in sickness

Wheezing heavily over my keyboard as I originally typed this opening line, I wondered how to present what it was that I was trying to say. Nothing was all that clear.

Over the past few weeks my usually fairly reliable 34-year old body became alien to me: shrivelled and compressed, waves of hot and cold tingling from head to toe, body parts claiming curiously insistent pulsations (inside lower lip), involuntary grunting emissions like an old man in a care home, strangely transient rashes, the sensation of a razorblade guarding the stoop of my throat, greedy for medication, medication, medication.

Sickness offers a bleak window into a possible future where this is pretty much all that remains of life. Illness closely collaborates with ideas of mortality, and death. It can remind us how our bodies are temporary vessels, just a physical organism like any other, one which happens to be alive right now, a cage for our organs, a borrowed bit of blubber although supposedly more refined.

There are strangely dream-like moments of not being quite there, fully present in the moment. You feel that you are standing there in the kitchen like that, trying to hold that conversation with her, but everything’s in soft focus, a light vignette around the edges, a woozy drifting sense of elsewhere, you’re not really listening, trying to make the right noises in the right gaps, is this what dying is like? Or just what a relationship is like? Another wave of coughing crashes ashore.

There’s hopelessness and helplessness in badly wanting to be getting better and wanting to function normally again, but your body stubbornly resists, mutinying against your basic wishes like a belligerent child with whom it is impossible to reason.

You toy with the idea that perhaps you are dying from an obscure disease that won’t be detected until it’s too late, if it’s ever detected at all. You wonder how people will regard you if you do die, and you draft your own obituaries. “Work was never an easy thing for him…” I feel I would be kindly pitied a lot. It’s impossible to escape judgement in death.

You anticipate the mild euphoria of experiencing health and power again, the comeback, the resilience, the pride you will feel in this creaking vessel of a body.

It feels a way off.

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