Dying of Health

by Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

I’m taking a battery of vitamin pills and I feel drugged with supplementary health. My body is becoming befuddled. It has not yet learned how to assort the power I’m pushing into it. Sometimes the cod liver oil slips into the spot meant for the folic acid. So while I’m protected against insomnia, I developed a sore tongue.

I’m not sickly, or unhealthy. But people my age are always on the threshold of common or exotic diseases. Our skeletal structure begins warping and teetering. The carpentry takes on time-rot. The outside covering wrinkles and flakes and all sorts of bacteria build nests in secret places. And the plumbing leaks.

I used to believe that vitamins were for slightly odd people. People who were always sniffling and feeling the texture of their hair. Who had body odor and became terrified when their fingernails cracked too easily. Who examined restaurant spoons and food box labels to be sure they weren’t eating polyester. And now I am one of them.

If I am to get an adequate supply of vitamin D from ordinary food, I would have to eat 30 heads of lettuce a day. So I take a pill. Vitamin D is supposed to healthify my adrenals, pituitary, and sex glands. I also need iron and iodine. But a combination of bubbly blood corpuscles, a muscular pituitary, gushing adrenals, and an energetic cluster of sex glands might be inconvenient. Trying to build up my stamina, exhausts me.

Sometimes I awaken in the morning feeling like a sloshing container of minerals. Potassium, cobalt, magnesium, copper, manganese, fluorine, hydrochloric acid, phosphate, chlorophyll 2, if I continue this vitamin regime too long, I might turn into a bag of fertilizer.

I admit to being somewhat vain. I don’t want to become stooped and develop Angel-wing shoulder blades–have a wobbly-head or splayed hips and vivid varicose veins. But I’m afraid I am turning my body into a rat-maze where my chromosomes might take the path meant for my enzymes and both could become panicky and attack my bladder. But without vitamins, you buck the odds and take long risks.

So much of our food is partially plastic or hyped with synthetics that a traditional diet is no longer dependable. To get eggs fortified with authentic nutrients you have to find hens that were raised in the sunshine and who daily preen their feathers. Unless your milk comes from cows that graze on high mountain slopes, you’re merely drinking an impotent white liquid. An improper diet can shatter your nerves. But I’m so anxious about remaining tranquil, I get nervous.

I dream of vitamin pills. Some prance and romp and tap dance on my pancreas. Some time capsules split open and, like buckshot, spray my kidneys. Cylindrical pills, squat pills, rubbery, slippery, and slinky pills. Some pills suddenly swell and give birth to other pills. I’m so obsessed with remaining healthy, I’m becoming ill.

I have lost my taste for food. But when I see a juicy multiple vitamin, I salivate. I ignore the grocery and shop in the pharmacy. I stand nude before the mirror and study the color and tone of my skin. I must be certain my bloodstream is flowing into the right channels. I stroke myself and feel my texture.–Smooth as a baby’s–oh, no, I found the coarse spot. Quick! Some vitamin A and D, with a pinch of wheat germ. I feel like a ramshackle outhouse trying to become reconstituted into a stately mansion.

For years I heard that the human body was complex, but I never believed they meant my human body. Nutrition experts have determined that to gain a sufficient supply of calcium we would have to eat about 80 apples or 90 bananas a day. Or a bushel of 40 oranges, a bag of about 250 dates. To get the proper dosage of vitamins from the food we buy, we would have to get stomach transplants from the dinosaurs. A side effect of supplementary vitamin intake is hypochondria.

Vitamins have begun to change my life-style and my thought process. A platter of eggs and pancakes, with some hash browns on the side, was an average breakfast. Now it is foolish. It is minimal in nutrients. And the bulk of it leaves no room for the vitamins to wiggle through to their designations. I used to think of chapters for panoramic novels. Now I think about my bone marrow and my spleen, my bowels and my bile.

Perhaps a little sickness might be good for my health.

©2013 the estate of Leonard Bishop

(first published June 1, 1986 the Manhattan Mercury)

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