A late-September night in Harlem. Cool, breezy, humid, less autumnal than vernal. I was bowling forth at the mercy of my dogs’ enthusiasm for Broadway’s mélange of smells and waves of fresh passersby – when without warning I broke into a profuse sweat, rushing up through my pores like groundswells. Tremors were quick to follow, then a hunger so violent I believed it truly insatiable. I hurried home and ushered the pups up the stairs – begrudging them an obligatory stop at the second-floor’s apartment door, where after each walk they express their wish to live there now, rather than up another flight. They will do this throughout the duration of our lease, and I will laugh. But not tonight. Tonight was not the time for smiles.
We had company, one of Katie’s fellow teaching artists whose birthday is the same as my mom’s. One of this year’s birthday gifts was a cruel reminder of the universe’s cold indifference: her apartment building had caught fire, so she was staying with us for a few days as repairs were being made. None of which was on my mind at present. Stumbling around in a starved frenzy, I poured some of Katie’s vegetable soup and tore off massive chunks of Italian bread. I smashed the bread into the soup and inhaled the soggy stodge as if I were Kobayashi during the final stages of Nathan’s hot dog contest, lubricating as a means of sheer efficiency. It’d been mere minutes since I’d come up from the street, yet my shirt was soaked in a chemical sweat. Katie’s words of concern blurred in my ears. I was confused. I was told something about being very pale.
But the body of Christ had transmuted into these sweet simple carbs, performing arcane miracles on my malfunctioning sugar systems. Though exhausted and covered in calcifying sweat, I felt far better. If it weren’t obvious enough already, a simple search for three or four keywords provided uniform results: Hypoglycemia, med-speak for a sudden plummet in my glucose levels.
And then it struck again, this past Saturday. I was walking along the Brooklyn Bridge piers, toward a pop-up shop for banned books, where I was to meet a literary peer also named Katie, who works at Riverhead, one of Penguin Random House’s literary imprints. Significant swaths of Brooklyn have become absurdly posh, as if designated for a vast menagerie of yuppie families to mimic their natural habitat. This only exacerbated my Lynchian level of disorientation. I remember doing my best to maintain equanimity as I greeted Katie, counting out a socially acceptable number of seconds before I might be able to ask if any food was available. Sweat, shakes, and a baleful hunger threatened Vesuvius-like. I blurted something about food and where might it be? Katie directed me to a foldout table amid the promenade’s sprawl of rough-hewn flagstone. Perhaps the coconut water was a distillation of Moses, or Tom Hanks in Cast Away, for after chugging two bottles, the positive velocity of my glucose levels made me believe we might accomplish anything given the right set of tools, but to what end?
I’d called my primary doctor a day prior to this second episode. For reasons unknown, she delegated my appointment to a partner who was striking, smart, and competent — the sort of doctor that childhood TV programs made you believe were ubiquitous, until you grew up and realized that any armchair PhD can Google remedies for life’s various maladies. But this doctor, she lived up to those halcyon expectations. Perhaps she was AI. Either way, my questions were volleyed back with deeper questions until we reached some axiomatic solutions, and my paranoia dissolved into a broader view of potential causes for my symptoms.
Still, I was thirteen pounds underweight, and my weight never wavers. I tried to lighten the mood by speaking on ethnic origins with the Polish blood nurse and referencing 40 Year Old Virgin’s waxing scene as the nurse-in-training watched the head nurse apply adhesive strips for an EKG. Their laughter delineated a genuine desire to soothe my worries. Then the head nurse told a horrifying story about her kids going missing from the supermarket and having to call the cops, who instructed her to wait at home while friends and family scoured the streets. I somewhat expected a lesson would be dangling at the end of her yarn, as if I were a guest star on a hospital sitcom whose every scene imparts a teleological lesson or glib morsel of insight. In the end, her kids came home, she was too relieved to be angry, and I was fortified in the notion that, for me, having children would be like a bad acid trip.
While awaiting the results of my bloodwork, I’ve lost another three pounds — but no more glucose crashes. The past month has seen perhaps one too many rye whiskeys circle the esophageal drain, the occupational hazard of entrepreneurial hobnobbing. To think that I’m soon to add an Adderall prescription feels like the prospect of acquiring a second penis. As in, is this really necessary? Probably not, but let’s see what happens.
The lesson here is obvious. But it’s difficult to pace myself just as our literary embryo is passing into the womb. Aspirations to launch Dead Rabbits mid-January, in two or more cities, and to expand its eponymous reading series to said cities, require too many tasks to list here — and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. Every day is like a fugue state of ecstatic risk. It’s what being alive feels like.
I’ve always left my cranial door open to instinct, prepared for the Id to bluster in at any moment with urgently visceral advice. This past month has been a process of packaging for FDA approval this interaction of deliberation and impulsivity — as if I’ve manipulated the pharmacology of my opposing drives to cobble a productivity pill. Taking this analogy to its logical terminus, I’ll probably skew the lab results in its favor. Since my appointment with the uber-doctor on Monday, I’ve lost another three pounds. We’ll see what my marketing team can come up with.
We live in a society that worships at the altar of productivity, and our prophets are Those Who Excel. We manipulate our internal and external environments with the hope that we’ll beat the market — despite that the overwhelming majority those who attempt to do so will inevitably fall short. Indeed, capitalism turns us into biological hedge funds, trading on chemical derivatives, risky futures, and the occasional default swap. That which is existentially axiomatic is often dressed in palliative convenience, which makes rappers’ claims to ‘realness’ seem all the more absurd. Furthermore, us biological hedge funds are prone to flash-crashes, protracted recessions, and bouts of irrational exuberance. If we can’t tolerate the risk, we consider cashing out altogether. But I’m more of a Bobby Axelrod type, which I can say without having taken a fucking quiz re which character I am on Billions. Which is to say, I enjoy risk, despite its unsavory effects like stress, anxiety, and I hope hypoglycemia, or else I’m going to have to start putting my affairs in order.
As Kanye once rapped, “I don’t do it for my health, man / I do it for the belt,” which, in this case, is the success of our holistic and collaborative literary press: Dead Rabbits.
Till later, friends. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to my infrequent yet fun-packed newsletter, and stay tuned for updates on Dead Rabbits and my forthcoming novel!