Alone In My Thoughts
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“I sympathize, Mrs. Bradley, I really do. It’s ultimately your decision, but sometimes you just have to let go.”
It takes a few moments for those words to stop bouncing around in my head and I actually comprehend what Dr. Gibbons is saying. From his voice I can tell he’s a young man – younger than I am at any rate. He speaks well and without an accent of any kind. He is charismatic; I will say that much about him. His voice carries power and confidence, while also being capable of compassion and love. I’d like to be able to shake his hand, to thank him for the way he offers sympathy to my Janet. I can’t though.
“Doctor, I don’t know if I can – “
“Mrs. Bradley, keep in mind that while we have detected some neural activity in your husband’s brain, it is impossible to tell if he is actually capable of human thought. His condition has not improved in eight months. I think maybe it’s time to let him go.”
Ahhhhh, Janet’s voice. I never really appreciated the beauty of it until it was the only thing keeping me going. Janet is beside me, probably holding my hand. I can’t really tell. I’d give anything to open my eyes and absorb her light, her beauty, and make it my own, but my eyelids feel sewn shut. Even though she’s in her mid-forties, she is still a thing of magic in my mind, the epitome of grace and passion.
“Doctor, can we discuss this in your office? Please? I, I just don’t feel right talking about this in here.”
And I hear the door close, and once again I am alone. Perhaps that is a little bit misleading. I have been alone for the past eight months, a prisoner in my own mind. It’s humbling when the only company you have is your own thoughts. I would call it therapeutic, a journey of self-discovery, if not for the harsh reality of being paralyzed, unable to move even the slightest muscle. Sometimes I even question being alive. I would forget that my heart still beats, if not for the occasional noises of the nurses in my room, cleaning and observing. Quite the jest of God, the mind being active, with needs and desires, sending signals to the body, only to have them sent back with an “I’m sorry, out of order” message. And so I wait, in the never-ending opaque darkness that is now my world.
It’s an odd thing waiting for death. One wants to run, to hide, to desperately step out of death’s shadow into the world of the light and the living. At first, it is too unfathomable to think about. “Me? Dying? Sorry buddy, not me. You should try the old lady down the street.” But it is you. It’s everyone. Every human on the planet is dying; it’s a universal truth we all must accept. At first, the word death instilled a fear deep within my mind. Over time, however, it became blurry and out of focus. Like everything else I once knew, it became just another blip in my mind’s radar screen, occasionally resurfacing only whenever I am reminded that I’m still alive.
I hear the Doctor and my wife talking in the other room, an office adjacent to my room. Janet is crying, I can hear her sobbing. I want to jump out of my bed, kick open the door and throw my arms around her. I want to caress her shiny blonde curls, looking into her eyes, telling her everything is going to be all right. I want this, with all my being. And still, in this bed I lie, unable to act on anything my mind wills.
From time to time the line between my thoughts and reality evaporates, and I immerse myself fully in the warm and comforting memories I have stored neatly in my brain. No longer am I cripple in a bed, unable to move. The accident never happened, and I continue to lead a normal and healthy life. Janet is with me. We are watching television, passionately holding onto one another as if letting go would cause the world to shake to its very foundations. I tell her I love her, as she does the same. She is my rock, and I am hers. A grand fantasy that is, one that I find myself indulging in more and more. I hear the door open, and then silence, followed by the sound of footsteps in my direction.
“I think you have made the right choice, Mrs. Bradley.”
”I do too, Doctor. I hope he forgives me. Maybe God meant for him to die, and this damned machine is forcing him to be part of a world he doesn’t belong in.”
“Should I be the one to…? Or do you…?”
“I’ll do it, Doctor.”
I hear steps to my left. I assume that’s where ‘the switch’ is located.
“I’m sorry, Joseph. I hope you can forgive me.”
And within seconds Janet and I are dancing, our bodies moving as one to the rhythm of our favorite song. I look into her eyes – she’s smiling. I tell her I love her, and she tells me “Always and forever”. The song never seems to end, and we dance into the night.
"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen... there you have me in a nutshell, and kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change."
From his Last Will & Testament, Marquis de Sade