Close watch

March 27, 2007 § 5 Comments

No, I don’t care for hospitals.

It’s not the reek of mortality that gets me, even though it lurks behind every half-closed door.  I have no fear of death per se, nor of its untimeliness.  It’ll come when it comes, and that’s fine with me.  What I am unnerved by is illness, with its drooling hounds of incapacity and need.  Given a choice, I would take the live current, the fatal stroke, the sudden decapitation, all of which are less ghoulish to me than a bedpan.

I’ve been gravely ill just once in my life.  I was in my early twenties, and the antibiotics I had been prescribed for a strep throat infection didn’t take.  By the time I arrived at the hospital I was delirious with fever and could scarcely breathe.  The doctor waited until the next day to tell me that, had I not come in, I would have died in my sleep.

Waiting, I had a sense memory of being in that other hospital, on my back in a hallway with an IV taped to each arm.  Phil weathered the night on a bench beside my gurney, studying for an exam he had to take the next day.  I don’t remember seeing him, but I could feel his presence as I drifted in and out of consciousness, as surely as one feels warmth from a fire.  Drifting, I knew that he was there, and that he would be until I stopped.

In this hallway, I sat alone in a chair and read a book of sonnets, of all things.  It didn’t even occur to me to call anyone to tell them where I was.

I thought about this as the nurses rushed past and the hallway became incrementally darker.  Since Phil, I have learned aloneness as one best learns a language: by complete immersion.  I vowed that I would master it, so that I could live as though it was my native tongue.  Slowly, it has become my English, the place in which my thoughts form.  And it is the language in which I write.

At moments, though, I still lapse into the other, which is as much a part of me as the colour of my hair.  It’s what I speak when I love. 

Jesus, the things you’ll think about given enough time.


§ 5 Responses to Close watch

  • methesequel says:


    I’ve always thought of the aloneness/connectedness of the human condition as two dynamics in within a tandem.

    Consider the pedaling of a bicycle; there’s the pushing down of the pedal that reminds me of the positive outward charge of interaction/connecting with others. Then, within the same integrated motion, the foot rides up on the negative – withdrawing. It must. Two opposing mechanisms and yet inextricable parts of a system necessary for forward motion.

  • heather says:

    I think it’s a sad thing that experience teaches us that knowing how to be alone is one of the most useful skills to master. But, it is.

  • Vila H. says:

    It certainly is, Heather. I knew in my guts that I needed this, and I am more myself for having had it. I also know that it is time, now, to stop.

    Sadia, you’ve expressed it perfectly: “two dynamics within a tandem.” I wonder what this would look like in the context of a relationship? Are there ways to withdraw without threatening the connection you’ve forged? How much trust would that entail?

  • JonasParker says:

    The ones that have this balance are some kind of spiritual masters. Sometimes it seems to me not worth having unless you can live the “two dynamics within a tandem”. Is this what true intimacy is? Perhaps you and Sadia could enlighten me one day.

    Sadia, you may have coined a phrase. Quick, get famous.

  • Vila H. says:

    Hey, I’m single. What do I know?

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