Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Adonais: A Homeless Story

                 "No more let life divide
                       what death can join together"

                                  From "Adonais"
                                   Percy Shelley

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 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.



  1. Wow! The curative power of sex can't be is one of the strongest urges we feel, next to hunger for food and drink. Yet every religion in the world mostly ignores food and drink, but creates an industry out of trying to control sex. Sad, really.

    Very interesting character study. Did you ever read "Johnny Got His Gun"? I think I read it in junior high. It was about a young man in WW1, who is so severely injured that his arms and legs are blown off, as is most of his face. He has no lips or mouth to use to speak. The entire book is about his memories, his desire to die, and ultimately his need to somehow let his caregivers know he is still conscious. That's what this made me think of.

    It's a horrifying thought...being so reduced. Much scarier to me than vampires or demons, since I don't believe in them. Thanks for sharing. Now I feel better about my least I'm not dealing with this!

  2. Oh Garce! This is a monumental act of imagination. Incredible!

    It reminded me, a bit, of the novel The Bridge by Iain Banks, which takes place mostly in the head of a guy in a coma.

    But he doesn't write nearly as well as you.

  3. Hi Fiona!

    Definately we need somthing to shake us up, and as you mentioned before we need to eb touched. I was thinking in terms of shocking risk as a way of waking the man up. Real world any nurse who tried this would risk her job and maybe her freedom. I like to think her fear and tension and excitement at her own daring might have created a current to the man.

    I had a copy of "Johnny Got His Gun" whenI was in high school but I don't remember much about it except the idea that the man gradually woke up and discovered parts of him missing. I think about that too. What does life become when a person is phsycially reduced and even locked in? Or the brain is surgically divided and there is discovered two personas and two realities existing side by side? For some reason that really scares me.


    1. The idea of 2 beings in one mind, has been called "the bicameral mind", and is one of the hallmarks of consciousness. It's been written that early man must have thought there was actually another person in his mind, when "conversations" took place in his head. In that way he "invented" gods who were intruding into his life--or guiding it, depending on your view. In reality, that was what Freud called the ego and id arguing, or what is depicted in cartoons as the "good angel" and the "bad angel"...of course the bad one is on the left shoulder, since that's the side Satan favors, which is why you always need to toss spilled salt over your left shoulder --you need to blind him so he can't steal your soul.

      Yes, I must agree with you that the idea of losing my mind frightens me more than anything. I cared for both of my parents until their died, but Dad's was from cancer, which caused a stroke, so he was bed-ridden. But still sharp as a tack until the last few days, when he slipped into a coma. He told me that in his dreams, he was still the best ballroom dancer around. But Mom had dementia. Very unnerving to deal with her slipping further and further away each day. Hard to treat the woman who raised you as if she's a recalcitrant child. And horrifying to contemplate that might be my future.

      As for your story's ending, I must say I'm pleased that it was her glistening vaginal lips that moved him so much. Some men want head, but won't go down, leading their women to sink ever deeper into self-loathing, convinced that they are disgusting "down there". How refreshing to read men write about it as if it's a holy sacrament. Thank-you for that!

  4. Hi Lisabet!

    Thank you for saying so. I also want to express my admiration for your post in ERWA regarding sentence structure and the emotional power of words. I don;t know if any of the newbies at ERWA will read it or take it seriously, but they;re missing something very important if they don't, which the music pleasure of language. I don;t make any claims for my stuff, but I most love writers who have a mastery of the sound of words and the collective effect of words in a sentence. Oneo ft he pleasures of the act of writing for me, as it should be for anyone, is playing around with sound. and giving characters a sense of voice.


    1. Thanks for the plug, Garce!

      I don't write craft articles that often because it seems a bit presumptuous of me. I mean, if I really knew how to write, wouldn't I be making more money at it?

      It's encouraging, though, to go back to my first book and see how much I've improved.

    2. Don't we all know that writing well has little or nothing to so with making money? (I'm in a grumpy mood just now. I'm working on a review of a very run-of-the-mill book, with very run-through-the-mill theme and characters, and it has sixty-two reviews on Amazon, most of them raves. Still selling well, after more than a year-and-a-half in print. Sigh.)

  5. Hi Fiona!

    I first heard the idea of this double mindin Michio Kaku's book "The Futre of the Mind". It was mentioned, almost casually, that when an experimental surgery had been tried for curing serve cases of epilepsy, by surgically severing the two hemispheres of the brain two distinct personas emerged, complete with emotions, personalities and memories, side by side in the same head with no awareness of the other. Two different realities. I find this idea terrifying somehow, as if everything I believe about myself is an illusion. It freaks me out.

    The healing power of sex. Oh, if only. I will say one thing, limited as my sex life is compared to my imagination (and whose isn't?) I do dearly love to give oral pleasure to my wife. It is my favorite thing in all the world. I have even studied craft books on it like Ian Kerner's "She Comes First". This is simply the way women orgasm. Its different from men because the physiology is different from men. They should give classes on this.


  6. Beautifully written, and unforgettable, with mythic undertones. This is far more powerful than the prince's kiss that woke Sleeping Beauty.

  7. Garce, this is beautifully detailed, and scarily convincing. This piece should be published somewhere.

  8. Hi Sacchi!

    Thank you for saying so! I'm not sure is this kindo f kiss is more powerful, but it might be alot more fun.


  9. Hi Jean!

    I enjoyed writing it, more for the language than anything. But this is a province I think that is unique to narrative fiction compared to other arts, in that we have the opportunty to do these thought experiments regarding situations that weh aven't had to experience. So far.


  10. This is an awesome story, probably my favorite of the ones you've posted here (though I've probably said that before...). I'd almost categorize it as erotic horror—his struggle to blink is so terrifying and compelling. I also love the comparisons people have made to Sleeping Beauty, and the way you've interpreted the theme.

  11. There you are! Hi Annabeth!

    I'm like Fiona, the idea of losing my mind frightens me more than anything, and its becoming more and more a common thing for people. Our reality, our universe is contained in there, and what happens when we lose control on that? I guess that is a kind of erotic horror when you think of it. Imagine all your world being condensed to one desire - the desire to blink. And that happens to people like Stephen Hawking.

    Sleeping beauty is off to bed. Goonight. Hang in there.



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