Tuesday, June 18, 2013

At the birthday party in the park on Saturday I tried a piece of cake and the frosting was the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted in my life. It was supernaturally sweet, sweeter than a spoonful of sugar. Like that sweetest substance on earth from the Guinness Book of Word Records, 1977. It convulsed me like a shock.

Later in the afternoon I drifted off to sleep in the armchair. After a few minutes I awoke with a start, not sure who I was, where I was.


"Please," Pasquale rasped to Tomasso. "Go."

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Do we participate in medical rituals superstitiously? Are they doing us any good, or are they merely fulfilling some ancient, neurotic need? We have all the equipment in the world, the drugs, the antibiotics. But what if we’ve really just come all the way around again to treating our ailments the way we did in the Middle Ages?

The ophthalmologist told me my eyes were fine but I still needed to take the drops.

“You’re still showing characteristics of pre-glaucoma,” she said. “So that’s something we still need to manage and still need to follow.”

I had taken the peripheral vision test, where you look into a scope and click a clicker every time a little white light blinks somewhere in the field. It always seems more like a test of reflexes, or of honesty. Sometimes I just click mindlessly, thinking a light must have blinked, however faintly, and so why don’t I just guess and hope I got it right? Never mind that it does more good, in a medical exam, to do honestly poorly than to do luckily well. It’s nerve-racking and fraught; it’s a performance.

At one point the assistant said, “Sir?” I was vaguely aware that she must be talking to me but I was somehow reluctant to respond, lost in my blank, blurry world with its occasional pinpricks of light.

“Sir? Do you need any help?”

“No, I’m fine,” I said finally. It occurred to me that I probably had missed an entire series of flashes and got her worried. And it further occurred to me that I hadn’t reacted to them not because I hadn’t seen them but because I just didn’t want to for a little while. I didn’t want to play along.

I finished the test feeling I must have done terribly. Not clicking for stretches at a time, clicking spasmodically for others. The assistant told me to return to the doctor’s examining room. As I waited there I imagined her concerned expression, her suggestion that further investigations were in order. Perhaps deeper and more time-consuming examinations at a better-equipped facility in a hospital annex uptown. I imagined having to explain to her that I really was fine, I just didn’t want to click the clicker sometimes, you know? Even when I saw the light. And other times I clicked it again and again for no good damn reason, I’m sorry. Can I please, please take the test again?

When she came in she pulled up my results on her computer and said they were fine.

“Your pressure’s fine. Your peripheral vision is fine. Come back again in four months and we’ll do it again.”

“Keep taking the drops?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “Of course. Keep taking the drops.”

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

In the long passageway that leads from the ACE to the 7 at Times Square I began to notice how people swing their arms as they walk. Everyone does. Young, old, short, tall. Nobody realizes it but they’re swinging their arms the whole time, like they’re paddling through the ether.