NYC Journal #6 – Papery Lungs – Tuesday 4/14/2020
I remember the good old days, when I would walk in the four seasons down a long street and up another until I reached my office at a bit before or after 9AM, depending. I’d walk along and talk aloud to myself about how I really needed to reverse time and reinhabit the 20 year old me as he landed in the Madrid airport:
“I really need to go back to Heidelberg. I can start from Madrid. With a couple slight improvements. I need to go back to be 20 and 21, when my health was unassailable and my time flowed like wine. I’ll still sit around in bars and cafes, smoking and zoning out on the people moving around me, sharing my visual space and also the music that nods my own head, that catches my own soft underbelly, sharing it with other creatures similar enough to me that they must’ve been similarly caught.
“I’ll still do all that, zone out with cigarettes and a tea in the cafe and a drink in the bar. But less. I’ll do a lot more reading, writing, studying, practicing my German. I won’t say nearly as many stupid things. I’ll make wiser decisions about women and have more success.
“I really need to get back there. These last two decades need to be redone. But first that year in Heidelberg I must loop over and over again until I’ve had enough of zoning out with cigarettes in cafes and bars, surrounded by the hubbub, living forever in a harmless dissipation. You, see, when you’re 20, you can get away with it. You can smoke a half a pack of — in this time and place reasonably priced — cigarettes and drink a couple beers — so inexpensive! — without ill effect. Now even if I drink a few too many a little too late, the next day is shot. Now I cannot both dissipate and succeed at anything. Yes, I need to go back there/then and to have a few cigarettes most days, and ten once in a while. Is that what I did that year? Not ten, not that year. Well maybe once or twice.
I don’t remember ever waking up with papery lungs that year. That came in subsequent years. And not that often. It took a lot of cigarettes in a very smoky bar for that to happen. But even when it did happen, the papery feeling was over by the time I sat down to breakfast.
Now I’ve had papery lungs for over three weeks. And this without a cigarette in years. And without any kind of regular habit in forever.
I used to kind of like the feeling of waking up with papery lungs. It was not good. I felt that it was something of an error. But it was also kind of peaceful, and perhaps it reminded me of waking up foggy lunged during that gradeschool year when I had bronchitis over and over again. Perhaps waking up with papery lungs carries me back down the steps on that Christmas when I was too sick to comprehend my gifts, but was still surrounded by a pleasant homey comradery around our magical shared ritual. The tree. The presents. The anticipation of some several children, happy in their new pajamas, received the night before, as part of the rite, as part of the safe path leading to eternal safety and fun. And that year it was like falling asleep into that happy dream, which lent it an eternal sense.
Would I have shaken this off a week ago if there’d been no smoking? If I’d had no stretching youthful mornings with papery lungs to all appearances quickly healed, forgiving and forgetting their owner’s irresponsible caprices?
The nicest part of this forced isolation has been the lack of alcohol. The second nicest part has been the lack of dairy products. And also in there somewhere is the salutary effect of possessing almost no white flour. Oh, and a less varied diet. I was carried away with vegetables; as my brother said, “more influenced by ideas about health than about how you feel”. Too much variety and roughage confuses the gut. Also nice is never going anywhere, especially these last couple nights, when I’ve felt pretty good and so can enjoy full evenings. There’s nothing so nice as having a clear head and using it on meaningful tasks.
At this age, I feel pretty good if I behave myself, but I can’t get away with anything. Just thinking about cigarettes makes me feel nauseous, and a panic sets in. And now, after three weeks apart from alcohol, I begin to feel a similar reaction to that old favorite. It’s not that a glass of wine with dinner is folly; it’s that if I stray into three or four or more drinks at one sitting even once a week, that week is not the week it should’ve been. And that happened too often. I wasn’t getting enough done. I wasn’t using my body/mind effectively enough. How can I continue to give alcohol a rest while I try to find my feet?
But paper lungs. Paper lungs. I wish they’d stop being like this. It makes me uneasy. And am I even allowed to stay home another week? Don’t I have to be all better for sure and real by next Monday? I feel much better. I guess I’ll be all better. But why are my lungs still brittle like I’m breathing dangerously cold air?
Mucus slips up. Just a bit. All day. You swallow it. It’s kind of fun. It’s a little comforting, a little snuggly. Why? Are you back on the sofa with chicken noodle soup, Get Smart, and mom’s concern?
Being sick is only bad when you’re not going to presently get all better, or when you’re not allowed to be sick. I’ve been getting better and I’ve been allowed to work from home. I’ve had it easy.
Author: Kannich Michnicht Daranrineren
Oversight: JOS, AW, BW
There was never 20 cigarettes at once!
Maybe ten once in a great while. Right?
Usually no more than four or five in a day. Right?
Oh, who remembers?
We’d love it if you’d
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