Decadence and decay
I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.
A lot goes through the mind of someone on the verge of completing another decade on Earth. There are generalized notions that certain periods of life are more raucous than others, while many believe the more decades one accrues means more wisdom and leisure.
I recently turned 29. On the eve of 30, my early 20s, particularly after I turned 21, were filled with late nights drinking and hanging out with motorcycle gangs. Sleep became more of a burden than anything, which is to say I didn’t get much of it and maximized each day’s 24 hours by staying awake for most of them. Drinks, debauchery, women, work. Late nights turned into early mornings that blurred into more late nights.
My blooming body handled the stress and damage admirably, but with each passing year, the recovery time lengthened, until slowing down or dying seemingly became the only two options to surviving the great disintegration.
Yes, 29 is one year less alive, but still young. I know this, but my body’s unwillingness to cooperate with the day-to-day rigors of existence hasn’t validated it. I celebrated my recent birthday by going to the doctor and being reminded I’m still overweight, which I’ve been since birth (I was a 10-plus-pound baby), and going blind. I also knew this, but the old eyeballs are drying out quicker than I’ve realized.
The dread of a visit to the doctor only increases as the years do. More pills are pushed on you to numb the mind and keep everything working properly, at least physically. I take pride in the fact that I don’t have to swallow meds to get through the day, but that’s the Western way. Prozac, Zoloft and Xanax make for a balanced American breakfast, followed by servings of OxyContin and Percocet to round out a standard daily diet. This sad reality is evident in overdose deaths and addiction statistics.
I told myself before my visit that I would not give them too much information, particularly about my mental state and constant anxiety that often physically manifests itself in a tightening chest and tingling legs. At this age, I’d rather feel everything existence has to offer me than subdue it. There is a bluntness about the sobriety of being alive that I enjoy. I’ve tried to mask it through the alternative methods of excessive alcohol consumption, experimenting with drugs and meaningless sex, but that’s cheating, I began telling myself. Don’t give them too much, Justin.
The poor physician’s assistant, God bless her, who walked me through the initial steps of my physical had me read the eye chart in the hallway first. With both eyes, I could barely see the third line. I mumbled some shapes — “Uh, three bars, a star and a heart” — that were actually supposed to be letters.
“Try again,” she said.
“Um, holy hell, E, A, M.”
Then we did one eye at a time. I could only read the top line. You know, the one that has two letters the size of saucers.
“F, P,” I said with some sort of pride, but I was embarrassed. “It’s been over a year since I’ve seen the eye doctor.”
“Maybe you should go soon,” she said with sincerity, but I sensed the pity. How does someone so blind even get dressed in the morning, she must have thought. A friend recently suggested Lasik, or laser eye surgery, but that’s terrifying. Laser eye surgery sounds like a type of torture employed on the Death Star. I’ll stick with wearing magnifying lenses on my face.
Driving at night without glasses has become a public health concern, as I can barely see the front of my hood, let alone pedestrians. Wildlife darting out onto the blacktop? Forget it. Instant roadkill.
Then there’s strolling the sidewalks and walking past people I know.
“I saw you at the post office the other day.”
“Really? Did I have my glasses on?”
“Then I didn’t see you. Sorry.”
My lack of vision has also made me obtuse to any nonverbal communication, especially provocative cues through the din of a bar.
“Dude, she’s been looking at you.”
“I don’t know. She seems into you.”
“Jesus. Are you blind?”
“Just go over there.”
If I do take a third party’s word for it, then I must first apologize for literally not seeing them. By then, the magic and intrigue are gone. The moment’s passed, and I return to my drink no better or worse.
Speaking of drinking, my triglycerides are high, which essentially means my blood is also overweight.
“How often do you drink?” the doctor asked.
“Uh, usually just on the weekends. Friday, Saturday, Sunday … sometimes Thursday. Maybe a Monday here or there. But I don’t necessarily get hammered every time I go out to drink.”
“How much do you drink when you do?”
“Well, high triglycerides means too many carbs, and all alcohol, especially beer, is a big one. Practicing moderation is important.”
I know this, too, but I’m terribly impressionable sometimes when it comes to peer pressure. Doc explained that consuming more than two 12-ounce beers per session is considered binge drinking. I then admitted I’m a binge drinker.
Plus, if the triglycerides get too high, pancreatitis is a threat. Thanks to Google, I learned that means the pancreas basically tries to digest itself, which is “very painful” and often requires hospitalization for several days, doc further explained. My liver quivered. I will never touch booze again, my brain said. Putting less alcohol into my body will also lower my uric acid levels, meaning I will have fewer gout bouts.
Lord knows a gout flair up makes a man consider amputation. Every time my feet and ankles swell, I think about that scene from “Saw.” You know, the one the whole franchise is named after, when the guy with his ankle shackled to a pipe is given a handsaw in order to free himself by, well, you get it. At least my situation is not life or death, just pain relief.
The degenerate drunk early 20s version of myself gifted me a gout diagnosis last year, complete with regular blood tests. The procedure always makes me nervous and nauseous. Don’t eat anything within 12 hours of the test and drink a lot of water so your veins are as thick and juicy as earthworms, they tell me. But the physician’s assistant never taps a vein on the first shot, so I sit there like a human pin cushion with sweaty palms and a frantic heartbeat trying not pass out. I can’t look, but there’s no way to not know where they’re puncturing the skin. They typically tap my wrists and the fleshy creases inside my arms. But sometimes they’ve had to hit the back of my hand and even in between my fingers. At least I’ll never pick up heroin.
Gout is called the “disease of kings” since it was most associated with overindulgence during medieval times. Can you imagine a fat-footed king gnawing on wild boar, while watching knights joust, guffawing and carrying on among the peasants? Man, times were simpler. Gout was a status symbol back then. Now you’re a sloven. Too much drink. Too much red meat. Too much seafood. Too much too much. The pills are starting to sound like a good substitute. Maybe doc could prescribe me a beer-drinking tapeworm.
My daydream ended when doc said they’d like to test my blood again in a couple months. Instead of putting my foot down and telling him off — “Let me perish in peace, goddammit!” — I just nodded in agreement.
We are all sacks of expiring meat. We become fat and flabby, gaseous and gangrenous, dried out and dead. Slowly we rot. Sorry if that sounds so somber. It’s not a case of Cotard’s syndrome, just a fact of nature. I actually enjoy my life on this dying planet — vanishing vision, expanding waistline and all. Here’s to cutting out those carbs