On A Day Like Today
“So, how are you feeling now?”
I have been jogging for thirteen minutes. I am jogging on a treadmill in a small, flourescent lit room at Lenox Hill Cardiology on 84th & Third Avenue. I am shirtless, tethered by ten wires to a PC. I am beginning to break a sweat. Dr. Donna Ingram is watching me carefully. Her assistant, Latrise, has her left hand poised below the small of my back in the event the treadmill shakes me. I watch the spikes on my EKG: 140… 143… 142…
“Um, other than the fact that I never run on a treadmill, fine.”
“No chest pain?”
She increases the incline, and pace.
Less than an hour prior to my stress test, my dermatolgist, Dr. Emily Prosise, took a look at a few new facial oddities: a recent and random bald spot in my beard, and a small sore in the corner of my mouth.
“That little patch of skin is alopecia areata. Don’t worry about it. It’s an immune system thing. Basically, your white blood cells are kind of ganging up on the cells that create hair growth. It’s pretty common. My husband’s gotten it. It’s usually caused by stress.”
She smiled, injected my chin with a few shots of cortisone, and scribbled a scrip.
“The thing in the corner of your mouth is from stress too. You’re body is generating too much yeast. A few days of Loprox will take care of that. We probably have some samples lying around.”
She pauses, jotting notes onto her clipboard.
“Everyone’s stressed these day,” she says. “So what do you do?”
Fourteen minutes into my stress test, my hearbeat finally reaches 160 bpm.
“So how are you feeling now?”
One minute later, Dr. Ingram takes a final glance at a ream of paper strewn with tell-tale heartbeat tracings.
“Your resting heart rate is 60 bpm, 10 beats lower than average. Your blood pressure is 110/60. That’s great. It took you three times longer for you to reach 160 beats per minute than average. So you’re heart is fine. Keep running. And good luck on the marathon.”
A few moments later, I am alone. I wipe my forehead with a rough, white towel that reeks of bleach. I sit a moment on the examining table. Suddenly, I feel very old.
Within ten seconds of stepping out onto Third Avenue, I can tell something is going on. Everyone’s on their cell phone. Everyone’s looking up. Helicopters are circling. Sirens are sounding. I walk downtown, headphones on, music off. I call the office. Jonathan tells me the news: a small plane has hit an apartment building on 72d & York.
“One block from Abbi’s,” I say.
“Right across the street from Torrie,” he says.
I walk past 72d, darting through the gathering, gawking crowd. I resist the temptation to look up. I resist the urge to walk to the scene. I just keep walking.
By the time I reach Times Square, a light drizzle is falling. The sky is a greasy shade of gray. Helicopters dot the uptown skyline like vultures. Tourists shuffle slowly on the sidewalk. Taxis crawl through the teeming streets. I race through it all — headphones on, music off — stressed.