Rolling down El Camino Real, there is nothing royal in the distance, except a royal pain in the arse. Orange worksite bunting is signaling me that some part of the way ahead is closed. Which it had better not be, not entirely, because I am not taking any shit when it comes to wheelchair access, not today. Which is a good thing. For me, definitely, and for the greater world, possibly. As for the latter, I could not care less at this moment. Out of my way. And if I do have to go out of my way for the sidewalk construction crew up ahead, they will hear a word or two from me. This will not stand. I will not stand for it. Unfortunately, I do not stand enough, it seems, a fact currently impelling me southward.
Nothing like bringing fear to life to knock the life out of fear. Thus, my right hip. Pain. Flashing and slashing down my thigh, along the back of my leg and disappearing just like the Mohave River into the California sands. Hard to say where it goes, and harder to say where it has come from, except most assuredly, hell.
Thing is, I have been moping about recently, despairing over my aging and general decline, not that I have much by way of evidence to point to in this area. Some slowing down. Some awareness of Medicare status. Taking advantage of 65+ discounts at the movies. Old, in a word. The end of what can be termed middle-age very much in sight. And psychologically? Mounting fear. Of falling in the bathroom. Of being too stiff to haul my neuromuscular self out of bed. Then being stuck there, like Oblomov. Terror of further confinement. Which has all morphed into this. Actual pain in my actual leg with actual limitations attendant.
Which is Nature’s…or my human nature’s…way of trying out the worst-case scenario. More disability. More physical failure. Can I survive? A primitive reenactment, as though consciousness is not enough. After all, I do have memory of decades of survival. Each loss laden with doom and each now behind me. And now, aging being inevitable, a matter of gathering these experiences into one expectation for the future. That the body will perform less reliably, that things will go wrong. The current belief system being more along the lines of Deming’s continuous improvement, a sort of statistical process that says that things are always failing, and those managing the process must be ever compensating.
Losing strength? Exercise more. Losing balance? Walk more frequently. Losing hope? Don’t get old…which is another matter altogether. As for the walking and the strengthening, there is some truth to it. Up to a point. And when one reaches that point surely some other statistical process must take over, one that sees the graph lines crossing…one downward pointing to indicate the body’s sheer limits, meeting another that tracks my capacity to believe in something and carry on. Will the latter point up or down?
And what of the Mohave River? The truth is that I have never seen it. Oh, I probably have actually, without knowing it. For the river crosses the Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas motorway at one point. Although almost invariably without water. The latter flows underground, if at all, almost all year round. And many years, never flows on the surface at all. And for the brief springtime of its life, the visible and frothing Mohave River only lasts for a few miles. It ends rather suddenly in something called Soda Lake. Not effervescent, of course, but dry as the potash that doubtless gives it the name. I have no real affinity for the desert. Northern European genes don’t harmonize with arid sands and sagebrush. Too bad. It happened anyway, my birth, and the fact that thinking about my life’s end brings me back to the beginning, and the mystery of life and water and how either can be there at all in the Mohave Desert…well, that is enough. Enough for this day. Perhaps for all.