Talking Without Speaking
If you follow my blog, then you probably know that I’m in the process of publishing a memoir about my battle with chronic illness. Last week I turned the manuscript over to the publisher and they said that they should have an editorial letter for me in a month or so.
I’m hoping the book gets a release date for sometime later this year. Before it does, however, I’ll be making some big announcements, including who will be writing the foreword. I’m also going to be sharing some “outtakes” from the book–stories and anecdotes that I had to cut from the manuscript.
The first story is, like much of the book, written in present tenses. I chose to write this way for a few reasons. Mainly because, for the majority of the book, with the exception of times when I was too sick, I wrote a draft of the events shortly after they happened. In some cases, it was mere minutes afterward. Writing in this form was very much a practice in contemporaneous note taking. While I did at times use past and future tenses in the book, I felt that present tenses made the events more palpable and, having written many of the events in as close to real-time as possible, I felt it was most accurate that way.
But I’ll let you judge for yourself. The first story I’d like to share is from when I was at my sickest. I couldn’t speak or eat and I was confined to a small bed in a dark room. Then some old friends came to visit and that’s where the story picks up. (For the sake of privacy, all of the names in the story have been changed).
Celeste, my caretaker, tells me that two men have come to see me. She says they are tall and their names sound Russian. A myriad of scenarios runs through my mind—maybe they’re hitmen, or maybe they’re talent scouts looking to place models in a new men’s catalog featuring severely ill patients called “Beefy and Bedbound.”
As it turns out, not to my surprise, neither is the case. The Russians, let’s call them Victor and Karl, are actually of Danish descent. They are a few years older than me. I grew up with them in the Santa Cruz mountains in the 90s. Back then they treated me like a little brother with whom they loved to wrestle and play video games.
When they arrive, Karl, the younger brother, visits with me first. He’s tall, blond, and stylish, which I mostly know from memory because I can barely see him when he walks in the room. It’s pitch dark, but Karl is somehow able to blindly find his way to my bedside.
He calls out my name, like a camper trying to find a friend in a dark forest. He looks around, seemingly lost in the dark cave that is my room.
“This is a fucking trip,” he says, reaching out for my arm.
He grabs my hand and forearm with such strength it steals what little I have. My body is not reacting well, but I try to show my love by weakly squeezing his hand. Without trying, or even knowing what he’s doing, Karl overpowers my feeble grip. My body is now trembling, violently. It’s the same involuntary tremor that I’ve had since I first got sick. It’s usually the result of a number of variables — temperature, sensory overload, physical exhaustion; even something as innocuous as a hug can send my body into fits of convulsions.
Karl notices I’m shaking. I can tell because he loosens his grip on my arm. He doesn’t say anything, though. Neither do I. We just remain in the dark — two lost campers looking for each other.
The tremors get worse, prompting me to whisper something unintelligible into the darkness. Karl doesn’t hear me, though. Then, abruptly, he says goodbye and gets up to leave.
I take a short rest and Celeste asks me if I’m too exhausted to visit with Victor. I am definitely too exhausted, but I have to visit with Victor. He drove six hours from Los Angeles to be here. I have to see him.
Victor walks in and thankfully my tremors settle down a bit. I can’t really see him, but I know that he’s just as tall and handsome as Karl, albeit with darker hair. Victor sits beside me and my nerves continue to settle. We talk about his job and life in Los Angeles. Well, he talks while I listen and try to respond by tracing words on his hand. He doesn’t quite get the message, though. He looks at me the way an older relative looks at a teenager when she tries to explain what Snapchat is. Confusion and awkwardness swirl around us, and I only get more exhausted. Sensing my need to rest, Victor gets up and leans in to give me a hug.
“Give ‘em hell, motherfucker,” he says, quoting some action movie from our childhood. I try to laugh, but wince from the pain it causes.
Victor walks through the dark room and stops at the doorway and nearly collides with Celeste, who has come to show him out.
“Sorry, I forgot to say something,” Victor says. He turns around, making his way through the darkness once again to my bedside.
The tall man bends down to hug me again, but this time he brings his face closer to mine and puts his hands on my head. I prepare for another action movie quote, maybe a line from Die Hard or The Terminator. Instead, Victor whispers something different, something unexpected.
“Man, you . . . you know . . .,” he starts to say, collecting his thoughts. “I love you like a brother. I always have.”
Heavy tears run down his face. Mine too. Together our crying gets more intense and the tears practically jump from his face to mine. If there’s such a thing as projectile crying, that’s what we’re doing. Projectile crying all over each other. It’s not entirely clear whose tears are on my face, but I don’t care, I needed to cry, and I think Victor did too.
I want to say something to him. I want to tell him how much he means to me, how much I cherish the memories of our childhood, and what significance he’s had in my life. I try to whisper the words through clenched teeth, but my throat and jaw muscles burn and become increasingly weaker. The need to speak my mind, and the heartache of not being able to, has only made the moment more palpable, more intense and full of emotion. But no amount of emotion is going to change my circumstances. No matter how hard I try, I can’t speak the words I want to say.
I stop trying and instead place my hands over my heart and point to Victor. He nods in recognition.
We cry some more, a lot more. Then Victor leaves and I wonder if this will be the last time I see him. I also wonder if he thinks it’ll be the last time he’ll see me. I hope it’s not, because I’ve got a lot of fight left in me, a lot of life left to live.
BEFORE YOU GO…
1. Thanks for reading!
2. As I mentioned earlier, I am publishing my memoir, When Force Meets Fate. So far the book has 761 preorders. Thank you to all the wonderful folks who have ordered it. I know some of you haven’t yet and may be wondering where and how to do so. If you haven’t ordered the book, believe it or not, I’m going to ask you to please wait. We’re in the process of getting it ready to be listed with Amazon and other retailers, and those are the orders that will count towards sales rankings and best sellers lists. And that is what I have my sights set on to get the book the exposure it deserves. So, please follow this blog and my social media accounts and I’ll let you know as soon as the book is up on Amazon.
3. In the meantime, if you’d like to donate to support this blog or the promotional campaign for the book, I would be so grateful.