#81 a little death

I am crawling out of an abyss.

We spent Christmas in southern California and dressed like we were going to southern California. But instead of sun and warmth, we got earthquakes, mudslides, and endless days of cold, bitter rain. By the time we returned to New York, my wife and I had both picked up the flu.

We spent New Year’s Rockin’ Eve shivering in bed, a few blocks east but a world away from Dick Clark.

By last Saturday, we felt better and threw a small party to celebrate my birthday and a friend’s.

On Monday I felt sick again. On Wednesday, my doctor told me that the flu had passed but its toxins had built up in my system. I needed help to process them. He prescribed some herbal detoxification remedies.

Wednesday night we were watching Donnie Darko with a pal when I began to sweat. My heart felt like it was falling down an elevator shaft.

All that night I woke up choking. At some dark point in the night I apologized to God, which will give you an idea of where I thought the ordeal was heading.

I slept through all of yesterday. In my fitful moments of wakefulness, I felt like little people were pinning me down while donkeys kicked my gut. I managed to call my doctor and to brush my teeth. I did not eat. I did not leave the apartment. It was snowing, but I never saw a flake.

When my wife returned from work, she made me a piece of French Toast. Best damn French Toast I ever tasted.

Today I was able to go outside. I even walked our little dog, Emile.

I checked email for the first time in 24 hours. A correspondent told me he was putting down his cat.

I remembered when ___ and I had to put Peeps to sleep. She was a little cat, kitten-sized and prankish. In life she was the kind of cat who never ever came when you called her, never once climbed into your arms or slept on your lap. But on the day she died, she tried to crawl off the veterinarian’s table and into my arms, as if to say, I don’t like it here; take me home, Daddy.

I was holding her and talking to her when the vet gave her a lethal injection. Death slid over her like a sheet of ice. Her head froze, then her forepaws, then her middle, then her back. She was gone.

___ and I had to wait around to pay the veterinarian’s bill. Another customer was standing there. His pet had just been groomed, or had just had some small problem solved — say, the removal of a splinter. It seemed wrong that his animal was alive and ours was dead.

Although we could not see it at the time, that might have been the beginning of the end of that relationship.

We had survived larger and sadder events, but that last little death broke the strength we had built up together. Without realizing it, each of us began to turn inward. To avoid pain, we began to feel less. The price is a wall you build around yourself. At first the wall protects you; then it merely shuts you off from the light of experience and the warmth of love.

Maybe this is all wrong. To understand one’s history is to fictionalize it.

Maybe this is just what I thought while reading eight words of a stranger’s email and enjoying the novelty of sitting upright.

16 January 2004

previously: #80 burning memory