King Howl

February 19, 2012

Four weeks pass. I gain forty pounds. My body swells up like an overripe fruit. I bleed and leak. I twitch with pain. Sleepless nights. I eat voraciously. I taste blood and metal. I walk. I idle. Tubes and wiring fall away from my flesh as I grow stronger. I lose forty pounds. My autonomy increases until the nurses mostly ignore me. I walk up stairs for the first time and I smile.

I fly back to Winnipeg. I am put in the hospital there. I am quarantined for possible exposure to in-hospital diseases. I can’t leave the room. I wear a yellow gown to show that I am a bio-hazard. A hipster intern scares the shit out of me on the first night by mistaking another file for mine and telling me I’ll be hooked up to anti-biotics for the next 6 weeks. My heart-rate surges out of control. I want to strangle him when he returns to apologize.

There is a girl across the hall retching all day and night. She also has a chiming laugh. I stare at the old wooden crucifix on the wall. The gaunt figure draped limply on the crossbar seems like a morbid omen. The flimsy windows of my room can barely withstand the bitter cold that the city is buckling beneath. I stare outside at the snow-laden rooftops. I am mesmerised by the dense clouds of steam curling up from vents into the bright chill. I’m wheeled out to tests by cautious orderlies, then returned quickly to my lair. I want to just escape, dash out and never return. I snarl and snap at the air, but they won’t let me out. Each minute seems longer than the last. Time stretches out until it vibrates with an uneasy tension. Each moment; thin and translucent and sparse. I get my jaws around the throat of my doctor and force him to let me leave before the weekend. I can’t stand another moment in this cage. I pace and pace and eat and eat. I chase my own tail.

They let me out. I am released into the wild.

The freezing wind feels brisk and clean on my fur. The sun feels warm and perfect against my muzzle. I stare up at it and it burns my eyes. The dirt and muck of the city feels astonishing fresh and new beneath my paws. I dig at the earth, stare at the humans, and lick the sky. I salivate at the barrage of scents. I feed and I feed. I tear at flesh and rejoice in the sensation.

A single idea overwhelms my thoughts, crashing over my mind like a tidal wave. I can do anything. I can go anywhere. I am free. I am unstoppable. Nothing can hurt me. I am invincible. I can eat the world. It is mine and I am free.

Howl, motherfucker.

A Story About Nothing

February 13, 2012

I didn’t bring any books or entertainment with me to the hospital, but as the hours drag on, I am starting to regret that. It is as though I sought to encapsulate the whole experience in a bubble of unpleasantness and “hospital-ness”. Segregation, isolation, boredom, pain, numbness, all wrapped up in a tight little package. Excise the experience from the rest of my existence. A comfortable anecdote and parable to tell the kids back home.

I sit, staring at the clock on the wall, watching the second hand circle around the clock-face. My mind clutches at vague geometrical irregularities in the hands. The hour hand is a bit behind. The time is right, but it is mechanically inaccurate. The glass covering of the clock is missing, and the backing is cardboard, curling up on one side almost imperceptibly. I watch the seconds ticking by. My eyes lose focus and my mind follows suit. I don’t seem to have any thoughts at all. Just a blank floating in mindlessness. I return to myself and hours have passed. I am grateful; it means hours I don’t have to spend in this place. Pure escapism.

I am thinking now. My mind races as though it needs to make up for my recent lapses. I fear for my life tonight. I don’t trust my nurse. She is depressing and frumpy. She has a whiny voice. I manage to equate the way she is dressed with how well she can do her job. She’s not as well put-together as my previous nurses, who have all been painfully immaculate (although she is wearing those floral prints). I don’t think this is even an unreasonable thought to have. She has problems setting up the huge dialysis machine hooked up to my shoulder and blames it on the machine. “These things never work.” That sort of thinking throws up a million red flags in my head. She’s going to hook that up to me? It never works? Why? I think that it’s her fault they never work. Maybe she should stop blaming everything else and learn how to use the damn machines. Meanwhile, I’m going to be hooked up to this thing overnight, and what happens if she fucks up? Am I going to die? My heart is racing as I pursue all my doomsday scenarios. I don’t say a word. I fear she’ll take it the wrong way. What if? What if? What if she is angered by my criticism and maliciously hooks me up incorrectly? What if I die in my sleep? I can’t say anything. The morning nurse will walk in on my cold corpse.

“What did you do?” She interrupts my morbid reverie.

“I didn’t do anything.” I respond carefully. I my heart-rate has skyrocketed on the monitors from my musings.

She peers at me closely, accusingly, then walks out of the room. I breathe a sigh of relief. Then I feel a burst of indignation. What did I do? She’s the incompetent one. I know I can never verbalize these thoughts. I bite my tongue. Always be friendly with the nurses. With the doctors. With the guy cleaning your room. With the woman bringing you your meals. Always say thank you. Always smile. Be liked. It is a matter of life and death.

I don’t sleep all night. I toss and sweat until the morning nurse comes in. I have survived the night. The machine worked fine. She hooked it up correctly. I breathe a sigh of relief and then I finally sleep. I dream and it brands itself inexplicably into my memory.

I dream cinematically of a young man and his brother. I dream of the young man’s love of a woman. I dream of a gift of a single mechanical wing, clutching his shoulder and chest, metal claws digging into his torn flesh and bleeding him. Of a betrayal for the sake of knowledge and perfection, wrought in the artifice of the gift. In dreams, I stare up into the ruins of the shattered cathedral, fey dancers whirling about the courtyard lit by flickering firelight, plumes of black smoke shivering and crawling up into the swamp-green sky, tendrils yearning to touch the rapidly sweeping rain-clouds above. My lanky torso is exposed, blood dripping and drying, flaking off of my skin, oozing thickly into the grooves of my scars. I stare at her and she stares back with such dark eyes. A look filled with pity, and genuinely saddened, but unapologetic. My brother is turned away from me, but glances over his shoulder, gaze meeting mine, predictably expressionless. The dusky sky, the frantically roiling clouds, the denseness of the slow wind, the crumbling stonework, the empty window frames, the pain in my torso, the moment slows and then stops. Snapshot. Oblivion.

 

(Addendum: Already, I seek to diminish the impact of my words by negating the importance of the writing by the title itself. My mind balks at sharing some of these thoughts with others. I will simply say now that it is important and real, although I do not yet know why or how.)

Indoors With You

February 9, 2012

Can you not see?
Our unlikely symmetry:
Partly bad psychology
And probably temporary;
But mostly dividing me.

Isn’t it frightening?
How very enlightening
Our hyper-ventilating
And urgent love-making
Seems in pale early morning?

Sieve

February 8, 2012

Knowledge of my consciousness blossoms violently in my mind. A thought. “I am.” I am here. I am alive.

In an overwhelming flood, I come to realize my situation. I am alive. I am in the hospital. I am post-surgery. It was a success. I have a new heart.

Voices. Blurred voices. Alien and indistinguishable. I can sense their focus, directed at me. A glowering, muffled buzz floats upwards from the mess and brightens, tightening into a distinct voice.

“Christopher?”

I struggle to find the feminine voice, but it remains vague.

“Christopher?” Again.

She pulls away, then returns. “You are in the hospital.”

I try to acknowledge it but can’t find my body. She says something else and I try to absorb it for a moment before the information slips away, never to return. She moves away again and I sense that I am alone. I am alive.

I focus on the clicking of pumps. I feel the edge of a cotton sheet pulled up to my neck, rough against my tender throat. I try to turn my head but pain flashes up both sides of my neck. I am held in place.

I crack my eyes open. Hospital fluorescence burns my retinas. Cold bright white. Blurry indistinct shapes slowly coalesce into objects. White bed. White sheets. My body draped in sheets reminiscent of a corpse at the morgue. Coldly gleaming poles to either side. Blocky white pumps dangling with loops and coils of clear tubing. Their displays glow bright blue as they force pharma and fluid into my quiescent body. The web of tubes dangles down to snake into my arms, into my neck, into my chest. Wires erupt from my stomach and torso, feeding into whirring machines.

I panic when my attempts to move my arm fail. The necessary muscles escape me. I am merely aware of the arm. Aware of the dried blood smeared on my skin, the network of tubes gathering there to push through flesh, tiny bubbles travelling inexorably towards my bloodstream through the clear tubing.

A form enters the room. The nurse. Floral print. The girls always wear floral prints. It’s cute. She begins to write in a clipboard with a freshly-sharpened pencil. Scratching of graphite on paper. Her eyes are fixated on the readouts of the pumps and machines. Her cheek is lit by the television glare of the screens, limned in a sub-aquatic glow of light. She glances at me, then at my wires and tubes. She walks out of the room.

My eyes slide shut. I am cold. I dangle in my web of wire. In my network of tubing. I sway and sway, my mind blank. Waiting. I lose consciousness again.

An Open Letter to the World

February 5, 2012

I think what you think is the most important and, possibly, the only thought in my head at all times.