the gym in I don't know how long. Now I can rest up, let all these little dings in my body heal, I hope, and come back to work, writing, the gym and life in general in better shape than ever.
I just want to celebrate another day of living. I just want to celebrate Earth Day.