Theme III: Future, “Of Anesthesia”

By Nikolas Reda-Castelao

There’s a timelessness to anesthesia, this agent which suppresses the nervous system so as to remove sensation and consciousness from the body. Gabe had anesthesia inserted through an IV into his right arm before his surgery. He was going to get a meniscectomy, meaning that there was lunar crescent of an abused piece of ligament where his right knee was, flailing from its home, beaten. He sat calmly waiting for the nurse to return to him. The room was very much that rumored sanitary whiteness painted over dark walls; Eggshell, he thought. There were other people waiting for their procedures as well, and they were resting with family under the soft shepherd of those eggshell walls. Gabe looked at his arm and heard his cherub chariot start wheeling between the other beds. He passed through the swinging doors and then the anesthetic kicked in.

Time abandoned him.

When he had come to his senses, he was in the angelic embrace of his parent’s bed with that swelling and yelling leg of his hoisted on a babel tower of pillows.  There were bags of frozen peas thawing around his knee and the tv was turned on to the Simpsons marathon: 550 episodes from the last 25 years in 13 days. This show’s existence, which permeates all pop culture, can be cleared through in little less than two weeks. Gabe hears his baby brother throwing toys out in the living room and that lulls him to sleep.

Food wakes him, and his mother kisses him on the forehead and she adjusts his pillow tower. Chicken marsala: she’s been experimenting with Indian food, apparently. She is accommodating and gentle with his foolishness . She leaves the room. Gabe takes a moment to wolf his meal and gnash it between his fangs and lay the unruly head of hair back onto the bed, onto the comfort of rest. He was drifting along a halcyon creek that was time, meandering slowly in his life through the scenic part of his mind, the one that was empty fields of green, but they so hypnotized him in their impressionist hue in the way they vibrated. When he looked up, at the ceiling fan fighting summer heat, he could not help but feel the rotation of the blades resonate something deep in him.

He awakes and sees he is no longer on his parent’s bed. He listens and hears not a child playing but two belligerent boars of people roaring at each other. There’s a clatter of something thrown, something fallen, something fell; they are fighting about that now. The Simpsons is still on. He wanted to watch every episode but that seems less and less likely at this point. The DVR is overflowing and deleting episodes that he can’t even keep up with. He has to pick and choose which ones he will keep, for however long until he comes across them again, and he chooses the ones that either crack his ribs with laughter or break the dams in his eyes. He needs something to force himself to feel. He swears it has always been like this moment, except before he could escape on his legs.

His nervous system is still suppressed. His body has failed him. He falls into the routine of destroying his own body.

When he gained the ability to hoist himself on crutches, cheap plastic pharmaceuticals, he would enter the kitchen when no one was around and bring Dionysus feasts to the small room in the front where he rested. One night he ate an entire gallon of ice cream. That’s over 3000 calories. He counted each calorie as he swallowed his frozen emotions. He felt himself regressing, gaining weight that he fought to lose. Or was it that he was progressing, slowly dying to lose the weight?  

Gabe watched tv and ate, day in and day out. He watched 25 years of a cartoon where nothing ever changed, and he sweated in his sleep and froze during the day. He nestled his heart in his knee, and that’s why it throbbed, and that’s why he felt nothing in his chest. He didn’t think that he needed to feel because of his knee, it was the most minor of incidents that could befall a human, really.

He laid there, listening to the endless screaming, the Jerusalem wailing of two passionate, scared people, eyeing that knife he brought with him to the room some time ago. He brought it to protect himself from dangerous things. His feelings, for instance, were dangerous. The danger of general anesthesia, though, is that it can permanently damage one’s nervous system, but if it had come to that point, he would pull his own plug. He didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.

He couldn’t quite remember his dreams. He sort of forgot them that one day his mother called him and told him, between pissed breaths, to find a lawyer that specializes in involuntary commitment. This was after that night where she talked to him about her past and his father’s past, and how alive his mother was before she wasn’t. She died of alcohol poisoning, his father’s mother.

Alcohol, like food, is a socially acceptable anesthetic.

Gabe returned to his room and continued to watch a timeless classic, which he thought was funny considering his mother was in the exact same place she was 26 years ago. Funny’s not the polite word, he supposed.  

He clutched his pillow that night, praying into it, as his body became his knee and his eyes became his hollow chest. He thought everything was better. Everything felt better before he came home. He thought that the future before him was a road extending from a brick wall he had collapsed. But he listened to his mother frustratingly explain to him legal procedures and mental ward settings, of eggshell walls, that he did not want to deal with, and he realized that the road before him was recursive. It was a circle. He was going to come to the wall again and realized that he had gone nowhere. He was going to be eating frozen emotions with a broken body and a broken mind, eyeing that goddamned knife for as long as he breathed, listening to hurt and hurtful people batter his world with pain, and the greatest agony was in how little of any of it he could feel.

He wanted to know only that he could cry.

And, he would, but once his mother returned and talked about how funny everything was. Once he went back, a bloated mess of a human. Once he fell in love, and he lost, passionately, that love. Once he brooded in bitterness and charged that brick wall, smashing his head over it again and again and again. Once he forgave his father for not being in this story. Once he forgave his mother. Once he forgave himself. Then, in the quiet room of a counselor, he collected a thousand stories of his anguish, and he clutched his eyes, threw his head back, and he cried for every single one of them. He cried for every brick in that road that led again to the wall. He cried a year in ten minutes.

And, in the blurred vision of solace, he saw the world beyond it, and he stepped onto it.  He felt the grass beneath him and the sun on his head.

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