"No more let life divide
what death can join together"
After two years I awoke from my vegetative state. By awake I mean simply that awareness returned, unsought. Thoughts. A disembodied thought, rootless, homeless, without voice, without self, floating on the wind of some ether. Poorly formed. But not innocent either. A mind without flesh, adrift and vagrant is the loneliest thing in the Universe.
I didn't open my eyes. I don’t think. No, I'm sure, because I did not know I had eyes. I did not move. I did not cry. I lay as I was, as I had been for two years and as I would remain after. An inert log. How had they kept me alive? This act of faith, like attending an altar of compassion, with some everlasting memorial flame that must be kept lit? Not letting the vegetable man die because it was unethical, not because he was a feeling creature, but simply because he continued to breathe on his own even though his brain was silent. Why did they keep me alive?
I didn't open my eyes because I did not know I should. And when realization came, I could not. They were open by themselves. Light entered but I did not know light as a fish does not know water. What are eyes? I simply felt myself. My unbound, untethered presence. And then I did not. There was not death just as there is not sleep. There is here. Then there is not here. Then there is here.
There was that point where I began, where I felt, yes, here I am. I kept that feeling grasped tight, did not let go and so brought the curse of existence on myself unbroken for the next year. Like a toy balloon snagging itself in a tree branch and believing it might stay and experience itself as a balloon in this new way in the wind, trying to recapture the feeling of having its string once held in the fist of a child.
With being came not pain, but the realization of inertia. I had a body, yes, fingers and toes, yes. But move I could not. I was a prisoner in my flesh, each limb heavy as coffin-board, with only my thoughts as the boundaries to show myself I existed. The form of my being had lost all fixed boundaries and without boundaries we are lost. First came weight, the weight of bone and blood. Then the light in my eyes, as I said. Then sounds, at first unintelligible, then with the effort of making sense, of trying to understand my tiny, tiny, nut shell of a world.
Did my body love me? Does a spirit hope that there is a kindness to the body it clings to not to simply waste away and abandon it to wander the earth as a ghost? You can't call it dignity. The body knows nothing of dignity and death is a natural act. Natural acts may be filled with swooning pleasure or hellish pain, but never with dignity.
And so I lay in my bed, in a room whose walls I could not view or take in except as some person would come in and turn me over or change my diapers. There's your dignity for you. Why did they keep me alive? Would I have done that for another human being? Turned over on my side, I saw one wall. Turned over on my other side I saw another wall, yet could not blink my eyes to tell anyone that a soul now looked out of them.
Someone came in the room, someone whose voice I should know. I heard the steps, saw the face of another human being above mine, peering down at me, an aging woman who knew me. I knew that she knew me, and knew of me because she said in a soft voice "I wish you would just die."
And she was gone.
Oh - these were the words of a goddess. Words of a revelation. Someone who knew me, the keeper of my flame all this time. And with this face, and these words like a curse born of heart weariness, things came back to me. That was my mother who had just wished me dead.
Within the living tomb of my attended body my thoughts became more and more alive. It had been a disease. So the body was intact. No broken bones, only a body with the lines permanently down. In my room a radio was on a hip-hop station and hours passed in this solitary confinement. I cannot tell you how much I began to hate Beyonce.
I have climbed mountains. I have broken bones. I was not born to be fed from a tube or shit in a diaper. In this state of mind without body I became desperate for death. And when death would not come, oblivion. And when oblivion would not come, desperate to move. To give a sign of life. To move a finger. My eyes. My tongue. Anything. The dignity of owning my flesh. I became obsessed with the thought that if I could move something, anything at all they would know I was alive.
Light and dark passed. Women came and went, outside my vision, always women, their hands on me, yet not filling me with longing, but only to turn me over, to undo the indignity of natural acts of defecation and piss and the occasional bed sore. In the beginning I did not feel their hands only their presence. The very first sign that something was possible was the afternoon I felt a hand touch the skin of my inner thigh as a diaper was removed. I had not felt human touch or any touch but for an instant touch had returned and vanished.
But the mind does not stop. Even when it is entombed, it does not stop. My thoughts were constant. I wanted to silence them, I wanted oblivion, but it was never given to me. Only the monkey yammer of thoughts. And then something happened. Something I should have expected. The next best thing.
I left my body.
Or at least that's how I explain it. I had thought, hoped, death had come to me, as a relief for the keepers of my flame as much as for me, to end the drudgery of my nurses and the grief of my mother. But it was not exactly death.
It began with an electric tingle from the top of my head which grew to my feet and I felt it like a strong bar of heat transfixing my body. I wanted it to be death, easeful death; to mentally position myself to let whatever was happening happen and not get in the way of it, like a man trying to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. The tingling continued and began to morph into serious pain and I prayed that this would be the thing at last breaking my delicate bindings forever.
And then I was a bird.
Of all things. Why a bird?
I was only flying, moving my wings, holding my wings in the wind, my eyes moving constantly, thinking as a bird thinks in the constant rushing fugue of the moment, without past or future, feeling without thinking. Carried on the wind, primitive.
And then I was back in my prison-flesh. The nurse turned me over, pulled down the diaper, check my tubes, washed me.
Washed me. I felt the cold water down there like a revelation. I could feel her hand moving over my thighs, my balls, my ass, washing me down. I wanted to move my tongue. I wanted to weep with shame, gasp out my gratitude and my apology for her having to deal with my nastiness down there which in fact I could clearly smell. But oh - the feeling of cold and wet and movement, the rough rasp of the cloth washing me, the sting of the sores on my ass, oh, these sensations were better than prayer.
I saw my new nurse, the one washing down my ass, for the first time when she leaned over my face and peered into my dead eyes and held an eye dropper over them Some kind of burning water fell into my vision and her face swam under the wet and blur. I wanted to blink, to move my eyes, to give something back. I felt the water run from my eyes and for a moment enjoyed the memory of my tears. When her face swam and blurred and was gone I longed for her face. Felt an agony of longing to see a female face. She moved me onto the flat of my back which made it harder to breath. I stared at the ceiling and examined the familiar constellation of cracks there and waited for her to appear again like an angel and she did not. I felt myself began to drift into pieces of awareness floating in the air like ice.
She left. She turned out the lights. I floated. I floated trying with all my might, with all my mind, to move my tongue. And could not.
I don't know how it was decided, anymore than how it was decided I would previously inhabit a bird, but I flew through the murk. Trees. Branches, the smell of wood smoke, moving, the moon behind clouds, shining, a house, two stories, looming, and then myself approaching. Somehow the house seemed to be shaking like jelly. And then it was me that was shaking.
On the bed. On my back, looking up at the ceiling of a bedroom with my legs out and my arms out and sensations between my legs. Pressure rhythmically pressing down on my belly, whap whap whap, umph umph umph, and then a man, a man is here and I'm looking past his bobbing, bony shoulder, a little bored, at the cracks in a ceiling. My breasts sway, his breath in my face smelling of Doritos, eyes squinched shut with the feverish intensity of his labors, the hair of his belly brushing up against my belly as drops of sweat fall down onto me from his neck. Umph umph umph. His hairy thighs moving slow between mine, yet I don't feel him. Its not my cup of tea, what's happening, but I long to feel something, anything. He trembles, rises up on his hands pressing harder into my groin, arches his back, tenses and sighs. Well, okay, if you must. Above him his ceiling has a crack shaped like the number seven. My room, I remember now, has a cracked shaped like a man with a cane.
And then, with that fatal remembrance, I'm back.
I sleep. I wake. I wake thinking of the man, thinking of the woman. I think of the woman looking up and wishing I were that man trying to hard to pork her. Was it real? Still, I long to move.
Thinking of the man, wishing I could be him, I feel a thick pressure below I can't quite recognize. But it feels nice. Its different to feel something down there.
Lights on, steps, a woman humming. Nurse - oh nurse! Touch me. Touch me, please touch me, see me, please see me. The face appears over me, a new nurse I think. She holds the eye dropper over my eyes, ice cold drops fall, stinging as they hit, burning, wanting to blink them away. Tears running down the sides of my face into my ears.
"Hey there, handsome," she says cheerfully like a waitress in a diner bringing me coffee. "How we feeling this morning - whoa. What's that?"
She touches the pressure. Runs her hand over and I feel her hand, and for the first time, in endless time I feel it. From here in Hell, I feel pleasure.
She leans over, looks into my face, close enough that I feel the breath of her nostrils on my lips. "What's gotten into you this morning, honey?" she says. "Can you hear me?"
I struggle. Oh I struggle. With my soul, like Jacob wrestling with the angel of God, I wrestle with my tongue, my eyes, I can't even tremble. But by God, from Hell's heart - I have a boner.
"Can you hear me?" she says sternly, almost shouting.
I try to move my tongue. I think my eyes move, I don't know.
"I know about you," she said. "I was studying in school a while back about folks like you. Locked In Syndrome. That's what they call it. Syndrome is the medical practitioner's professional term for 'What the Fuck?' Okay? It's anything we don't know."
The bed sags under me, I can feel it. I can feel that. She's leaning her weight on it, getting in close. Her voice close to my ear. "You're alive down there. You know, sometimes a corpse will get a boner from blood gathering? But you're not a corpse. Not yet. What are you? What's going on in there? Can you blink your eyes?"
I try I try I try.
I'm in Hell. This is Hell. That's the difference between Hell and Purgatory. It's not Hell until you try to fight it. Hell is where you push back.
She's sitting on the bed. I can't see her, but I'm pulled in by her gravity. Shifting my bones. Her hand brushes me down there where I can't see. Gives the pressure a sweet little squeeze.
"Yup," she says.
Her hand touches my cheek. She's thinking.
"Um-hmn," she says.
I think I blinked my eyes. I'm not sure.
"There's someone in there," she says. "You just need a reason to come out. Something to shake you up. Maybe a cold bath?"
She begins undressing me. I sigh with defeat. But the pressure continues. When my last piece of clothing drops on the floor, the undressing sounds continue.
"Let's shake things up a bit," she says. "Give them something to talk about." Her voice is trembling.
The bed creaks. The bed sags. Knee on the left of me. Knee on the right of me. Pinkness above. My eyes are still full of whatever medicine she put on them. I want to see and I can't.
I want to see what's on going on. I want it so bad.
I want it so bad I blink.
She freezes. Holding her breath. Looking down. "Son of a bitch," she whispers.
I can see. I blinked.
She leans over me. She is nude. There is a nude woman hovering over me. Middle aged. Slight wrinkles in the bare decolletage. Her matronly breasts, skinny thing, dangling down, dark nipples to either side of my face.
"Do that again, handsome."
I try. I try to open my mouth. All I want in the whole world is to speak. I try to move my lips, I just can't locate them in space.
"Let's do this," she says. "Let's give you something to look at."
Hands and knees, she crawls up, up and over, knees touching my rib cage, then crossing to each side of my shoulder, positioning herself above me.
An aroma. Salty, sweet and carnal. Shadow covering me like a blanket, her torso over my face.
I want to see. More than life, more than anything, more than existence, I want to see this woman.
Rich pubic hair. The shadow of slender belly drawing out of my vision. Her vagina. Bare. Open. Natural. An act of nature with no dignity, like me, pure and brazenly itself. A woman's pink, glistening vagina is hovering just above my eyes, descending. Lowering. Brushing. The lips brushing my lips. Tasting her. Taste. Lifting a little. Teasing. Taste - please! Give me taste! Give me!
"C'mon, baby," she whispers. "I know you can hear me."
Her vaginal lips touching mine. If I could only. . . If I could . . . Must. . .
My lips part. My tongue reaches out, touches, tastes, this woman.
Oh woman. Oh, what woman is.
I shake. I move. The spell broken by love's most special kiss.
"Thank you," I hear myself say.