A midlife assessment.

Department of complaints.
Aug. 18 2005 12:17 PM

Midlife Assessment

Cataloging my ruination.

(Continued from Page 1)

Not long ago, after playing a marathon game of Wiffle ball with my son, a strange lump formed in the palm of my right hand. I noticed the lump the next day when I ran my hand over my bald head and in some weird sensory mistake thought that the lump—a brain tumor?!?—was on the skull. I looked in the mirror at my head, didn't see any tumor, and then looked at my hand and saw a lump the size of a marble. Something about the way I grabbed the plastic Wiffle-ball bat must have inflamed the sensitive tendons in my hand. It's a painful lump, and it announces itself when I grasp the steering wheel while parallel parking. The benefit, though, of this palm-lump pain is that it distracts me temporarily from my neck pain.

My stomach is actually good these days. In 2001, I had irritable bowel syndrome brought on by heartbreak and was seriously thinking of getting fitted for a diaper. I was a walking scatological time bomb. But my heart healed and my intestines followed suit. My libido is down by about 40 percent, but this is probably a blessing, though my weakened sex drive may be linked to the existential displacement described above.

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The lower third of my body, I have to say, is also in excellent shape, except that my right ankle is frozen and probably in the early stages of arthritis, but debilitation-wise it's nothing to write home about. Not yet anyway.

Well, I've run out of body parts, and I'm rather relieved. If I had any more depressing limbs or organs to discuss, I might not have been able to finish writing this catalogue of my ruination. I have noted that my disintegration, like some kind of spreading tree rot, has only reached my ribs, where the Kafka-esque hole is. I don't think there's anything I can do to stop this rot from spreading further, but at least I can watch its progress, as I might watch the lengthening of a shadow at the end of the day as light fades and darkness predominates.

Jonathan Ames is the author of five books. His most recent is the novel Wake Up, Sir!