Friday, April 29, 2005

Stacy Cubed

Dialysis sapped enough strength out of me tonight that I fell asleep and woke up in the presence of my younger self.

I would guess I was about eight years old. Kidney failure had not yet begun to rob me of my youth.

I don't remember being such a cute little guy, but I guess I was. Apparently Sophie from third grade, who adored every step I took, was right.

Anyway, he looked scared as he slowly crept toward my dialysis chair. You could tell my Mom had laid out my clothes that morning because I was wearing plaid pants with a striped shirt.

One of the many sins of the 1970's.

He probably wouldn't have approached me at all, but I could tell in his eyes that he recognized me.

"Hello," I offered as an olive branch.

He looked down and then slowly up, his eyes following the stream of blood back from the machine to my arm.

"That looks painful," he whispered.

"It really is," I whispered back.

He paused, but then you could see an idea flicker into his mind.

"Can you come out and play later?" Like a tidal wave, all my memories of playing in our big backyard came back to me. Some days I was Superman and nothing could hurt me. Others, I was a mad scientist, mixing together whatever I could from the shelves of the garage.

That reminds me, don't mix bleach and ammonia. Thank you.

"I wish I could, but I have to go back to work after I'm done here."

You could just see his face fall at the mention of work. I was never afraid of it, in fact, I took to it like water when I was younger. But every time I would ask my Mom where Dad was, she would always respond, "He's at work."

"Do you listen to the radio?" I asked, knowing full well the answer.

"Yes," he shyly responded.

"I'm one of those guys. I talk on the radio."

His eyes started to brighten a little when I finished my sentence.

"What do you talk about?"

I didn't want to lie to my younger self, but I thought I'd better. If younger me doesn't look to radio for his future, he may end up a drug addict. As my mind was trying to decipher the time paradox brought up in numerous hours of Star Trek, he took my hand.

"Make sure to come out and play later, ok?"

I could feel a tear coming to my eye, so I just nodded and grasped his hand tight.

Before I could say anything more, I could hear my Mom calling younger me.

And then younger me was gone. In his place stood a much dorkier version of present me. I would guess he was about twenty-two, timid and shy, but loaded to the hilt with sarcasm and creativity.

"I know you," was all he could muster in our initial meeting.

Boy did I miss college age me. My hair was thick and sticking out in eighteen different directions. I really miss my old hair, even though it was always dry and never quite went where I instructed it to. I was even gawkier, and I had that look in my eye that told me I hadn't been naked with a woman for at least six months.

"Listen to me very carefully. Come closer."

College me's breath wreaked of pomodoro pasta. And my complexion hadn't yet been introduced to ProActiv. No wonder I had trouble getting laid.

"In about a year, you're going to have a chance to work at Universal Studios because you're too fucking dumb to know any better. When college ends, find a really small radio station and work on your craft, ok?"

You could see that college me was quite shocked by this level of honesty.

"I don't understand."

My past came flooding back, polluted and rank.

"Oh, wait a minute. Before the end of the year, you're going to come home to your dorm and Emilie will be stretched out on your bed."

"Really? Cool!"

My god I was so clueless.

"Shut up. She will be wearing nothing but a tank top and shorts. Whatever you do, don't open your mouth, ok? Don't fucking say a word."

College me was stymied.

"But...ugh...wha," was all my limited college brain could muster.

"Just trust me. And clean yourself up, you're disgusting."

College me got really angry at this point and knocked the medical clipboard off my dialysis machine.

"I know what I need to do. You're just like my father, ordering me around."

"You should listen to Dad, he knows what the fuck he's talking about."

My dialysis machine's alarm went off and startled college me. He turned around and sped for the exit. He gave me one last look.

That must have been the same look I gave my Dad when he was trying to tell me something important.

Everything suddenly became foggy, and then I realized I was still in dialysis. And that my dream was over.

As I was gathering my things, my thoughts swept back to my preceding dream. What if I could have offered myself advice at different stages of my life? Would my life truly be any better?

And than I realized, if I had guided myself through my entire life, I never truly would have learned anything. And I wouldn't be able to become the wise man my father seemed to be.

As I sat down in my truck I noticed it was a little more crowded than usual. For a moment, and only a moment, I saw my college age self with my younger self sitting on his lap.

They were smiling, and ready to continue the journey.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Suicide is Painless

That is an actual title to the "MASH" theme. If you watch the movie, and I highly recommend that you do, one of the enlisted men is singing the words:

"Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...


[REFRAIN]:

that suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and...


[REFRAIN]

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.


[REFRAIN]

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.


[REFRAIN]

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger...watch it grin, but...


[REFRAIN]

A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
is it to be or not to be
and I replied 'oh why ask me?'


[REFRAIN]

'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you please."


I never truly understood the words, until I started dialysis.

Tonight started out leisurely enough. I brought my duffel bag filled with the comforts of home. I urinated beforehand, because once you start, they really frown upon unhooking you just so you can piss. I weighed and then shuffled my way to the chair.

Remember the chair from "The Matrix", metallic and rusted, forboding even. The ones that allowed our heroes to be whisked away to the matrix?

Even though the chair is padded, can recline and has the pleasant color of green, that's what I think about every time before I sit down.

But once the needles were in, and the lidocaine weakened to their grip, I knew that tonight was going to be worse than usual.

I struggled in my chair like a man condemned. I squeezed my eyes shut, because I felt a wave of tears coming on. The dialysis tech's were whispering, and I know they were talking about me.

"Why is he such a baby?"

"You don't see the other patients getting upset."

"Why doesn't he try PD again?"

My answer to every one of them is, "Fuck you."

Lately, when the pain becomes too overwhelming, and they won't lower the pressure anymore, the Golden Gate Bridge beckons me.

For a while, I was obsessing about Golden Gate Bridge suicides. I wanted to learn everything I could. I had so many questions...

"How did they get on to the railing?"

"How did the bridge authority react?"

"What kind of people were the ones who were jumping?"

My reasoning probably gels with all the other's who've made their way, with enough courage and balls to make the leap.

Then I stopped on a story about the proposed "suicide barrier." It would impede the view from the bridge, but most likely prevent people from jumping.

What a big steaming pile of bureaucratic crap this is.

If people want to jump, I say let them. Your life is your own, and if you wish your final image to be the sun setting to the west of the bridge with the tapioca blues and heart warming oranges, I say, have at it.

Who am I to judge your level of pain?

Who am I to say I know "exactly what you're feeling"?

Who am I to say, "don't jump, you have a lot to live for"?

I'm nobody, plain and simple.

But I would never join them, for one important reason.

It would kill my family.

My family has been wounded enough because of my failing health. They don't deserve to be mortified by my corpse on a slab.

And now I'm crying, because I have no way to make the voices stop.

These are not mine, but those of my family. My parents carry the burden of thinking they did something wrong when I was in the womb, when I was under their care, to make this happen.

I wish I could make them believe that creation is a roulette wheel, spinning out of control, only landing where it deems fit.

But still they blame themselves, and there's nothing I can do.

Except continue to live.

And that's the one thing, I truly don't know how much longer I can do.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Eye Do Believe Eye'm Right

You can discover everything you need to know about a person simply by peering into their eyes.

It's simple really. Let me demonstrate.

Tonight was an overwhelmingly painful dialysis treatment. The lidocaine felt like burning fire tempting it's way into my skin. The 16 gauge needles infiltrated my arm and made it their home. The entire procedure made me wish I could cut my arm off at the socket and allow it to live with the pain, not me.

If that wasn't bad enough, this elderly gentleman who sits all the way across the clinic, with his greying beard and follicle challenged head, looked as though he wanted to vomit.

In his eyes, I could see that he thought me less than a man.

Every day, when I come into work, the adorable receptionist with the raven hair and perfect breasts, greets me with a smile.

In her eyes, I see her lack of experience. How she hasn't lived enough to have an opinion on anything. How her heart hasn't been pulled from her chest and left on the side of Interstate 5 near old fast food wrappers and used hypodermic needles.

As I walk to my office, I pass by one of the saleswomen's cubicles. Every day she greets me with a smile and her voice nearly sings when she says my name.

In her eyes, I see how cute she thinks I am. How she wishes I would talk to her more. How she hopes I'll attend when she invites me to a little gathering she's having this Saturday.

It's the next morning and I'm shaving. I splash on one last layer of water and I look into my own eyes.

In my eyes, I see...

...how tired I am of taking orders from a complete and utter idiot.

...how much I'd really like to be the person everyone loves on the air.

...how little of myself I recognize anymore.

...how I obsess about the Golden Gate Bridge and the freedom it holds neatly between its twin towers.

...how ashamed I am at how I have allowed my life to become this joyless, traumatic wonder.

...how I wish a plane would crash nose first into my apartment, and take that noisy idiot upstairs with me.

...how I wish I were dead.