It’s late and I’m tired. I cannot be sure how much of this is stream of consciousness, or just the rattling around of things in my head. Jumbled and distorted by the medications that have brought me back from the dead. No one could accuse me of thinking straight these days. And I cannot be sure how much is real.
I spend the day with a tube plumbed into my arm, attached to a pump, the pump attached to a plastic jellyfish looking thing filed with the latest results of medical science. I am nauseous, tired and sweaty. But I try to sit comfortably in an overstuffed recliner, like the other patients, each attached to their own intravenous “jellyfish”, sitting in our own alcoves, in various states of numbness. It is like some bizarre party where everyone is high, but no one is enjoying themselves. It is quiet except for the beeping of pump alarms as the “jellyfish” run dry and the hum of the air conditioner. Occasionally, someone shambles by, dragging their “pet”, and they make their way to relieve themselves, our eyes meet briefly, and we understand each other.
There is a lot of false bravado here. NFL locker rooms have nothing on this. The sick and dying cling to life, miserable as it is, by trying to smile their way through it. They joke about their hair falling out, the nausea, the vomiting and the jaundice. A gallows humor fills the place, because if you can’t laugh at this situation, sitting here using poison to kill parts of yourself that are killing other parts, what can you laugh at.
My jellyfish is finally drained of its essential bodily fluids, and the fastidiously neat Jamaican nurse unplugs its long plastic tendril form my body. I sit, freed at last, and almost too tired to get up. I heave myself on to my feet, fight the sudden wave of nausea, and breathe in and out. My head clears. I begin the long walk out.
I see an older woman, who I swore had blonde hair when I came in, now bald. Her skin is the color of old parchment, jaundiced and covered in bruises. The left side of her face is slack. I don’t know what she’s got, but she has a slew of jellyfish on her pole. She looks like she has been through all kinds of hell, I could only guess at what her diagnosis is and what her prognosis is going to be. I give her that wink and whiplash smile that’s worked on every girl since I was sixteen. “Take it easy love.” I say in a jaunty tone. She smiles, wanly.
There is a young woman in her late teens or very early twenties; she would be pretty if she wasn’t almost grey. She’s reading that book about glittery vampires. Suddenly, I can see her ultimate fantasy. She would give anything to be a glittery vampire too. She would give anything, not to be here, not to be sick, not to be plugged into this infernal damned beeping jellyfish, slowly poisoning her, so that she can live. She wants to be pretty again, go to parties, to live…even if it means being a glittering vampire.
I meander through the labyrinthine hallways, finally reaching the outside world. It is balmy and wet. The air is thick, humid, it smells like life. It smells of civilization, and green living things. It is good. I suck it in. Finally I collapse in the driver’s seat of my car. My head is vibrating; it feels like it will shake apart. The meds are kicking out. I drive home, carefully. My arms are so scared with needle marks that any cop that pulls me over will think that I am a junkie for sure.
I collapse, finally in my bed. My wife and children rumble around me like tornadoes, each a swirling mass of chaos that I, in my fatigue, am almost oblivious to. Later I awake, and write this. Not a dream, not a nightmare, some place where faces and time are distorted, memory is warped and reality becomes relative.