I Feel Fine
Marie told John to get off his ass and go for a walk like the doctor told him to.
John said he didn’t want to.
Marie insisted. She reminded John how the doctor said if he didn’t lose weight and get some exercise, he was likely to have another heart attack, and the next one might be the one to kill him.
John slid out of his recliner. He put on his sneakers and walked around the neighborhood. He returned home 15 minutes later, out of breath, sweating and limping.
“How was it?” Marie asked.
“I feel like shit,” John said. “Knees and back ache. And I’m so winded I can barely breathe.”
John got a drink and took a nap.
An hour later John got up. Marie asked how he napped.
“Terrible,” John grumbled. “I ache so much from the exercise. If you hadn’t pushed me, I could have taken a good nap.”
The next day Marie reminded her husband to walk.
John refused, saying he was too sore from the day before.
John sat in front of the television to recover.
After a few days, John felt normal again. He didn’t ache when he got out of his chair to shit. He didn’t hurt through his meals and naps and 9 hours of overnight sleep.
Marie asked him when he was going to start walking again.
John said, “I’m not. Why’d I go walking again. now that I feel fine?”
Marie said, “It’s for your health, John.”
John said, “I can’t see how it’s helping my health when I can’t sleep and can’t walk across the room without being in pain.”
“You’ll die,” Marie said.
“Well, this prescription’s got side effects,” John said. “Side effects I don’t like. I need a new prescription. I need a new medication that don’t make me sick.”
“There is none,” Marie said.
Marie left the room. There were times she wished her husband had just died of his heart attack. She realized it would be easier dealing with the dead than living with a man who was fine already being dead. It would have easier dealing with the dead than living with the excuses for already being dead. It was torture trying to care about her husband who cared nothing for himself. She realized John’s sole purpose in still being alive was to make excuses for being dead. That was the only thing John lived for anymore – his excuses for being dead. It was like a perverse game. A morbid hobby. To John, his excusers for not living were his poetry.
Marie knew that some people, given a second chance at living, might want to live. She hoped the scare might change her husband. If anything, she thought, the scare of death – an acute realization of his mortality – might change him into appreciating the gift of living. But it didn’t. She realized he’d resigned himself to death long before it came.
Marie realized, for some people, if there’s nothing they’re living for, then, in dying, there’s nothing lost. She realized even her own wellbeing wasn’t enough for John to wish to retain any quality to his living. Neither she nor their children nor grandchildren meant enough. John had abandoned it all, like a millionaire blowing everything so it wouldn’t be swindled from him in his feeble, old age or after his death. John had given up on his own terms, not anybody else’s. He’d gone broke on life on his own terms. But he hadn’t blown his fortune gloriously or recklessly. Rather, he’d let if dribble out the hole in his pocket, penny by penny, year by year. Nobody dictated to John how he lost it. John commanded it. John controlled it. His life was his to squander in his own way, and that, more than anything, gave him what little satisfaction he had in being alive.