A question, if anyone may answer it for me. I am unable to ascertain any sort of truth on my own to stifle these thoughts which plague me.
How long has it been?
Can you hear me?
I asked, how long has it been?
Damn it all. No one hears me still. My tongue is mute, and your ears are deaf to the silent entreaties of my mind. Pay attention, please! By all that you hold sacred look into my eyes and see the human still living in me. I am here, if I could scream it out loud I would. But I cannot. What a maddening fate for one who lived life more than any I have known, took it by the horns, rode the wave of exhilaration into this deadening silence. If anyone can read my thoughts, then read them, and shed a tear with me before I am gone. For no one has shed a tear for me for longer than I can know. My question goes unanswered. The only answer remains the mocking tick-tick of the clock hanging on the wall above me, the single finger of its hand ticking off my remaining hours one by one.
There is a black spot. When I try to recall what exactly it was that brought me here, I draw a blank. I understand that no person’s memory is complete; of course there are omissions. For most that have experienced a traumatic event, the memory of that time may be repressed. This can mean the whole memory is lost, or that it is fragmented, and only snatches of it are recalled. In my own experience, before this thing happened, I had found this to be true for myself. I have partaken in my fair share of childhood trauma. Many things that I have survived, my subconscious has only allowed me to recall in pieces, if at all. But they are there, at least in some form, even if seemingly inaccessible. These memories were not lost, they were simply harder to find and with the right guidance, a little poking, a little prodding I knew I would be able to recall them, if I really wanted to.
The hole in my memory is different. I am certain that I retain a fair share of repressed memories, locked somewhere within the recesses of my mind, still hidden to my consciousness, but this is not the same. Yes, it centers around a certain event, yet it is not within my grasp. I know that something terrible happened to me, physically and mentally. Yet no matter how hard I strain my mind trying to remember, there is nothing. One day I woke up here, and that is all I know. I am certain that there are others who know what happened, yet they do not take the time to tell me just what tragedy befell me. No one speaks to me anymore. And I cannot ask them to. Not since I came out of the darkness I slept in for only God and the clock know how long.
Can you imagine for a second, what it is like to be a baby? Not just the lack of responsibility, the pampering, the love. I mean the helplessness. Can you remember having your diaper changed? Can you envision being so powerless that you had to be fed by hand, when you could not stand, or even crawl? Of course not, so how could you understand my position. A baby has it easy. People say that babies cry because they cannot speak. Well I am a man who has become a baby and I can no longer speak. But I cannot cry either.
I sleep now, from time to time, though it might as well be constant for all the activity I perform while awake. Since I came out of the dark I have counted many days and nights by the sunlight that glances across my bed in the morning, more felt than seen. If I could keep an accurate measure of the seconds as the clock counts them I would tell you with certainty, to the moment, how long I have laid here. Then again, there are no dates in my world, and without one to start with, such a measure would be meaningless. All I can tell you that it has been a year at least since I first awoke in this position. A year containing an eternity in which I lie here, gazing up at the same ceiling, counting the tiles and imagining the water-stains on them are objects from my memory.
The clock is the only constant I am certain of. There are other sounds; the air-conditioning, the crackle of the fluorescent lights that bathe me with their cold light day and night, the constant bustle in the corridors just outside my door. But I, as would be expected have tuned these sounds out. It is only the occasional shout or snatch of laughter that intrudes on the calm that I live in. That, and the clock’s ticking. The one sound I have not been able to obliterate. How I wish I could. Yet it is always there to remind me that this is not a dream. This is not a temporary distraction. It is time lost. Forever.
People come in and check on me from time to time. At first when I opened my eyes they seemed excited, and people came to visit with great frequency. Every day there were people in my room, chattering excitedly. Even back then they barely spoke to me, unsure if I could hear and afraid of my lack of responsiveness. As time passed the conversations began to shift away from me. I had opened my eyes but that was all. I suppose people cannot be expected to stay excited about a living statue, even if it was once someone they loved. Soon the conversations in the room had nothing to do with me at all. I didn’t mind this. Just hearing people talk about lives I can remember so vividly was pleasing to my soul. I would have listened to them ramble forever, my family and friends, if they had cared to stick around. But just as the conversations focus had drifted away from me, these people too began to drift.
It was not long before the stream of visitors became a trickle and then dried up completely. I could not always tell who came into the room until they spoke, as I am unable to turn my head and direct my gaze where I would choose. The voices, the familiar voices that is, disappeared one by one. All that is left now are strangers, disembodied voices that haunt my room and hover around me. When the door swings open I no longer feel the swell of excitement at having a visitor. There are only phantoms in this place, coming and going from where I recline, seemingly only to remind me that there is still a world out there; one that I will never partake of again. In this moment I am almost thankful for the ticking of the clock. Without it I would have no-one to listen to my silence. I only wish that it would answer back with anything other than the age old retort: Tick, tick.
I heard two of the phantoms talking yesterday. They were standing to the left of my bed, discussing my “condition” with all of the emotion that a stone would display if capable of speech. A man and a woman, talking about me, right in front of me, as if I was just a piece of meat, for to them that is all that I am. The thing about it is, meat goes bad, and I fear that I am as rotten as they come, at least in their eyes.
I cannot recall the entirety of their conversation but I do remember the gist of it, as it was pertinent to my continuing existence. Much of it was medical jargon, with words such as “cerebromedullospinal disconnection” and “hypoxic ischemia” being bandied about along with old staples such as “persistent vegetative state”, a term I have become all too familiar with over the course of this past year. Of course none of this will interest you as it did me so I will cut to the chase. The main point of the conversation between these two people, doctors I am certain, was whether or not I was to be taken off of the life support that has sustained me throughout my tribulation. If I could have I would have leapt from my bed and shook them both until their brains rattled in their silly skulls. “Look you fools, I am still alive, I am still conscious, for Christ’s sake I am a human being!” Alas, I could not even make my protest heard; not even a shudder.
Apparently my family had already been discussing the option for some time now. My mother, God bless her, believes it is for the best. From what I gathered from the doctor’s conversation she can’t stand to see me like this, although she has not come to see me for several months. Despite that fact it seems her mind is made up. With the support of my siblings, and her psychologist I am sure, she has decided to, as they say, pull the plug. Such an impersonal term when you consider that that plug is the lifeline connecting another human being to this beautiful world. If only my father were around he would not stand for it but as fate would have it my father has not stood in many years and I cannot blame him for his inability to rise out of his grave on my behalf.
Just a few ticks of the clock have passed since I called the world beautiful but I realize that this was wishful thinking. We tend to remember the good and blank out everything else but it is impossible for me to do that when the worst is descending on me like a vulture alighting on a corpse. This world must be an ugly and vile place if my family could turn their backs on me in the time of my greatest need. How unfair it is. I do not mean to bitch and moan but try for a moment to place yourself in my shoes, or more accurately in my hospital bed. You too would feel despondent when life had left you to rot and your family only wanted to be rid of you. I am an expense, and not one worth paying for. That is the long and short of it. I must accept my fate. Soon I will not be just a ghost living behind the eyes of a long-dead body, I will be a ghost for real. Am I concerned for what awaits me on the other side? It would be a lie to say I have not pondered it at all during this time when all I have had to occupy myself is my thoughts. But I am not fearful. In my life I have abandoned the religious teachings of man, eschewing such organized thought in pursuit of my own vain and irrelevant meanderings. As the hour of my death looms closer I begin to look at my life in a new light. Perhaps I should have paid more heed to those who in retrospect were much wiser than I. Maybe they knew what was best. Then again it might not be too late for me to find my truth.
What is the use of such thinking? I am who I am, the same man I was born into this world destined to be. If there is a God, and he made me, he must either accept what I have become, or damn me for who I was created to be. I will not beg on my knees, or my back as it is, in hope that my life can continue after I have passed from this world. If you can hear me God, I pray that you understand.
This night has gone by like so many others, lost in my reveries and contemplation, listening to the clock’s heartbeat. Imagining it is my own. What a way to spend what may very well be my final night on earth. I think of all the things I would have liked to do when I was in control of my body. My eyes have been dry of tears since coming out of my coma, but inside their is a torrent of sorrow flowing from the depths of who I am.
The sun is rising. Oh how I wish, for the thousandth time, that I could rise as well. I feel its warmth radiating through me as it shines through the window. Its energy give me some comfort. At least, if nothing else, there is one other thing, besides that hateful clock on the wall, that I can count on. The sun has been my faithful friend, even when I took it for granted, even when my own blood has deserted me. The night watch is ending. The hospital begins to stir. Muffled noises play across ear drums I never realized were so sensitive. Soon my time will come.
The door opens and I hear people enter the room. They pause for a moment, perhaps studying me like some fossil on display. Then I hear a rustling, feel the IV wiggle as it is tested. The sound of typing, or buttons being pressed, then, a pen’s scribbling. More footsteps, the swishing of scrubs, and the door opens and closes.
Patiently I await, happy at least that I have this small time to reflect. All too soon though my tranquility is broken. Again the door opens and this time it is more than one person. At first no one speaks but then I hear a voice, my mother’s: “I hope this is right.” Immediately come the reassurances, the comforting of multiple voices assuring her it is for the best. My brother is here. So is my sister, along with other members of my family, those my mother is closest with. My brother and I have always had a rivalry, sometimes to the point of loathing each other. To hear my sister, to know she is going along with this devilry, it hurts. I wish things were different. I would gladly trade places with anyone on earth at this moment. Please don’t let them kill me.
The door opens again and a doctor greets my family, introducing himself as if he was at some social gathering, one at a time, handshakes all around. His voice sickens me. Butcher.
In a warm, cheery voice so detached from the proceedings he explains to my family what is about to happen. Then he asks: “Is there anything you would like to say? I can leave the room if you want some time alone.”
To which my mother replies: “No. He can’t hear us anyway. Let’s get this over with.”
The bitch! I came from you. You nursed me from your breast, cradled me in your arms. I cried on your shoulder with a snotty nose and now I am nothing to you? Mommy please! I am still your baby. Save me from this, on all that is Holy please I beg you to save me from this fate.
But she is deaf to the cries resounding in my skull.
The doctor seems to agree for there is no answer to her fateful words.
All I sense is movement, not from my family, for they seem still as the headstone that I imagine will decorate my grave. Foolish, to imagine any other resting place, for as far as my soul is concerned, this hospital bed is the only grave that I shall ever own.
There are sounds as the doctor and his aides prepare to murder me. Should I deem it murder? From my perspective I scarce can view it as anything less. There are muttered commands, answers murmured back from voices so calm and gentle it is unimaginable that they are discussing the taking of a human life. I can’t even understand the words that are spoken, not because of any physical impairment. It is the panic welling within my still frame that limits my ability to comprehend what is said. “Tick, tick, tick” is the only thing I can understand.
I know there is a bag feeding my veins with life giving fluid; it hangs above me, towards the left, a mocking ornament lacking in color that never fails to taunt me with the dream of Christmases I’ll never have. Despite my newfound ability to interpret human speech as background noise, my ears pick up the subtle sound of a needle puncturing the line leading from this hateful angel into my arm. The same line that helps give me life is being used to numb me towards the pain of my death. At least the physical pain. Mentally, the agony remains.
Where will I go? What shall become of my corpse when my soul has left it? What shall become of my soul?
My lungs have ceased to draw breath as I am used to. The deflated oxygen tube is dislodged from my trachea in what must appear to be a genteel manner to those observing. To me, despite the drugs pulsing in my veins, it is a pain I could not have fathomed enduring in my previous life. Normally any pain would be a welcome change from my static state but this grating bears such a sense of finality that I am overwhelmed. Monitors are pulled from my chest. The monitor on my finger remains though, steadfastly measuring a heartbeat that will shortly beat itself from existence.
More click clack, more moving about and then a moment of quiet. No beeping of monitors. No hiss of oxygen, just a deathly silence punctuated by the churning of central air and the weighted drawings of my last breaths.
The doctor again: “I’m so sorry.” But the words ring hollow. My mother must have nodded because she says nothing that is audible to me.
The doctor leaves. My family remains. For a little while. Yesterday I would have wanted them to stay with me but now I pray for them to be gone. And, as if an answer to my prayer, I hear them making to leave. A few words are spoken, revolving around me, and my passing, as it unfolds in front of them. Then they too are gone.
My breath, no longer supported by artificial means, grows short. Could they not at least have waited until I was really dead? I suppose I have been dead in their minds for a long time now.
I miss them already but I also hate them so passionately for allowing me to fade like this. What did I do to deserve this? Why me? Please, please, can anyone hear me?
I am alone, and I am dying, I know that I am. I do not want to go like this. It is undignified. This does not reflect the way in which I lived when I could choose my path. My soul is stricken with sorrow. It is dying now, just as my flesh has done.
This room is hushed by death itself. How long will it take for me to go?
It hurts more than anything that I have endured to accept that I am unable to cling to this life anymore, as miserable as it has become.
I do not want to die like this.
A ragged sob strangles in my throat.
And there is no one here to hear it.
God has left me.
Tick, tick, tick.