Friday, July 1, 2011

a Day in the Life

 Every day is an exercise in pain. Not the mental anguish that so many people whine about, but actual physical pain. I wake up with a CPAP mask on my face, shoving air down my throat at 12.5 psi. My mouth is dry and nasty, tasting like someone's dirty socks were stuffed down my throat. After seven or eight hours of forcefully breathing out against the pressurized air mask, my ribs and intercostal muscles are sore. Imagine an eight-hour weight training session; my ribs are feeling the burn for sure. My lower back is stiff, as are my legs, and I find it difficult to sit up on the side of the bed. I sit up in stages. First, I get my right arm under myself, ready to lever my torso up from the mattress. I hook my left hand into the pit of my left knee, to stabilize my lower back and provide a counter weight for my all-too-huge torso. I lift my left leg up, pull with my left arm, and shove downward with my right arm. If I can get the timing and momentum right, I can sit up on the side of the mattress without screaming...
   I grimace as I reach over to the nightstand to turn off the "Darth Vader", as I call my CPAP machine. I have learned to block out the noise and actually get some sleep, and my long-suffering wife says she'll take Vader breathing over my horrendous snoring any night of the week...but it still sucks having to wear the fucking thing. I strip the straps off my head and toss the mask on the floor, reach for my blood-pressure pills, and the ever-present plastic cup of water. I wash down the night's bacterial crud with a mouthful of room temperature water, following it with a pill, and another swish-and-gulp of our famous yellowish-brown tap water. It could be ditch water, and it would still taste better than the accumulated gunk that grew on my tongue over night.
   I brace my right hand on the bedside table, rock back and forth a couple of times, and lever my fat ass up off the mattress, taking a small measure of pathetic male pride in the fact that I usually don't actually scream, but sometimes a whimper can be heard, like there is a kicked puppy in the room. I stagger into the bathroom, bracing myself on the wall so I don't stumble. I tripped on the bedspread a few months back, and managed to avoid breaking my nose on the floor. I was more humiliated than hurt, falling in my own bedroom like some ancient geriatric. I didn't break my hip like so many old folks do, although my lower back was complaining for days afterwards. These days, I am careful about moving around until I can limber up a little and walk instead of stagger. I am only 51 years old, but I move like I am 80.
   In the bathroom, doing the usual, I try to avoid seeing my naked body in the mirror. I don't look like a beached whale. Whales aren't hairy, but the general shape is the same. I hate the way I look, so I just refuse to see what I have become. After I scrub some of the moss off my teeth, I carefully hobble over to the closet, and thoughtfully select one of 4 pairs of pants I can still fit into. For some reason they all seem to be military surplus cargo pants, my favorite pair being the same pattern as the Iraqi army is using these days. They don't look cool, and I'm not trying to be Commando Joe, the Armchair Warrior, it's just that they actually fit. One would think clothing for soldiers would not be so large, but I guess some armies will take anybody, even fat bastards like me. I browse through my shirts, looking for something that will drape elegantly over my torso without emphasizing my manboobs. It's sad but true that I'm more stacked than some of the women I know. I settle for one of 4 or 5 shapeless,  baggy  T-shirts, stretch it a little with my arms, then throw it over my head. I step into a pair of shoes, the laces tied just loose enough that I do not need to tie them, but simply step in and shove my feet forward. My loving better half has brought me a travel mug full of coffee, I grab my  wallet and cell phone, my MP3 player and my pocketknife, find my cane, and lumber out the door heading for work.
   When I first starting using a cane at work, my colleagues thought I was just joking around, so they teased and laughed in a relatively good-natured way, until they saw the look of struggling effort on my face as I hobbled down a hallway. When they realized I was actually using a cane because I needed a cane, they made all the usual concerned noises. I didn't feel irritated by their reactions, although I was puzzled at first - who walks with a cane just to be funny? Charlie Chaplin did, but that was a damn long time ago...

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