Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fade to Black


It's getting late. Not later, really, than my usual posting; maybe I'm just more tired today. I have a lot on my mind, mostly time-intensive work projects. And really, I feel empty of memory. I am having a hard time remembering even my name at the moment. Just a big, black void that—hey!—that reminds me of something. Reminds me of a big, black void, in fact. One I experienced when I was sixteen years old (though I suppose a person could argue that simply being sixteen is enough of a black void in itself). This, though, was physical. I remember it was a summer day, and hot. Not middle-of-August-and-humid kind of hot, but hot enough to be uncomfortable. I was home from school and home from the hospital. I've posted about my Sloan-Kettering experience already, so won't go into details, but will just toss out a bone to those who don't know (a reminder to those who do): I was, in the summer of 1986, subjected to surgery followed by nine months of a fiberglass cast on my right leg. For most of that time, it was a full leg cast, toes to top of thigh. Cumbersome, itchy, hot, heavy—I grew tired of lugging my own weight around on crutches. I tired easily. Especially when I forgot to eat, or just didn't eat enough. I am never very hungry in the summer. So, I remember this time when I went with my mom out to the grocery store. What was it? A Grand Union, I think. I see a red logo, some kind of white detail (dot?). When was the last time I saw one of those? Must have been when I lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Odds are likely that my mom requested that I go with her—I was not one to volunteer my company that often in those days—but maybe I was stir-crazy enough to have suggested going along. Regardless, there we were, the two of us. Mom with the cart, I hobbling along. I stood behind her in the checkout line. I remember, I felt fine, more or less. And then I didn't. The first thing that happened was that my hearing went. It was as though suddenly someone had stuffed cotton in my ears. I could almost hear, but not really. My own voice sounded very far away to me. I remember saying, "Mom?" and I must have had a wild look in my eye—a very raw, animal sort of fear—because when my mom turned to look at me, she could tell immediately something was wrong. The concern etched itself on her face, which alarmed me even more. I think I told her I couldn't hear. No sooner had I said that, then my vision started giving out as well. I remember like it was yesterday—how this grainy, shimmering pattern, like a moiré effect, or maybe more like television static, came in from the periphery, zooming toward the center of my focus. Then that, too, was extinguished. I remember being scared. I remember not knowing what was happening to me. I had never fainted before. I wish I could tell you what it was like, that actual moment of falling unconscious in a supermarket checkout line while on crutches. I can't. I suppose my mom caught me; I don't think I hit the ground. I know some strangers helped. I was sitting on a wood bench on the exit-side of the cashiers, just underneath the plate-glass windows that faced the parking lot. A stranger, a woman, was sitting next to me as well as my mom being there. Did she say something about God? I don't remember being embarrassed, but being sixteen, I may well have been. I remember being comforted by my mother's presence, and I remember being too stubbornly adolescent to tell her so. Hopefully she knew anyway. I guess my mom paid for the groceries while I waited, seated on that bench not six feet away. We went out to the car, drove home. This was not an event that ever repeated itself, and in the grand scheme of things, the incident was small. But it made an impression I will never forget. Not even in my mind's duller moments, like now.

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