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PART I: I Guess You Wonder Where I’ve Been


The night was restless, drifting from sleep to lucidity as nurses came back and forth to draw blood and to check my vitals and to ask more questions.

My friend who remained would later confess to me how dumbfounded she was that I could go from a deep sleep to total articulate consciousness answering the same battery of questions to each person who awakened me.

Part of it was due to the state of mental readiness I honed as a Marine, but in reality, even from childhood, I have been able to manipulate my consciousness to a state of mentally recording the circumstances around me, and sensing when to awake.

This would drive my older brother crazy whom I shared a room with because I could be snoring and wake up after he sneaked his girlfriend out the window and tell him what they said and what they did.  And riding with friends on long trips I could tell them conversations they had while I was asleep before taking my turn at driving.

I used this to my advantage in high school preparing for tests by glancing at book pages before going to sleep and reading the pages in my dreams or listening to audio books while sleeping or leaving the TV on to catch the news which I would absorb while sleeping. And for my independent study in music composition, I would start developing a music piece on my little keyboard at home before going to bed and by the time I got to my independent study time at school, I could play the piece that would continue to be written in my head while I slept.

I have always been an active participant in my dreams, allowing the characters to guide me and participate and even direct them as if in an interactive alternate world. Being in tune with my body and my spirit, I learned to practice mentally lowering my heart and respiration rate long before I ever knew about its spiritual practice in some cultures.

As a child I had difficulty being in the TV electronics section of the old department stores because I could audibly hear the frequencies of every TV set.  To this day I can walk into a home and hear and sense the presence of electronics.  I have always had a love hate relationship with them. But they led me to be able to feel the electrical resonance of people. When I was married I could tell my wife the baby was awake long before it cried from another room.

The difficulty with these multiple layers of sensitivity is even manifested in some of the advice columns you see in my writing.  I usually know infinitely more than people want anyone to be able to perceive. As a child, I made adults uncomfortable. As an adult, it makes people defensive. So for my own sake, I limit the circle of people close to me, and I expel what I absorb through the passion of my music and the energy I devote to the readers who actually seek answers.  For most people too close to me, they cannot handle the accountability of it all because it is a gift that keeps on giving. I can’t turn it off.

And it is not fair to them when sometimes they are just looking for a place to hide.  So it is common for my friends to rotate in and out of prominence in my life. They didn’t ask for it. Neither did I.  But it is the only way we can remain friends. Only I cannot do that with myself. I have had no choice but to live with the know it all me who cannot even make excuses for himself. Why is this relevant? Read on.

Although I never keep the ringer of my mobile on, I would occasionally ask my friend to remove it from my bag and give it to me. Throughout the evening, one by one, friends whom I had not spoken to for months and even over a year started texting messages asking me how I was doing.  It was an uncanny reversal of fate which I conveyed to my friend who was there before drifting off once more to sleep.

By the following morning in the hospital it was determined best that I should have the kidney stones removed. They scheduled me for a late morning operation. As it was explained to me, it would be less than a 45-minute procedure going through my urethra up my urinary tract to my kidneys to clear out the stones. I would spend a brief period in recovery, then back to my room within a few hours from beginning to end- so they said.

There were two immediate concerns I had. One of which I expressed- the other I did not. I reiterated to them about the issue with my back. Fortunately, the doctor that did my orthopedic consult the last time had been contacted and I was told would be checking in with the urologist prior to the operation.

I am no medical expert but I spent almost 30 years having to know my body with this condition and it seemed to me, trying to fit something through a urinary tract already compressed by a fragile swollen lower back to the extent that the stones could not even make it through was a little riskier than your cut and dry outpatient procedure. I was comforted to know they had heard me when I kept advising to keep the back in mind because I told them I did not believe the issues to be mutually exclusive but mutually mitigating. Yeah, that WTF look that just came over your face, came over theirs also as they combed over my files for my medical credentials.

What I had left unspoken which had haunted me since childhood, is that during dental visits, my body had a proclivity to burn off anesthesia really fast.  My siblings and I where penny candy fools in the hood and were it not for Medicaid, we would have all been toothless. After all the fillings, we had more metal in our teeth than a chainsaw.

The dental procedures were always easy for my siblings. They were out like a light. Only at the time I was unaware of the family secret of my being the bastard child of my mother’s indiscretions. I thought I was just like them. But the Novacaine never lasted on me. The dentist didn’t believe it was possible I could still feel everything until his drill hit a nerve and I hit the ceiling. That is when they switched to gas. But I kept waking up from that too. Finally they had to rush through the work while borderline overdosing me. On the bus ride home, my siblings had the normal numbing buzz while I was loopy and vomiting out of my mind. It was the most horrible medical experience of my life.

My mind began to wonder if the slow effect of the morphine during the hospital stay was a portent of things to come. Up until that time, I didn’t think that much about it because when it jumped from a pain of 4 immediately up to a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, I figured no big deal. The nurses always came and upped the dose in the room. But how would my body react to being under in an operation?  But, more than that, how would the staff? I said nothing. I meditated, and prepared my mind.

Mid morning came and I signed off on the papers also giving my friend authority to make decisions for me. She had traveled to the hospital just for this. Beforehand, as is the same with the majority of friends who had texted concerns all night will attest, I have decades long friendships with people I have never physically met. And yet we have all shared aspects of life deeper than between most family members.

There is something less disappointing or potentially betraying with friends who value moments as opposed to the spoiled ones who take your daily presence for granted. I have always trusted my remote friends more- especially in moments of crisis. There is no room for illusion or delusion when you are forced to communicate with clarity as opposed to emotional self interest.

I am never surprised to find out after someone passes, that there was someone closer to the deceased than anyone ever knew or expected or was introduced to. It is usually the people who think they know you the most who get it wrong when the stakes are high. Family and everyday friends are great in a conventional war such that daily life can be. But in a crisis, you need Special Forces- friends who possess a specific discipline, loyalty, and self sacrifice for what is needed without any other purpose or agenda. Not everyone who takes the oath is reliable in a war. Some wear the uniform only for the benefits.

As such, I separate my relationships accordingly. And this was a time for Special Forces. My being in the hospital was her first time in my physical presence. She walked alongside my gurney toward the O.R. up until the waiting room where they told her they would come to her in about an hour to join me in recovery.

I was rolled into the operating room and introduced to the team, told once again how the procedure would go, counted back from 10 as the mask was placed upon my face, whereupon sometime during this simple standard everyday procedure,

I proceeded to die.


PART III: If I Should Die Before I Wake