(Un)comfortably Numb

My clothes were in a pile at the foot of the bed. My wrist hurt, my stomach burned, and my head ached. And as I began to piece together the night before, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to fight back.’

I woke up on the couch. The room was dark. The clock read 5:19. The floor was littered with debris: an empty carton of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche, a half finished bottle of Gatorade, three remote controls, my socks, boots and belt.

I stood quickly and stumbled up the spiral staircase. My heart was racing and my head was spinning when I reached the top of the stairs. I stumbled, collapsed to my knees, fell forward onto my space heater, and regained my wits just seconds before actually blacking out. I peeled off my jeans and t-shirt, and tumbled into bed. Laying there, I thought, ‘You’re too old for this shit.’

It was, I think, the third margarita…

Abbi had gathered six of her closest college friends and their respective husbands and sibblings at Zarela, a festive, authentic Mexican restaurant on Second Avenue. I was a bit nervouse; it was a large group, most of whom I’d never met, all of whom had known Abbi for years. Still, I sat myself at the head of the table, ordered mine rocks, no salt, and settled in for the Q&A.

“How did you two meet?”

“How long have you been dating?”

“And what do you do?”

Two hours, three margaritas (which Zagat’s describes — I’ve only just now read — as “deadly”), many questions and a delicious (if gastronomically challenging) order of Cochinita Pibil (Yucatan-style pork shoulder marinated with achiote and sour oranges, slow cooked, then served in a banana leaf with a red onion, habanero chile and orange relish) later, we staggered into the February night.

Thirty minutes and on pint of Harp after that, shouting something about perofrming Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” for a birthday party of fourth graders with my high school band, Neoteric Youth, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to go.’

Fast forward to eight o’clock this morning. The sun was painfully bright. The sky was clear blue. I lay there in bed, feeling fat, sore, and slow. And I thought, ‘I am fat, sore, and slow. I have to fight back.’

I climbed into my tights (two pair: it is 23° outside after all), laced up my Asics, pulled on my Turtle Fur hat and fleece gloves, and started running.

I visited my orthopedist, 45-year-old Iron Man Triathlete Dr. Mark Klion, on Friday. He x-rayed my knee, then restated his October prognosis.

“You’re still wrestling with quadricep tendinitis. Basically, the fibers that connect you quadricep and your knee cap are messed up. With your injury, the strain is the greatest during eccentric muscle contractions — when your muscles are lengthening — like running down hills and stairs. Stretching will work, and weights will work. Do you have much experience with weights?”

“Dude,” I said, “I run, that’s all. For ten years, all I’ve done is run. Very little gym, very few weights, and not much by way of being preventative. Basically, my 35-year-old body is refusing to do what my 25-year-old body did no sweat.”

“100% then, let’s get you into some PT, and maybe even a personal trainer. Meanwhile, I’ll remind you that there is some chance of the quad rupturing if you mis-step, but that usually happens out of the blue — that is, with no previous injury — and to older age groups.”

Fast forward to nine o’clock this morning. I am gleefully sprinting through The Ramble, hurdling fallen trees, darting down hills, leaping across streams, and climbing stone staircases. The sun is warm on my chest. My head begins to clear. And as I stride towards home, I think to myself, ‘This is the best that I’ve felt in two months.’

I am not healed. The winter is not over. And there are sure to be challenges ahead. But I can fight back. I’ve done it before.

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