I awoke yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m. with one of the worst cases of gastrointestinal misery I’ve endured in many a year. I’ll spare you the gory details and leave it to say that for awhile, seriously nasty things were coming out of both my intake and exhaust ends. Even to this moment, my gut is tight and uncomfortable.
Some years ago, a tenant in our building whose wife had died after a short illness. When I had the chance to speak with him about it months later, he said, “She was complaining of a pain in her gut on a Friday evening. She took some antacids on Saturday but when she wasn’t better by Monday morning, we took her to a doctor. By Tuesday afternoon, she’d been given a death sentence: pancreatic cancer. Within six weeks, she was dead.”
My first book, The Spine of the Virginias, was dedicated to Stuart McGehee, a history professor from Bluefield, West Virginia. Stuart’s input was absolutely critical to my understanding of the formation of West Virginia from Virginia during the Civil War. Stuart is dead now, the victim of suicide which he apparently decided to inflict upon himself when he learned he had pancreatic cancer.
It has been a busy last few weeks in the obituary pages. A friend from college lost his mother. A friend from Seattle lost her dad. A former insurance agent died. I spoke with my mom and she said she lost four friends within a month. She said the death of friends is an occupational hazard of growing old.
Meanwhile, I’m reading a book called The Road (which was also made into a movie) about a man and his son in an apocalyptic time, journeying to an unnamed destination southward. The book gives no reasons why society has disintegrated and I suspect there will be no real resolution. I’m reading it for two reasons: to try to learn some techniques from an established fiction writer and to understand this novelist’s perspective on what a societal collapse might look like. I have a new novel starting to form in my head and it will have elements of a societal collapse.
Since yesterday morning, I’ve been spending lots of time lying on my back. Sleeping has been a hit-or-miss proposition. I sleep when I’d like to be awake and I’m awake when I’d like to be sleeping. The dreams are vivid and mostly painful, due to the tightening of my gut. Physical pain seems to spawn subconscious turmoil. There are many dreams about illness and death. All of us will die someday but we all hope the pain associated with it will be minimal.
I think to myself that if the pain doesn’t subside within another day or two, I’ll go see my doctor. If I have a stomach virus, I’ll be better soon. But then again, if I have cancer, no cure will be available. Join me next week…