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 An associate of mine is running in a marathon this weekend. Let me say that again. She is running in a marathon. She is not driving it. She is not taking a cab. She isnít even riding a bike. Sheís running it. Like, with her feet.

This is unfathomable. People who run in marathons are outside of my frame of reference. I live in a world of alcohol, nicotine, order-in burritos, and free downloads. A few of my friends belong to gyms, but few go that often, and the ones who do partake under a strange code of silence, sneaking it in on occasional mornings, brought up sparingly, lest those snotty pseudo-intellectuals among us, those rotting away, scoff or scowl. Youíre the type of person who exercises? Good for you. Tell us how your latte is, or how chipper Matt and Katie were this morning. Howís your Ikea furniture treating you, anyway?

I have helped foster this mindset, I admit. My mind is always balancing so many issues and difficulties and fears and worries that it seems strange that self-preservation, actually taking care of myself, never seems to enter the picture. It occurs to me, during rare moments of introspection, that I am on the fast track to death. My eating habits are horrendous, still at one meal a day, usually a slice of pizza or a couple cheap hot dogs from the stand across the street. I drink a glass of chocolate milk in the morning, I guzzle Diet Coke all day, and itís either beer or Scotch in the evening, depending on whether or not Iím writing. I smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds a day. And physical exertion is limited to masturbation and running to catch a leaving subway train, sometimes simultaneously. And vitamins? Please. Next thing you know, youíll want me to start eating carrots or something. A friend once pointed out to me that the only aspect of medical prevention I explored were condoms.

And itís not like I have some sort of superhuman fortitude. My family history is not good. The Leitch men are notorious for dying young; no Leitch male in direct lineage has ever lived past 65. Think about that. 65. I think Congo and Afghanistan have better life expectancies. My father was on blood pressure medication in his early thirties. My grandfather had four heart attacks and lung cancer. The Leitches are, essentially, toast. My life insurance policy, I suspect, will have a New York Lottery logo on there.

A few months ago, when my jobís insurance kicked in, under the suggestion of a girlfriend in the medical industry, I decided to visit the doctor for a routine physical. I hadnít been in more than two years. I will confess to having a problem with doctors. If thereís something seriously wrong with me, to be honest, Iíd rather just not know. Whenever Iíve scraped my knee or something, and thereís blood running down, Iíd prefer just to wipe it off with a napkin and worry about cleaning it when Iím in the shower the next day. (True, I swear. I recently seriously banged up my left knee sliding into first base — which you should never do — while playing softball. I finished the game with blood pouring down into my sock, dyeing it completely. I put nothing on my leg, not even a Band-Aid, and it of course became infected. I was limping for a week afterward.)

So, the doctor knew I was trouble from the outset. He asked all the right questions: Did I smoke, did I have any history of heart trouble, do I take drugs, so on, what not. He then took my blood pressure, listened to my lungs, and even made me drop my pants and cough. (I did find it strange, actually, that he had his wife do that, and that he filmed it. But, I dunno, I guess thatís normal.) He left the room for a while and came back with this big chart. He pointed to this number, and this number, and this number. I was hung over, so I was having difficulty paying attention. He finally laid it out for me.

ďWilliam, you have the blood pressure of a moderately healthy man. A moderately healthy 65-year-old man.Ē

He then explained how I should quit smoking, and eat more fruit, and try to leave the house a bit more. I chuckled. A 65-year-old man? Sucker. Iím not even going to make it to 65. Youíd think he would have recognized that from my family history. Freaking quack.

He sent me on my way, and I have paid his advisements little mind. And since Iíve been single, without anyone to get on my case about only eating raisins over a two-day span, I canít imagine Iím any healthier. But, really, thatís fine. I mean, Iím not obscenely obese, I donít do heroin, and I donít play with guns. Thatís about as health-conscious as Iím going to get.

Whenever I get down on myself, when everything just seems wrong and helplessly muddled and soiled, when it appears I will never be able to do anything right, I can just step back and take a deep breath and gain that precious perspective. After all, this life, inevitably, wonít last too long.

So, bottoms up!



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