Walk as smoothly and steadily as possible, he says. Hold on to the bars if you need to, but you don't have to. Run when the belt starts to move quickly enough that you need to in order to keep your footing.
He watches threads of ink that wobble periodically over the precise lines of the graph paper, spun by the tiny twitching limbs of the EKG. I picture fastidious, no-nonsense insect stenographers animating them, far more precise and efficient than the hamsters which power foreign cars, according to the tale that an old girlfriend told me her father used to spin.
I am not fastidious, but I try to pace myself as the conveyor speeds up. The doctor is looking for anything irregular, anything erratic, any lazy movement of those lines that says my heart and lungs might try to skip beats to rest when they shouldn't, or any desperate movement that says they have to wildly throw out economical and regular motion just to keep up. While I've wondered about it from time to time -- while I've imagined I've felt my heart backpedal or pause -- I know that my body has kept up when running up the steep Foothill Road, or hiking in the Los Padres National Forest at the end of Matilija Road. And so it seems to me that the erratic pain in my abdomen, which comes and goes without any apparent logic, is probably caused by a problem somewhere else. But he's the doctor. The treadmill speeds up, and first irregularly, and then in a slow but steady exution, I sweat. I breath regularly, too. My feet keep pace.
The only off moment is caused by shoelace which comes undone. Twenty minutes later, the treadmill slows and stops. The doctor looks at the charts, reads the scroll of mock body-arabic that my heart, nerves, and the insect stenographers have written. "Well," he says, "that's not it."
Sick again. The last two days I've been ambushed by something I'd thought pushed into the background months ago, by drugs and doctor recommended supplements, and perhaps a dose of positive thinking and more-or-less right living. For the most part, I've felt really pretty good since February or so.
The above object-word writing exercise came out the word "erratic" and a visit to a doctor in California a bit over a year ago. I don't want to spend time and money chasing wild geese again, don't want to spend time trying to convince doctors to examine possibilities they're inclined to dismiss while they investigate something that seems less likely to me. Most of all, I don't want to let go of the comfort of the diagnosis rendered in December, and the apparent success of the treatment as Spring came. But even if I feel well again in a few days, I think it will be hard not to think that I should.