(you can read part I here)
(dedication for this essay goes to Mr. Alex Hollings)
Preface: my recent 36-day stay in the hospital began with an emergency surgery that left my entire abdomen open for a period of three days before surgeons were satisfied with the disposition of my sepsis to close my abdomen.
My dreamscape was a scape of dreams. Yeah, when we all are asleep dreaming they really do seem so real. Some more real than others, and we tell co-workers in the break room at work: “But it seemed so real!” and co-worker nods emptily as he leaves brownie crumbs on both corners of his mouth, and a coffee ring on the counter.
Hospital drug-induced sleep is not like regular sleep. The body only needs three-ish hours of REM sleep a night; it doesn’t need 60… so what does the mind do with those other 53 hours of REM standing in line with tickets to your dreamscape? I don’t know what others’ minds do, but I know what my mind did.
My mind punched a hole in the reality/surreality partition; a small hole but a hole nonetheless. The reality of what grave events that were happening on the reality side seeped their way through the partition like an octopus elongating itself and managing itself through an impossibly small hole in a tin can to ravage a hermit crab.
In the beginning, my mind had already run its course of random strange dreams of spurious authenticity to each other. They were sporadic and disjointed, bland enough to not recount to co-workers… other than the hellish realism they inflicted on my brain that made them seem more like hallucinations than dreams.
“I could cut these dreams with a knife; they are all but palpable,” I thought at the time of opening night. They were so riveting and captivating that my bladder nearly burst for lack of a yawner moment in which to race off to pee, letting those extra emergency hurry drops release in my trousers.
I though myself in modest control of my dreams; of that, I did fancy myself. I say that in light of the perception that I was able to cut the dream off short and return to reality, reality… something that for most of us exists in a wakened state. I had no state of being awake because of my sleep which forced against its will.
My state of awake existed in a half step dimension above the dream, yet below reality. It was represented by the view of my feet wrapped in the hospital sheet of my bed, and the window view of the nurses’ station beyond. I had control of pulling myself out of the dream and returning the scene of the nurses’ station, but I could not bring myself to a fully awake state due to the drug resistance.
For me, the feet and the nurse station WAS being awake and experiencing reality… I just didn’t know then; how could I know? My first surgery was a failure and for that, I was penalized with a gaping chest in a Japanese pachinko hall under the non-stop glare of a duty technician. I often wonder now if steam rose from my chest or if a tiny cucumber-headed thing poked out to have a look peek around. It’s all still a mystery. The dreams to this point were tame.
An additional attempt to seal my intestinal perforations and stop the blood hemorrhaging into a sterile cavity by patching the holes with neighboring “un-engaged” tissue too was a failure. That reality of that event seeped through my partition inflicting a step-up in dream activity.
I sat in my car sipping a cup of black coffee I had bought to burn off extra time on my hands until my next scheduled contact window. I drove through Starbucks for my order; it was received with a blank stare from the barista at the window.
“Is there a problem, my good man?”
“Uh, no Sir… I’ll just need to consult with our franchise historian on your order… Sir.”
“Hey Delorian, this person out here just ordered a black coffee?”
“A what?? Where does this clown think it is, Jack in the Box? It’s not on the posted menu so let me bring up the menu archives… oh, merde, it’s not on the store terabyte drive; that means we would have to drive across town to search for it on the remote-stored tape drives… ohhhh CRAPazoidal rhomboid!”
“Woah, woah, woah… *Delorian; hold your horses, but only if they are open to being held up and take no offense by it! I read in the “Gleanings for Amateurs” column of Gender Me Not magazine that black coffee is what comes first from the coffee maker before any additions.”
“So, Infinity… what you are saying is you can just shove this cup under the maker, let it spit out black mamba, cap and serve it??”
“I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, Delorian, but yes.”
It was Winter and chill, though I sat in my car with the driver’s window open per my last instructions. A woman walked close by my car from back to front, tossing a crumpled paper in my lap. I revved the engine and left immediately.
Disclosure of the wrinkled page directed me to position myself at the New Mexico/Mexico border and watch for the person of (great) interest meticulously described in the message with photo(s) included. After rendering to memory all the details of the event, and doing well to burn an impression of the person’s face to mind, I torched the paper message letting the ashes fall and scatter in a winter gust.
Time dwindled in my hospital room as I waited for zero hour; it dangled like a sweat bead on the end of the nose on the guy on the stair climber next to you in the gym: it was just full and heavy enough to bob up and down, attracting your attention, but not supplied enough by the sweat glands to break away and fall, leaving a nose tip barren of distraction.
Finally, the ramp of my Higgins boat dropped and slammed onto soggy sand. I was off. I dashed from my hospital room where I left my freshly made bad complete with… some sort of… corners crisply folder in the sheets. Yes, you could bounce a quarter off that rack, it was just that tight.
Traversing the hall of my building with the ugly green wallpaper I thought of Mr. Jingles in room 15. He was a mouse of a person but how his voice could travel as he howled and cried in pain night after night like he was near death rather than demonstrating a perceived theatrical prowess. He drove me mad and I hated him.
As I passed his room he lay sleeping peacefully for once, so I shot into his room and screamed him awake just inches from his face: “GET UP!! RISE AND SHINE MR. JINGLES, YOU SORRY PIECE OF $HITE!!” and I darted back out of his room smug and grinning. I continued down the long green hall; there must have been a mile of it.
I rocketed out the hospital dorm, which had become not the hospital at all, rather the barracks from the SCUBA Academy at Key West, FL, where I was an instructor for three years. The transition was seamless to me, as I was oblivious to it all together. I fumbled for car keys as I ran, the awkward process that it was.
Behind me the barracks door exploded open and out shot Mr. Jingles headed on a collision course for me: “Phuq you Hand; you ain’t goin’ anywhere!”
Now… never mind me; I’m a humble man, of that I proudly maintain about myself, but, Mr. Jingles was just a mere mouse of a person and I was a paper certificate-proclaimed badass. There would be no Mr. Jingles interference of any kind for me today, and I turned as a Battle Cruiser to meet this Corvette.
But by the heaven that bends above us and by the God we all adore, Mr. Jingles was the very Michael Tyson of little punks. He cut through me like your grandma’s tongue. We fought. Oh, how we fought: there were fists smashing into jaws, insteps connecting to necks, body slammed bodies sobering into the sandy mantel.
My chest was on fire as sutures began to pop one at a time under the stress of the fight. My lungs were molten magma as my breathing became a wind tunnel test for the SR-71 Blackbird, sucking in all available oxygen to cool my sizzling lungs. In my melee, I was, in the by and by, oddly aware of the keen bacon-like aroma of the Key Western paperbark tree (Betula papyrifera). How it soothed my wanton spirit… and made me hungry for breakfast.
“Phuk you, dick-weed!” shouted Mr. J. between judo O Goshi hip throws. “I’ll bash you good, you crummy so-and-so!” I retorted in my best mid-1940’s parlance. Jingles threw the most magnificent haymaker that I deemed to be my demise as my nanosecond cortex calculated its trajectory. I resigned as it made its way, but as divinity resided, it kissed the tip of my nose from which no sweat drop hung and passed me by.
I instinctively launched a murderous left hook connecting with his jaw which disconnected and continued going along with my punch for an inch or two before coming to rest against his beaten face. He fell prostrate to the ground. “I’ll see ya in Berlin, ya crumb!” I hissed as I continued fumbling for keys, aware of a car speeding along the tarmac toward me.
The car made a stop window-to-windows as drivers sit. I reluctantly rolled my window down as I labored to recognize the face… yet I was sure I knew it.
“What in the hell are you doing, George; what in the hell are you doing??” he screamed at me, “Who am I??” he shouted.
“You’re Doc Tidd. How’s it going, Doc.?”
“No, George… we operated on you and by the grace of God, we are able to fix you. The next thing we know we find you out in the parking lot with your tongue literally hanging out of your mouth in the dirt—you’ve ruined yourself, George! Now we have to try to fix you again! Now, WHO AM I??”
“You’re Sean… Sean my head nurse—I’m so sorry.” I lamented with head hung.
“Ok… ok George; just come along… it… it will be alright. It’s going to be ok. You just need to get your breathing down man. You are panting but not getting any oxygen. Remember how I taught you to breathe? In through your nose quick, and out through your mouth slow… breath it, George.” And Sean lead me back to the hospital dorm.
“Who am I again, George?”
“You’re Sean, my head nurse,”
“And where are you, George… where are you right now?”
“I’m… I’m in the hospital, in my bed… I see my feet wrapped in linen; I see the nurses’ station just beyond the picture window, Sean. “I’m back to reality.”
“Well, yes George… but no, not exactly; remember what we talked about? You’re near reality, but you’re still just about a half dimension away from reality, but you can’t go there just yet. You still need a few more days stay here while we try to figure out the best way to heal you, right?”
“Yeah, Sean… I remember all,”
“And above all George, you have to understand we might not be able to save you. There is always that danger… in fact, it’s more likely you won’t make it at all, right?”
Yes, yes I remember it all, just how you explained it the first time, just like it was yesterday… come on then; let’s do this, Sean!”
By God and with honor,
*Delorian: modern name for a male person, the feminine version being Deloris.
(photos for this article courtesy of Wikipedia)