Even before the official forecast, left eyeball had announced a storm on the march. Spawned in the west, and dragged across the landscape by a slow-moving front that was savaging my body as it approached. The slower the advance, the longer the agony. Whether cloudburst or sprinkles, rain would resurrect me, so I waited for the storm.
I had collapsed onto my bed, grateful for the ceiling fan that pushed a current of air across my forehead. I’d bought the fan after discovering its predecessor dead. Flipped the wall switch. Click. Dead? Click. Impossible. Click. How long had it been up there, a specter haunting my respite? After the new fan was installed, I kept it turned on, to witness the miracle of it spinning.
The pillow, more like brick than foam, was crushing my skull. I gathered strength, and then rolled to my side. Through the open door, a few inches of hallway falsely suggested a somewhere other than the bedroom, furnished in stabs and throbs. I should have closed that goddamned door, When? Last night? But who thinks of that at three in the morning, after bidding a convulsive goodbye to your dinner? Which I never should have eaten. The taste of that bad decision still clung to the back of my throat. There should be a rule against deciding anything when you’re sick. Well maybe there was. Something about operating heavy machinery, and crap, this body was one heavy machine.
Screw it. An open door was merely an inconvenience within a catastrophe. I closed my eyes, and in the darkness noticed my body had stopped. Squalls that had roiled at my core had petered out, leaving my bones becalmed.
The storm advanced, forecast for Thursday.
The fan spun.
As soon as I noticed the calm, my eyelids opened, a tiny motion, yet enough to cause my skin to scream. I lifted a wrist, which relieved pressure from my elbow and then my shoulder, but the opposing shoulder howled. Brain, why don’t you justify your claim to power? Spit out action plans. Stanch the flow of poison blood from heart to shoulder. Ice would help. Simple. Just get up and walk through the door, down the hallway, and across a million miles to the kitchen. I slow-motioned onto my back as ankles, calves, and heels protested.
The fan blades slowed, revealing the ceiling––an expanse of dove gray like a poultice on my eyes. Inexplicably, the blades sped up and were transformed into a solid disc. Slowed and the ceiling reappeared as slices that winked in and out of existence.
Trapezius relaxed, and my head eased into the pillow. An unexpected sensation, soft as a sigh, floated into awareness. My body had let go again, a hush at the core, more profound than I’d first noticed.
I surrendered to the mystery.
Aging was dragging all sorts of indignities behind it, like a trail of toilet paper stuck to my heel. Gravity of course, and then allergies, followed by patches of scalp showing through previously thick hair, each discovery a source of existential angst. Why me? Why now? The questions sped up the inevitable, siphoning fuel from important things like digestion. Like surrender. An air current stroked my ankle. Skin stopped scraping against the insistent pain and sagged over my skeleton in quiet puddles. Cradled inside my skull, my brain rested. Why and when settled down into a corner of the cerebellum. A hole in the air opened up. I’d read that when you died, you saw Light. Or Jesus. Or Mohammad. An empty hole? I’d read that dying was easy.
The storm advanced, inevitable. I only had to wait.
The fan spun.
My pelvis shrieked, tortured by the mattress, so I struggled onto my other side, and drew up my knees into fetal position, sheets twisting into a knot underneath my leg. The bony elbow of my right arm dug into the soft flesh of my left forearm. I moaned, but the moan died en route.
It did not matter. The core had once again quieted, and the stillness was rippling in ever-wider circles.
I gave in to the stab that had emanated from left eyeball, and now engulfed the remains of me. Pain mislabeled the feeling, as though it were an enemy.
Pain meant nothing, and meaningless, made perfect sense. Absent any motivation, discomfort swirled across my hills and valleys. A high-pressure ache dipped into a low-pressure pinch. Every once in a while emotions got flooded.
Shadows softened across the wall. Maybe night was falling. Maybe it was Thursday.
Tendons that had worked to hold muscle to cheekbone loosened, as gravity slackened my lower jaw, pulling it askew. The rearrangement no longer felt like a face. My chest stopped rising and falling, and a wispy breath escaped through my lips. I couldn’t remember what it was I’d been waiting for. I couldn’t remember what was supposed to happen after you exhaled.
Dying was easy.
The storm advanced.
The fan spun.
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